One of America’s most respected journalists, Jane Pauley has blazed new trails throughout a broadcast career spanning more than four decades. Whether in morning, daytime, or primetime television, Pauley has inspired audiences with her intelligence and integrity, serving as a role model for generations of women. In addition to her current role as lead anchor of CBS Sunday Morning, she is known as a powerful advocate for mental health awareness, using her personal story to encourage and motivate others.
Born Margaret Jane Pauley in Indianapolis in 1950, Jane grew up as the younger of two daughters. Her mother, Mary Pauley, was a church organist and her father, Richard, was in the food distribution business. In high school, Pauley was a member of the speech and debate teams which she led to state championship titles. After graduating from Warren Central High School, she went on to study political science at Indiana University, earning her degree in 1972.
After college, Pauley began her broadcasting career at WISH-TV in Indianapolis before moving to Chicago where she became the first woman to anchor an evening newscast in what was then the second largest television market in the nation. Within a year, however, Pauley’s career would skyrocket as she was selected to replace Barbara Walters on NBC’s Today show with Tom Brokaw, first as a correspondent but soon as co-host. She remained on Today for more than 13 years, traveling the world to interview newsmakers and reporting from numerous iconic locations including the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, a special Today show audience with Pope Jon-Paul II, and the Great Wall of China. From 1980 to 1982, she also anchored the Sunday edition of the NBC Nightly News, bringing her into even more living rooms across America.
It was during this period of her career that Pauley met and married Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau and began her long-standing relationship with Connecticut where the couple still has a home on the Thimble Islands. Pauley’s three children were also born during this time.
Things shifted for Jane Pauley in 1989 as she was very publicly replaced on the Today show by the younger Deborah Norville. The move sparked controversy and nationwide conversation, but also led Pauley into the next phase of her career as she began work on a weekly primetime news magazine, Real Life with Jane Pauley, that later became Dateline, one of the most successful primetime shows in television history. She would remain co-host of Dateline for more than a decade, interviewing hundreds of people and covering many major news events.
In 2000, Pauley faced perhaps the greatest challenge of her life as she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder at the age of 50. As she says now, “The day I was diagnosed, I knew that one day I would talk about it.” And she has, indeed, used her journey to help break the stigma so often attached to mental illness. She has spoken out publicly, on television and in print, about her own experiences and has used her fame to raise awareness of mental illness and encourage others going through similar challenges. Her 2004 memoir Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue spent many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has inspired millions.
Pauley returned to television in 2004 with The Jane Pauley Show, a daytime talk show that only lasted one season. Then 54 years old, she began to fear her television career was over—but soon began to develop a new, original project that she describes as “the first thing I ever really invented.” This new endeavor focused on reinventing your life after age 50 and ran as a series on the Today show for four years. It also led to Pauley’s second New York Times bestseller, Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life. She joined CBS Sunday Morning in 2014 as a correspondent and occasional guest host. In September 2016, she was selected to replace Charles Osgood as the program’s permanent host, making Pauley the only female anchor of a Sunday morning news program.
In addition to her role on television, Pauley’s health and wellness advocacy efforts include her work with the Jane Pauley Community Health Centers in Indiana, the McGovern Institute at MIT, and ongoing speaking appearances for healthcare providers and the general public. She credits her advocacy as an important aspect of her own wellness, saying that she “wouldn’t trade [her] diagnosis” because it has given her powerful purpose.
Jane Pauley has received nearly every journalism award available including the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and the Gracie Allen Award. She has also been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and has received numerous honorary degrees.
During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice
Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”
A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.
Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.
Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.
A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.
Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent. Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.
The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.
Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.