Barbara Jill Walters was born on September 25, 1931 to Louis Edward and Dena (Selett) Walters, and grew up in Boston, Miami ,and New York City. She had two older siblings: a sister, Jacqueline, and a brother, Burton. She attended Miami Beach Senior High School and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in English.
Her career started like most women in her time, working as a secretary for a public relations firm. That led to a job in the publicity department of CBS, then to writing on “The Morning Show”. She started appearing on air in 1961 as a reporter, writer and panel member for NBC’s “Today” show where she reported what were then viewed as “women’s stories.” In 1974 she was promoted to co-host. This helped usher in a cultural shift where news anchors began to be seen as celebrities just as much as the ones they interviewed.
In 1976, Walters joined ABC News as the first female anchor to co-anchor a network evening newscast. Despite pushback from her co-anchor, she stayed at the network for almost four decades. Walters also launched “The Barbara Walters Specials” and “10 Most Fascinating People”, and co-hosted the magazine show “20/20”. She is also known for appearing on “The View”, a daytime talk show in which a diverse panel of women discuss the latest headlines. Over the years, this panel has included names such as Whoopi Goldberg, Meredith Vieira and more.
Walters has been awarded multiple Emmys, a Peabody, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her competitiveness brought in accolades, but it also sparked rivalries. She fought with names like Diane Sawyer, most recently over the first interview with Caitlyn Jenner, which Sawyer conducted in 2015. That said, she was able to successfully land many other big interviews, which she referred to as “get”s. Most notable may be her 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky, as well as a 1977 joint sit-down with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin.
Her determination and drive did not exist without criticism. She is quoted as saying: “If it’s a woman, it’s caustic; if it’s a man, it’s authoritative. If it’s a woman it’s too pushy, if it’s a man it’s aggressive in the best sense of the word.”
That may be true, but her hard work allowed other women to make names for themselves in the reporting industry and let the world hear new voices. If her legacy proves anything, it is that being a little pushy can bring great success.
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