Former fellow Barbara Bright Novovitch (Germany, Sweden, Bulgaria, Ireland, Pakistan, England, 1968 – 1970), a journalist for major news publications who helped open the profession to women, died September 1 of heart failure, her husband Luc Novovitch said.
Barbara was a staff writer at The Washington Post, Newsweek and Reuters, with foreign postings in Germany, Hong Kong, London and Paris. She was a founding editor of Woman’s World weekly magazine.
Fresh from her ICWA fellowship following student protest movements across Europe and Pakistan in the early 1970s, Barbara joined a sexual discrimination class action lawsuit brought against her new employer, Newsweek. Her role is documented in the book Good Girls Revolt, later developed into an Amazon Prime television series.
On her fellowship, Barbara reported about student protests that rocked late 1960s establishments, including in Czechoslovakia, where she visited Charles University soon after the 1969 Soviet invasion had put down the Prague Spring.
The death of the student Jan Palach from self-immolation—which prompted parallels with the medieval martyr Jan Hus—had shocked and depressed Czechoslovaks, as Barbara described. Still, she saw strength in the students’ tactics despite the seemingly iron resolve of the country’s occupiers.
“The student movement in Czechoslovakia is ideologically more diffuse but popularly more firmly rooted than that of West Germany or of the United States,” she wrote. “By going to the factories and explaining to the workers the reasons behind their strikes and protests, the students have won a common basis.”
ICWA was important to Barbara at a time “when women were not given the support or respect necessary to grow and succeed in the profession,” her daughter Elizabeth Bright said. “She loved reporting, and the years she traveled to different places in Europe to get the story were probably her happiest,” she added. Barbara “was intrepid and proud of her ability to get all kinds of people to tell their stories. She was able to see issues objectively, which is essential to good journalism.”
Barbara continued her involvement with the institute and advising fellows after her fellowship.
A native Tennessean, she loved both Bluegrass and Country music. She performed frequently, singing and playing various stringed instruments with bands that included other journalists.
Barbara married the photojournalist Luc Novovitch in 1989. They moved to the town of Marathon in west Texas, where they launched the Marathon Gazette in 2000. The Dallas Press Club honored the monthly paper as an awards finalist for best community/neighborhood newspaper. After they sold the publication, it became The Big Bend Gazette, current publisher Mimi Smith said.
Barbara devoted “tremendous time, skill and inspiration to the region,” Smith told the institute, “from training up volunteer naturalists to show off the region’s mountain treasures, a tiny digital start-up in furious reaction to bad local journalism, and writing occasional features for a slick seasonal publication dedicated to the natural wonders of the Big Bend.”
Top photo: Barbara performs with fellow journalists in the band Informed Sources (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Bright)