Ida Tarbell helped to revolutionize the field of journalism by pioneering what is known today as investigative journalism. Her achievements have not only facilitated the in the expansion of the role of the newspaper in modern society; she has also become a role model for women aspiring to become professional journalists. Tarbell was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania, as the daughter of Pennsylvania Republicans. She graduated from Allegheny College with her bachelor's degree in 1880. She also achieved her master's degree there in 1883.
She is best known for her two volume work, originally articles for McClure's, on John D. Rockefeller and his oil interests: "The History of the Standard Oil Company", published 1904.
Her father was forced out of business by John D. Rockefeller and the South Improvement Company scheme, predecessor to his Standard Oil empire. The exposÃÂ© resulted in federal action and eventually was the demise of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, under the 1911 Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
In 1922, The New York Times named her one of the "Twelve Greatest American Women." It was journalism like hers that inspired Americans of the early twentieth century to seek reform in our government, in economic structures, and in urban areas. Alongside other muckrakers such as Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, and Upton Sinclair, Tarbell ushered in an important transformation in journalism, as well as stimulating the Progressive reform movement. Since then, newspapers have continued to play a major role as the watchdogs and consciences of our political, economic, and social lives. Almost ironically, Ida Tarbell herself was not an activist for women's issues or women's rights. However, she emerged as the most prominent woman active in the muckraking movement and one of the most respected business historians of her generation. Tarbell succeeded in a man's world...