We recently caught up with Jewell by phone from a sound booth at the Washington Post, where she is the pop culture host for the media company’s video team. Jewell, who is celebrating the release of her new book, She Caused a Riot: 100 Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It, is a former senior staff writer for Buzzfeed UK and holds an undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies from University of California-Berkeley and a master’s in philosophy in international relations and politics from University of Cambridge. A native of England, Jewell grew up in Northern California. She still considers herself a new resident of the Washington, D.C., area and expects that by this time next year, she will see the nation’s capital as "just a regular city, maybe.’’
What’s on your nightstand?
I have four things. The thing that I’m so proud of finally finishing is the autobiography by Katharine Graham. When you start at the Post you get a copy of it. It is a huge memoir. I have been going through that, and it is a brilliant way to learn about her life but also the newspaper. Her life is like a history of the 20th century.
Did something grab you that you didn’t know?
I first watched All the President’s Men in high school. It actually was when I decided to become a journalist. But what is surprising was I did not know about her before, really, or the essential role she played in Watergate and how she was left out of the movie. She said she didn’t want the spotlight, but she was a bit miffed. It is also fascinating the way all these people, these elite figures in Washington, D.C., seem to know each other. It has been fascinating learning all the social aspects of Washington.
And the other three books?
I also want to tell you about Remember This When You Are Sad by Maggy van Eijk. I have an advanced copy. It will come out in the fall. It is a really beautiful book about mental health and coping with mental health issues. I also have Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson. Since I am new to D.C. and living near sites of Civil War battles, I need to refresh knowledge. This has been recommended to me as a definitive account. It is all also obviously so relevant now.
The fourth book is The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone. It is about Elizebeth Smith Friedman, a pioneering codebreaker. I knew about British codebreakers in World War II because my great-aunt, my family thinks, was one, although she never talked about it. So, I have a personal interest. The book is sort of enjoyably crazy, a roller coaster.
In your book, was there a particular woman who became your favorite?
I’ll say that Rosa Luxemburg is my favorite right now. She was a German woman who lived between World War I and World War II. She was a revolutionary woman and a brilliant academic theorist. I loved researching for all the women, but for her it was fun because I got to read Red Rosa, a graphic biography. She was someone who was such an inspiring thinker, an inventor of sorts, of systems of governments, and a true radical. She was so short and tiny that she would lead huge rallies wearing a giant hat so she could be seen better. She was a force of nature who was killed for her politics.
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