Faith Middleton

Faith Middleton
"I think the listeners calling into my show were so impressive, so touching, so wise that they taught me about the goodness of ordinary people."
- Faith Middleton

Induction Category:
Writers & Journalists

Born: 1948

Inducted: 2012

Town: New Haven

Faith Middleton is considered an institution in the New England broadcasting region and has twice received the George Foster Peabody Award, the industry’s highest honor. Her broadcast career spans three decades as host of The Faith Middleton Show on Connecticut Public Radio (WNPR),where she has conducted over 12,000 interviews exploring the richness of life.

Middleton was born in 1948 in Hartford to Scottish parents. Her father worked in the restaurant business, and her mother worked in a variety of positions in the homes of the nation’s elite, including personal and social secretary, maid, and nanny. The family moved frequently with each of her new assignments. Middleton fondly remembers living in the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Mass., while her mother worked for the Kennedy family.

When Middleton was fourteen, both of her parents died, only one month apart. After this tragic turn of events, Middleton moved in with her twenty-seven-year-old sister and her family in Manchester, Conn. While she wanted to attend college, there was no money for tuition. A dean at Manchester High School offered to help her apply for scholarships, and she was accepted at Eastern Connecticut State University

In 1971, Middleton graduated from college with degrees in English and Sociology, but she was unsure which career to pursue. While at ECSU, Middleton had met a reporter from the Willimantic Chronicle, so she applied for a job at the paper. When she met with the editor, he was primarily concerned about her typing skills and, when Middleton replied that she had edited the school paper, he gave her a desk and a typewriter and hired her immediately as the women’s editor. Over the next several years, Middleton worked for many publications, including Manchester’s Journal Inquirer, The Providence Journal, and Connecticut MagazineMiddleton worked as editor-in-chief of Connecticut Magazine.

Middleton was then approached by Connecticut Public Radio to co-host the show On the Town and found that she enjoyed the immediate connection of broadcast radio. It was not long before she had her own show, and The Faith Middleton Show was born. Now in her 30th year as the host and executive producer of The Faith Middleton Show, Middleton is heard in prime-time six days a week in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York. In her broadcast career, Middleton has interviewed over 12,000 guests, from politicians and prisoners, to scientists, artists, academics, and the little known. Her guests have included Arthur Miller, Ray Bradbury, Mary Martin, Dave Brubeck, James Earl Jones, Desmond Tutu, Garrison Keillor, Debbie Reynolds, Annie Dillard, Joyce Carol Oates, Wally Lamb, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Ina Garten, Gloria Steinem, Christine Baranski, Andy Rooney, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Barbara Walters, Joan Baez, and Walter Cronkite. Middleton’s warm, thought-provoking interview style is a signature feature of The Faith Middleton Show, as she covers a wide range of topics including culture, news, politics, sustainability, entertainment, poverty, work, leisure, religion, medicine, and education. She is also a regular contributor to NPR programs and was selected as NPR’s first Senior Journalist in Residence.

In addition to her Peabody awards, she is the recipient of the prestigious Ohio State University Award, the Mark Twain Award for distinguished journalism, and the Connecticut Bar Association Award. She has also been named “Best Talk Show Host” by the editors and readers of Connecticut Magazine for eleven consecutive years. Middleton describes her work as “a never ending exploration of the richness of life” and continues to conduct interviews she hopes will enlighten as well as entertain.

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.