BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Elsa Walsh, why did you write "Divided Lives"?
ELSA WALSH: I wrote this book because I thought that women weren't telling the truth about their lives, that they were presenting -- particularly prominent women were presenting a very idealized version of what it was like to be a woman in the '80s and the '90s, and that was a picture that didn't at all reflect what I heard other women talking about ... my friends talking about, women I had interviewed as a journalist. I knew it was a lot tougher out there than the little blips in the road that you saw that women talked about in public sort of presentations.
LAMB: Is this your first book?
WALSH: It's my very first book. We also call it my first baby.
LAMB: Was it hard?
WALSH: It was hard. Writing a book is much harder than I anticipated. It's something that you really have to be committed to doing. But it was also fun, gave me a good life during the period I took off. I was a reporter at The Washington Post. I'm still there and I'm on leave. And it gave me an opportunity to realize that, in fact, you could have both a work life and a day life, which I didn't really have at The Washington Post.
LAMB: Could you give us a real brief synopsis of the three women, and we'll go back and go over it in detail.
WALSH: OK. I write about three women in my book, all of whom are very accomplished. The first woman is a woman named Meredith Vieira, who is a television correspondent. Her story is the story of a woman who was offered the very top job in her field, "60 Minutes," just as she gave birth to her very first baby, a child that she had desperately wanted to have but put off having because she wanted to build her career, also had had a few miscarriages before that. Her story is really one of a career woman who was really struggling to be the very best at her job but at the same time really wanted to be a very good mother. And the conflict was sort of never-ending for her. She eventually left "60 Minutes," and it's the story of her trying to sort out how to be both a good mom and a good journalist.
The next woman is a woman named Rachael Warby, classical music conductor, very talented, who performed all over the world, met a man in her early 40s that happened to be the governor of West Virginia, fell in love, married him. And her story is really the story of a woman who is searching for an identity within a marriage, one that a lot of women, I think, can relate to.
And the third story is about a woman named Alison Estabrook, who's a breast surgeon, who really had to fight a kind of a classic old boys' network to become the chief of breast surgery at Columbia Hospital in New York City, one of the biggest hospitals in the country and one of the best.
LAMB: How many women did you think about writing about?
WALSH: I interviewed dozens of women around the country. I had the luxury of time to write this book. As I said, I took a leave of absence, and initially, I thought I was going to cover the whole spectrum of women's lives: demographic, geographic, age, socioeconomic. And what I quickly discovered was, in fact, that that wasn't going to work. That was too many women, and to travel deep, you couldn't travel broad, and so it quickly narrowed to about a dozen women and then, after about a year, narrowed to seven, then five, and at the very end, my last draft, narrowed it down to three women primarily because they were women who were really committed to telling the truth. They were very honest, but also, because they would let me use their real names and the other women really didn't want their names to be used. And I recognized at the end of my book that one of the real powers of it was its honesty, and that I couldn't write a book with a couple of names being used and then a couple of names not being used because that would undermine the whole sort of message.
LAMB: The reason that we first noticed this book, a network like this was Rachael Warby because she's married to the governor of West Virginia.
LAMB: What was the first controversy that arose around that story?
WALSH: Well, the first controversy that arose was Rachael Warby held a press conference and released my book before it was out, and journalists who went to that immediately wrote about her personal revelations, particularly about her sexual life and the fact that she really didn't like being first lady very much.
I wasn't surprised in some ways that the press picked up on the sex revelations, but I was a little disappointed that they were presented as this sort of very steamy, graphic descriptions, which they aren't at all. They're in fact very sad, very poignant. They're really the sort of stories about a woman who was quite beautiful, who is quite beautiful, very vivacious, flirtatious, who, in fact, in reality, is very uncomfortable with her body, which is a story that a lot of women can relate to. She describes getting into bed wearing a sweatshirt with a hood and underwear and socks because she was embarrassed about her body, and her husband sort of flipping on the light switch and saying, "You can't do this. I love you and I love your body, and you have to be comfortable with me." And I thought that was a story that really explained a lot about Rachael and about sort of really the inferiority in some ways or lack of security that she felt even though she presented -- as all these three women do -- a very strong public image and the personal interior story was much, much different from the public facade.
LAMB: Why did she call a news conference and release it before they were ready?
WALSH: I don't know. I don't really understand that.
LAMB: Did she call you, tell you?
WALSH: No, she didn't call me and tell me. I had heard that morning, in fact, that she was going to do that, and I was surprised because I thought that she was getting bad political advice, because I thought that that would -- one, if you call a news conference, as you know, and you invite only certain numbers of reporters and you invite reporters who are typically seen as being nice to you, that, in fact, one, makes other reporters mad; and two, it also doesn't give people very much time to read the book in context. And I think what she wanted to do, as she explained during the press conference, was to have people look at the book in context to sort of see that, in fact, it was a painful journey for her, but that, in fact, it might help other women to learn the difficulties of trying to blend these two different lives.
LAMB: When did she actually call that news conference? What month?
WALSH: It was in July, the end of July.
LAMB: Where was he politically?
WALSH: At that stage? Gaston Caperton, her husband who is the governor of West Virginia, is in his second term as governor. He can't run again, and his term is up in 1996.
LAMB: I just underlined one thing here in the early part of the story about Rachael Warby: "Besides, she viewed politicians with a suspicion just short of contempt."
WALSH: Yes, when she first met him. And when Rachael Warby first met Gaston Caperton, she was married to somebody else, an agent-film producer who was living in Los Angeles. She had been the assistant philharmonic conductor and, at the same time, was the Wheeling, West Virginia, conductor and used to commute back and forth. Her marriage was bad. Her husband had asked her for a divorce. She didn't want one, and when she met Gaston, he began to pursue her. And she really resisted him for many months because, one - she was married; two - also because she didn't have any experience with the political world and did see politicians as false, and completely living a life that was different from the life of the artist, which for her was, you know, you always have to be true to who you are.
LAMB: There's a whole lot of references to her attitude about West Virginia. By the way, have you talked to her since she had the news conference?
WALSH: No, I have not. I've talked to her publicist and I've talked to some of her aides.
LAMB: Is she mad about this?
WALSH: I gave Rachael the book way back in late winter, early spring. I gave it to all the women. And at that time she called me and she said, "One, it was very painful for to--me to read, but it's very honest. And I gave the book to my husband and said to him, 'This is who I am. This is who I'm always going to be. I'm always going'" --Rachael's a very sort of liberal person who, there's a story in my book about her not wanting to spend a lot of money on Christmas cards, in fact wanting to give a donation to Pediatric AIDS and just send out a little card saying, "We've done this in your name," and his advisers had said, "No, no, no. You can't do that. People down here don't care about that much and people like to keep these as mementoes." And so she said, "I'm always going to be a person who wants to give our money to Pediatric AIDS rather than spend it on Christmas cards. I hope I learn something from this process, but I'm not going to change."
She also wrote me a note about a week after that saying, "Thank you for treating my life so sensitively." But I think that because the coverage down in West Virginia in particular has been very intense, a lot of it critical, that in fact it's been very painful for her, according to people who are close to her. And I think it's sort of sign that if you're a woman in this country and you tell the truth about your life, you get penalized for it. People say, "Oops, back in the box."
LAMB: What were your ground rules with all three of these women?
WALSH: I didn't really have any. I said, "I want to come into your life. I want to come into it very deeply. I want to talk about the rawest emotions, and I want to tell your story," and that was about the only ground rule I had with those particular women. Some other women that I had interviewed had initially said, "I don't want you to use my name," and at that point, I hadn't thought it out carefully enough and I said, "OK." And as I said to you that when I got then to the end of the process, many of the women who I'd interviewed for a couple of years I realized that that was sort of contradictory to what I was trying to do.
LAMB: A couple weeks ago, you open up New Yorker magazine and there you are, at the very early part of the magazine, in a confrontation with Charlie Peters, who runs Washington Monthly magazine who people here have seen a lot over the years.What was that controversy about?
WALSH: Well, Charlie Peters got an early copy of my manuscript. Publishers often send copies of manuscripts around for serialization rights very early on in the process, even before the book was in galley form. And I had heard that he had gotten a copy. I was sort of surprised that he'd gotten a copy because it didn't seem to me a place where my book would be excerpted anyway. And so my husband, in fact, mentioned to me that he had run into Charlie Peters, who had said something about my book. So I called him and I said, "You know, I hope, Charlie, you know that my book is embargoed." He was from West Virginia and I didn't want him to send it to anyone down there because one, I didn't want my book coming out before my book was coming out. And he said, "Well, I'm not going to do that, but I'm going to have to write him a letter" -- Charlie has a very strong accent -- "and tell him that I think that this is really dangerous for him."
And I said, "Well, you know, I've already sent it to both Rachael Warby and Gaston Caperton, and they've both seen it. And you don't really need to do that." And he said, "Well, this is just a bullet to his heart. He's going to have to divorce her." And I said, "Well, that's totally a ridiculous thing to say. It's absurd and it's not true and it's outrageous." And he said, "Well, I'm just going to have to send them a letter and tell them these things." And I didn't really think he would because it just seemed, on the face of it, stupid to me, particularly given his position both as the editor of the magazine and the position he takes all the time in his magazine, which is that the journalistic establishment cozies up too close to politicians. And he advocates a lot of candor in government. So in many ways you would think that my book would be the kind of book that he would applaud, which is, "Oh, the real story, the real truth."
And, in fact, I got a copy of the letter that he did send to them, and in the letter he said, "You know, I think this book is going to be dangerous for you, and I think you should get Elsa Walsh to try to change the end of her book." And when I saw that I was pretty shocked because he was essentially saying, "This is too much truth," that the only thing that's important is the political animal, that Rachael Warby's own struggle was unimportant, and it annoyed me.
LAMB: You mentioned your husband. Has that figured into this story? I mean, do people either not want to talk to you or talk to you because of who you're married to?
WALSH: Oh, you mean me as a journalist interviewing other people?
LAMB: I mean -- for the audience who doesn't know who your husband is...
WALSH: OK. My husband is Bob Woodward. He's an author of many books, very successful books, a journalist also at The Washington Post.
LAMB: And in the back -- I mean, the only reason I bring this up -- anybody following journalism would know these names and those who don't follow journalism would know these names. You thank Carl Bernstein in the back. What role did he play in the book?
WALSH: I gave him an early copy of a couple of chapters of my book, particularly my introduction, and I asked him to take a look at it and tell me what he thought. And he did. He was down visiting us for the weekend, which he often does, and he's a smart man, has his pulse oftentimes on the finger of what's going on in the country and also a good pulse on women -- has got good relationships with a lot of women. And so I wanted to know what he thought.
LAMB: Are you surprised how much controversy the Rachael Warby thing has been?
WALSH: Yeah. I really am because of the fact ... I think that the thing that disappoints me is that she's been criticized for being indiscreet about her personal life, and I think that that's disappointing and I think that misses sort of the impact of what she's trying to do and what she's saying. I think she was very brave and very gutsy. He husband was asked after her press conference, "Aren't you embarrassed by this? You know, this is not, certainly, something that a first lady should do." And he looked and said, "You know, you guys in the media are always criticizing us politicians for masking our lives. I don't know anyone who's been as honest as Rachael is, and I respect her for it and I love her for it, and I think she's gutsy." And when I read that, I thought, "Good for him. He understands."
LAMB: There's a fellow you quote a lot in here by the name of L.T. Anderson. Why did you quote him?
WALSH: Well, he was a columnist for one of the Charleston newspapers, a very prominent one, who was probably Rachael Warby's most vocal critic down in West Virginia and one that really got under her skin consistently. And so I wanted to show the kinds of things that he was saying, but I also wanted people to also sort of see and feel what it must be like. Not all of what he said was wrong at times. I mean, I think they were kind of mean and barbed, but he was reflecting a point of view in West Virginia that was shared by many other people.
LAMB: As a matter of fact, there's a quote I underlined. It's: "So now we know Ms. Warby isn't bored only by cocktail party dullards, she's bored by an entire state."
WALSH: Well, Rachael is this, you know, she's from Manhattan, very culturally sophisticated, a conductor, as I've said, so very well-educated and is a person who reads a lot and punctuates a lot of her conversation with very sophisticated, literary references, and that didn't go off so well down in West Virginia. It also didn't go over so well when she was first married to the governor and became first lady, did a couple of interviews and was asked, "Do you ever read the papers in West Virginia? What do you think?" And she said, "Oh, I don't ever--I don't ever read them. I only read The New York Times."
Now she later corrected herself in another interview, but sort of amplified it by saying, "I don't read the local newspapers because I never like to read the papers where I conduct because I'm too sensitive to criticism. Plus, I do read the papers, because you have to get something here, because you can't get The New York Times." So she had a little bit of difficulty sometimes of not knowing when to stop.
LAMB: The relationship between Gaston Caperton and his wife and the Rockefellers -- Senator and Mrs. Jay Rockefeller? Because you have -- I've got a quote here that says, "Jay is welcome in our house but not in our hearts."
WALSH: Right. When the governor was running for re-election in early 1991, Jay Rockefeller, who was the former governor who's now the US senator from West Virginia, was approached to get behind Gaston Caperton and also to hold a fund-raiser for him. At that time, Gaston's poll ratings were very, very low because he had made somewhat of a promise in his first campaign not to raise taxes. In fact, he had raised taxes when he got in there and discovered that, in fact, the state's finances were much worse than anyone had predicted. And when they went to the Rockefellers to ask to give a fund-raiser, he was rebuffed. And Gaston is a politician and so understands how these things work, but Rachael was very hurt by that and so said, you know, that "They're welcome in our homes but not in our hearts," and I thought that that was a pretty honest reaction to what a lot of people in politics must feel but never say.
LAMB: What about the following quote? What will this do to either their relationship or just the image of a political situation? "Exasperated and exhausted, she told her assistant what Sharon Rockefeller had said, that when she had been the state's first lady she had attended only high-profile events with guaranteed media coverage."
WALSH: I heard Sharon Rockefeller say that and I think it's probably smart because when you're a political spouse and there's a lot of demand on your time -- and Sharon Rockefeller also wanted to lead her own life and that she realized that there were only certain things you could do, and you could sort of nickel and dime yourself to death if you didn't. I think that, you know, subsequent to that, I focus in my book on the re-election campaign primarily. Rockefeller did give a fund-raiser for Gaston Caperton near the end of campaign and that there was a little bit of fence-mending going on there. But I think that there's probably a -- it's a tense relationship.
LAMB: What did you learn about in the Meredith Vieira profile? First of all, where is she now?
WALSH: Meredith Vieira is now at ABC. She is on a show called "Turning Point," which is a magazine show, one-hour documentary which for a while was playing every week. Now it's turned to specials -- periodic specials. They're going to do about
20 a year. And after Meredith left "60 Minutes," she initially went to do the early-morning anchor show at CBS and found that to be disastrous because that required getting up at 3:30 in the morning. And whereas "60 Minutes" sort of disrupted her own life because she traveled a lot -- you have to travel about 100 days a year at "60 Minutes" -- the early-morning anchor show, which meant going to bed at 7:30, disrupted everyone's life. Her husband has kind of a degenerative nerve disease and can't get overly exhausted. And I think the whole household was completely turned upside down by that.
But what I learned from the Meredith story is, one, that there is a lot of sacrifice involved in having a child, that you do need to learn to make compromises. Meredith herself would say that taking "60 Minutes" at that time was a bad decision because that show really does demand that you, in fact, turn over your entire life to it. I mean, it's probably the one reason why it's been the most successful show in television history. It's not a show for people who want to have families.
LAMB: Did I read it right that Robert Barnett is both your agent and her agent?
WALSH: That's correct.
LAMB: How did that happen? Was that just a happenstance?
WALSH: That's a happenstance. I don't know how he became her ... he's not her agent any longer and he became my agent, one, because he's good and ...
LAMB: Married to Rita Braver.
WALSH: Rita Braver, who's at CBS.
LAMB: Now what role does an agent play for you in all this?
LAMB: How's that work?
WALSH: He gets me a book contract.
LAMB: How does it work? Where does he live?
WALSH: Bob Barnett lives here in Washington. He, at one time, actually, was even the Clintons' lawyer before his wife Rita became the White House correspondent -- it's all a little intertwined here in Washington at times -- and he was also my husband's attorney and agent. And that was probably the primary reason why I went to Bob, in addition to him being such a good agent, good attorney.
LAMB: How long have you been married to Bob Woodward?
WALSH: I've been married to Bob since 1989. We started living together in 1982. I met him when I was a baby. I was 23 years old, he was 37. So we've been together for 13 years.
LAMB: What influence has he had on this style of journalism here that you've used?
WALSH: A remarkable influence. I mean, he would probably say, "Oh, you know, not as much as you think." But, in fact, what Bob has really taught me as a journalist and as a thinker is that people tend not to tell the truth initially when you first interview them -- and it's not because they're always purposely not telling you the truth, but oftentimes, they don't really know what the truth is -- and that you do need to go back and back and back and back, and peel back those layers. And what was really sort of interesting to me in the process of doing this book -- I interviewed the women very intensely for two years, but really covered them over about a three-and-a-half-year period -- was that oftentimes, things that they didn't even know they believed sort of came to the surface.
For example, Rachael Warby, the conductor and first lady, she had insisted to me for almost a year that she was never going to have a child, that after she and the governor got married, she was so insistent on this that encouraged him and he agreed to have a vasectomy. She knew that as a conductor you really, you travel all the time. You have to be willing to get up and go wherever there is a performance. "And plus," she said, "it's so hard for me to get up on stage as it is -- so hard as a woman -- there are only really five women, five or six woman conductors in this country who have their own orchestras, so I could not imagine getting up there being pregnant. I just feel so uncomfortable already."
But we were sitting having coffee one day. It was snowing outside, and she said, "You know, I have something I want to tell you." And I said, "Well, what is it?" And I was sort of looking at something and not paying as much attention as I should have been. And she said, "Well, Gaston and I are thinking of adopting a baby." And I almost fell off my chair because this is something that had come up -- we had done about a dozen interviews by that point and it had come up almost in every single one. She said, "I don't like the idea of the nuclear family. I don't have time. My women friends who are musicians who have had children, they've really, essentially, not progressed in their careers. I don't need to do this."
And so I said "Well, Rachael, what's happened?" And she said, "Well, talking to you has made me listen to myself and made me realize that the answers I've been giving you are the same answers I've been giving myself and other people for the past 10 years. And I can continue to lie to you and tell you I don't want to have a child, but I can't continue to lie to myself. I've always been a person who's told myself that I would re-evaluate my thinking. And having to articulate what my beliefs are to you over and over again made me listen to them."
LAMB: Where are you from?
WALSH: I'm from California, from the Bay Area, come from a large Irish Catholic family. My parents are Irish immigrants. My dad's a civil engineer. And when my mom was pregnant with me, my dad decided, "Let's go to San Francisco for a year, get a job," and my mother...
LAMB: Right from Ireland.
WALSH: Straight from Ireland, from County Cork. It used to sound very romantic to me. Now it sounds really impulsive. My mom had one child at that point, so they went for what was going to be a year and they ended up staying there. They're still there. My mom fell in love with California and...
LAMB: How many kids in the family?
WALSH: Six -- five girls, one boy.
LAMB: And then where did you go to college?
WALSH: I went to college at Berkeley, which is across the bay from where I was raised. My step-daughter's is there now.
LAMB: Studied what?
WALSH: I studied rhetoric and economics. I started out being an economics major because I thought I wanted to go to law school, discovered, in fact, that I really loved the study of rhetoric, which is one of the the most ancient faculties, and decided to just do both.
LAMB: And how did you get to The Washington Post?
WALSH: Well, my senior year at Berkeley I did an internship at Newsweek magazine in their San Francisco bureau. And it was, as a lot of people's experience in journalism, you discover that you're right there smack in the middle of some pretty exciting things. That was the year that the mayor of San Francisco was assassinated, Moscone, and also, the Jonestown massacre. And most of the people who had been killed or committed suicide down in Jonestown were from the San Francisco area. It was a church. The people from there had started out as a church in San Francisco. So here I was, this sort of young person sort of thrust into this really -- to me, it seemed like, "Wow. This is like the front seat of America."
And so I came to Washington shortly after graduation. I didn't have a job. I had a friend who had also been an intern at Newsweek who came and said, "Oh, let's go and have an adventure." I started doing some interviews, and The Washington Post at that time was hiring very young people for their weekly edition, which is its own section of the newspaper that came out once a week, and I luckily got a job.
LAMB: Going to go back to The Post?
WALSH: I think so. I have a job. That's the wonderful thing about a place like The Washington Post. They really sort of understand kind of people's needs every once in a while to go off and do something different, and stretch your brain. And you have a lot of impact when you work at a place like The Post.
LAMB: What did you learn about -- I know you learned a lot about Meredith Vieira, but what did you learn about "60 Minutes," which is probably the most popular television show in history?
WALSH: Well, it was a very sort of eye-opening experience for me. When I was young, my mom and I used to watch "60 Minutes" all the time, and she used to watch Shana Alexander, who was on "Point/Counterpoint." And I remember her giving me her book, I think, probably my--end of my high school years or beginning of my college years and saying--`Oh,' she said, `wouldn't it be great to be on this show?' And I never really had any real ambition to be on television, but I always thought that if I was going to be on TV, the place I'd like to be is "60 Minutes."
What I discovered was that it was an intensely hard-working place. I didn't realize that, in fact, each correspondent has about five or six producers and they do a lot of the reporting work because, in fact, the reporters are always going from place to place to place, and most of the ground work has already been done. So on an emotional level, I realized it was something I probably -- even though I never wanted to be on TV, it's a place I probably couldn't ever really work because, in fact, you can't really have a life when you work there.
LAMB: Why not?
WALSH: Because you're on the road all the time. Morley Safer, who is one of the correspondents there, his hobby is painting watercolors of hotel rooms. They're...
LAMB: That he stays in.
WALSH: They're good. They're good. And when Meredith left "60 Minutes" after her two seasons there and didn't really know what she was going to do, felt that her whole career was unraveling in front of her, Morley Safer came up to her -- she said -- in the hall and said, "Meredith, what are you going to do now?" And she said, "Oh, I don't know." And he said, "You made the right decision." He said, "My wife and my daughter say they never saw me in the last 20 years," and she said that really touched her.
LAMB: Now did I read it right that Meredith Vieira was half-time?
WALSH: She traveled part-time, she worked full-time. I mean, it's kind of been -- people who follow television, and there's probably not a lot of people who follow it as closely as people in Washington, think that Meredith Vieira worked part-time. Actually, she got a contract for a lot of money, $450,000, but which is about half the salary of most of the correspondents there, who make about a million dollars, with the agreement that she would only produce half the number of stories that the other correspondents did, which meant that she should be on the road only half the time. The truth was that, in fact, she was on the road a lot. She worked almost every day. She worked every day and she worked a full day every day, longer than most. And working part-time at "60 Minutes" is like working double-time at almost any other place.
LAMB: Married to Richard Cohen, as you said who was a CBS producer. What's he doing now?
WALSH: He is producing a show on cable for one of Meredith's former colleagues, Jane Wallace on Fox ...
LAMB: FX channel.
WALSH: FX channel. One of the really interesting things that happened after my book came out is that Don Hewitt called me. He's the executive producer of the show, the genius, the creator, and he said --"One, your book is fabulous. It reads like a movie." Then he told me who he wanted to play him in the movie. He said, "But more importantly, I never knew Meredith was in such pain. I had no idea it was so hard for her and I feel really badly about that. And I've learned a lot and -- what's her home phone number? I want to call her." And I thought, "Good for him."
LAMB: Where did you see pain?
WALSH: With Meredith?
WALSH: Pain every day, and on every page of my book, Meredith describes never being able to leave the house without crying. She says, "I know that was a little extreme." She said at one point when she was getting on the plane, the shuttle to Washington, her husband said to her, "Meredith, I could understand if it was Ethiopia, but it is only Washington." Here was a woman who had had three very difficult miscarriages before she conceived this child. As anyone who knows, anyone who's ever gone through a miscarriage knows, it so intensifies the child experience once you actually have the child because you think, "I've gone through so much to have this. I really -- I can't just pass this child off to a nanny."
But I'll tell you a story. When Meredith first took the job, she set up a bunch of these limits for herself, one, including that she would never be away from home for more than two nights at a time. She thought she'd be a little Pollyanna and, you know, could do only two away, and then she would work from a computer at home at different times. Well, she broke that rule a lot. And the very first time she broke that rule was shortly after the Romanian coup. And there were lots of stories coming out about orphans in Romania who were being treated very badly. And Meredith, who is a very compassionate person, who never was a person who really did celebrity interviews, always wanted to do sort social justice type stories, thought to herself, "Oh, I could really save some of these babies. I could really do something," because if you have a show on "60 Minutes," it can change things overnight. I mean, it's an enormously powerful institution.
And she said, "Well, maybe I'll take Ben" -- which is her son -- "with me." And her producer said, "You can't do that. You know, what if the baby gets sick and you can't do your work?" So she said, "OK. I'm going I will go. I'm going to break my rule this one time." But she was still breast-feeding. She was still breast-feeding because she felt that was, like, the one connection she had with her son. And she brought a portable breast pump with her so she could continue to breast-feed when she got back because if you're breast-feeding and you stop for a week, it's very difficult to continue unless you know, keep the process going. And she described to me getting over to Romania with this portable breast pump that didn't work. And so each night in this really kind of dingy, dirty hotel, she would have to express the milk from her breasts, and to do that she had to actually sort of manually do it, like milking a cow. And she said it was really hard, very painful. And on the one night she fell asleep without having done it she woke up breasts just pulsing with pain, like concrete.
And it was that sort of thing that happened to her a lot, that she just said that here she was over in Romania trying to save babies, she had a baby at home that she missed desperately and she was in physical pain over, and she called her husband and said, "Make sure you bring Ben to the airport when you pick me up." So when she got back to the airport, Ben, who was not yet really a year then, must have turned away from her. And she just dissolved and said, "So this is my worst nightmare. My child is turning away from me because I haven't been there." And her husband said, "Meredith, he's only a baby. He's not thinking about it that way. This is just a momentary reaction." But for her it was really sort of an epiphany: "OK. I'm a bad mother."
LAMB: One of the things when you read, especially about the surgeon and about Meredith Vieira, you realize they're both making about a half-million dollars. And in the Meredith Vieira case, it seems like she's upset most of the time in this chapter about something. What would you say to somebody in the audience watching this that's slugging down two jobs a day, making maybe $35,000 a year, having a bunch of kids and all that and reading this? What's the explanation of how...
WALSH: Well, it's....
LAMB: ... how could it be that hard?
WALSH: It's been really interesting for me, I mean, because I knew that would be a criticism of my book, but I specifically chose these women because they had so much privilege, they had so much opportunity, they had good educations, parity with their husbands. Two of the women made more money than their husbands -- a lot more money than their husbands. And I thought that if women who had the best chance at happiness weren't happy, that that then said a lot about the struggle that other women were going through. And, in fact, when I was out on my book tour I did an interview with a woman at a local NPR station who said, you know, "I picked up this book. What am I going to learn from this book? I make $22,000 a year. I'm a single mom." Her child has cerebral palsy. And she said, "I saw myself on every page." And the conflict -- the internal conflicts that women feel are the same, whether you're making $1/2 million a year or you're making $20,000 a year. There are a lot of women like Meredith who really feel that they really want to be at home taking care of that baby, but they really feel they've got to do their job.
With Alison Estabrook, the breast surgeon, she told me that since the book has come out she's had a number of people in the hospital, people who are clerical workers and secretaries, come up and say, "Makes me feel so good to know that you have the same problems that I have. I had to fight to become an executive secretary ..." so I think that there's a real bonding process that goes on for a lot of women when they read my book.
Nora Ephron, who's a writer, wrote me a letter a couple of weeks ago and said, "You know, I think your book is a real Rorschach's test for people" -- so I found myself, which I'm sure other women will, filtering my own life and my own reactions through these women's stories. And I think there's a lot of comfort that women get in discovering that, in fact, women who they think so-called have it all don't really have it al--all at all. I mean, we as women tend to sort of think, you know, we believe in Cinderella and things like that. You know, "If only the right man comes along, if only the perfect job, if only we have a beautiful baby that everything is going to be OK." And, in fact, the message in my book is that it's not one thing that's going to make your life perfect. And perfect is the enemy of the good; that what you really need to learn to do in your life is to have balance.
LAMB: Two hundred and eighty-four pages. How long has this book been out now?
WALSH: It's been officially published on August 7th or 8th, but it was in the bookstores a couple of weeks before that.
LAMB: What has surprised you about the experience of the book tour, writing the book that you didn't expect?
WALSH: The emotional reaction of women who have read the book has been sort of startling to me. I think sometimes when you finish a book, you tend to put it to bed and you tend to see it more distantly. And particularly as a journalist, you know, this was your work. And I knew that my book was one that I wanted to strike a raw nerve. I didn't realize it would strike a raw nerve with people in their own lives. One woman came up to me the other day and said, "You know, I spent the whole afternoon after reading your book asking myself, `Am I happy?'" It's a question I ask in the conclusion of my book. I said that one of the things -- when I first started my book, my husband and I were having breakfast or something and we were talking about what I wanted to do, and he said to me "Who are the women you know who are happy?" And I had frozen at that moment and was being sort of a smart-ass and said, "Oh, you know, 'happy' is not a good word. It's sort of' ... what does happy mean? And I prefer satisfied."
And what I was really doing at that stage was stalling, kind of going through the list of women in my mind that I knew. I have a lot of really good women friends, all really interesting women who live very rich lives, who I love very dearly, but as I went through my list, every single one of them was struggling with something. And I think that that's something that most women are doing. And so when somebody comes up to me and says, "I spent the whole afternoon walking around saying, 'Am I happy?'" -- that had a profound sort of effect on me.
LAMB: What about the media coverage of ... you mean you've been in the media all these years.
LAMB: Are you happy with the way the media's treated your book?
WALSH: Yes, for the most part. I mean, I've had a lot of coverage, a lot more coverage than I anticipated. That was a big surprise to me. I wish the stories would focus a little bit more on the other women than just on Rachael Warby or the initial stories. A columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a column a couple of days ago and she said it's too bad in some ways that that story has overshadowed the other two stories because these are also compelling statements on the sort of state of American women, particularly the story about the breast surgeon who really did fight a lot of sexism, which you would not have expected at an Ivy League institution.
LAMB: Now the breast surgeon, Alison Estabrook has a couple of other connections I wanted to ask you about. One of them is her one of her best friends, Jennifer Patterson ...
LAMB: ...whose husband is?
WALSH: Howard Stringer, who used to be the former head of CBS, who is now
heading up some new kind of cable television thing that's a little bit up in the air because of Mike Ovitz, who arranged it, has left to go to Disney.
LAMB: And also, Annie Liebovitz.
WALSH: Yes, very good friend of hers. They traveled when they were 16 or 17 to a kibbutz together in Israel, although Alison's not Jewish, she wanted to spend some time on a kibbutz.
LAMB: And how did you find her?
WALSH: I met Alison by happenstance at at a dinner party, and she had this story to tell. One of the things I did when I was first starting out doing my book is I would ask everybody I knew, "Who are the interesting women you know, women who are working out some dilemmas and things of that sort?" And she happened to be at a party where I was at a party, and so as a working journalist, especially when you're starting out on a book, you're always working.
LAMB: How come the publisher didn't put pictures in this book?
WALSH: We talked about that because I initially wanted them to put pictures in there, and I think they thought that ... I never got really a real answer. They just said, "No, we think it's better without pictures." But I think that in retrospect what they wanted people to do -- and it's what you -- my book is written almost novelistically. It's a narrative, and when you read a narrative, oftentimes you like to just be able to imagine what somebody looks like. So I suspect maybe that had something to do with it. Maybe -- also suspect it's more expensive. I don't know.
LAMB: Did you tape record your interviews with them?
WALSH: I tape recorded a lot of my interviews. Not all of them, but many of them.
LAMB: What are you doing with the tapes?
WALSH: I have them. I always ke...
LAMB: I asked your husband the same question and he says that they're...
WALSH: I always keep my tapes.
LAMB: What are you going to do with them?
WALSH: Oh, I'm a pack rat. I keep everything. I kept all my notes from stories I've done, or most of my notes of important stories that I've ever done.
LAMB: Let me back in -- as a way of you telling this story, because it's got my attention that when Howard Stringer was the CEO of CBS at one point he becomes a part of this story because his wife puts him on the telephone with ...
LAMB: ... Alison Estabrook.
WALSH: Right. Howard Stringer's wife, Jennifer Patterson, was a dermatologist, who was a very good friend of Alison's. They had met when they were residents together. And Alison had called because she was very upset because she discovered that, first -- let me go back just a little bit -- there had been a history that when Alison first had been hired at Columbia she discovered accidentally about a year later that she was being paid $60,000 a year, while her two male colleagues with exactly the same credentials, started the same time were being paid $100,000 a year. Jennifer had been aware of that because that had been a very unsettling discovery to Alison. And when Alison had confronted her superiors about that, they said, "Oh, don't worry about it. It's water under the bridge." And being someone who loved her job, she said, "OK. It's water under the bridge."
A couple of years later, Alison had been promised that she would be named the head of breast surgery at Columbia when the two older chief breast--the chief breast surgeon and his top as--top assistant left. When they left, though, she discovered, in fact, that they decided to go outside the hospital and look for another male--an older male, someone with more experience. And Alison was really upset because it was essentially a job she had been promised. She had--she was the de facto head. She had been running the cl--most of the clinic, had made major changes and she didn't know what to do about it.
So she was a person who had a lot of -- again, good women friends who were sort of her sounding board. So she called one of her friends, who is a psychiatrist, who said,
you know, "Call The New York Times, call ABC. This is outrageous." And then she called Jennifer Patterson, the dermatologist, Howard Stringer's wife, and she got very upset because she, in fact, had also left academic medicine because her own experience had been that in academic medicine, unless you're a single woman with a -- that there is this sort of sense that you don't need any money. And in her case, she felt that she had been denied raises because she was the wife of a wealthy, prominent husband.
So she realized she was getting really upset and she wasn't helping Alison with this, so she put Howard Stringer on the phone and Howard gave her the name of a good labor lawyer. And the labor lawyer said to her when she called her --she said "You have a very good case." There were other people in the hospital who were urging Alison to sue, including the head of general surgery, which is quite unique, that somebody in that high a position would say to a colleague, "You should sue the hospital because you're being mistreated here." And the labor lawyer said, "You have a good case. You're being paid 60 percent" -- or 40 percent, I guess - -the other guys were being paid 60 percent more -- "You're the only woman in general surgery at the hospital. You were promised this job. You're being passed over for men who have less experience than you. But let me warn you, if you sue, your life is going to be hell, you're probably going to have to leave, and if you stay, you'll have no friends."
And I think that this is sort of the next stage of the workplace battles that the woman lawyer -- that lawyer was probably giving her pretty good advice because, in fact, what we've seen -- I covered the courts for a very long time at The Post, and I have rarely seen somebody come out of a lawsuit whole because there's always an effort to destroy the other side.
LAMB: What did you learn about men that you didn't know already?
WALSH: In this book?
WALSH: From all the stories?
LAMB: And I think basically what I'm asking about is men in the workplace.
WALSH: One, I think that they don't really understand all the dilemmas that a woman brings to her job. I mean, I think when Don Hewitt, the "60 Minutes" producer, called me and said, "I had no idea it was so hard for Meredith and I've learned a lot," I think that that's pretty reflective of men in high positions in general. We talk a lot in this country about whether there is or isn't a level playing field in the workplace, particularly now that there's this debate about affirmative action. And the truth is that even when some external obstacles have been dismantled -- and many have, but many still exist, as you see in my book -- that it's not a level playing field for women because women bring their entire lives to their jobs, men don't. Men tend to be able to compartmentalize their lives in a way that women cannot. They deal with conflict a lot better.
Meredith Vieira's husband said to me, "One of the problems I think Meredith has and I think a lot of the women professionals I know have is that she has no dimmer switch. She doesn't know how to deal with the conflict. I can modify my reaction to something that's bothering me according to sort of the level that I need to be able to continue to do what I want to do. With Meredith and a lot of women, there's the sense that I've got to give one thing up in order to do the other thing, that it's an either-or situation." And I think that that's pretty typical.
In Rachael Warby's case, when she discovered her husband was going to be challenged in the primary for re-election, it really just flummoxed her and sort of really threw her. And she said to me, "I know I'm going to be stuck in a rut in this. I'm like a bad needle in a record going around and around. I'm stuck in a rut because I know this is going to really disturb my life for nine months. I could do, you know, a few months, but not nine months." But she said, "I know Gaston, once he heard the bad news, it bothered him, but he got up the next morning and just said, 'OK. These are the things I've got to do.'"
LAMB: You were talking earlier about who you've talked to and who not. And you haven't talked to Rachael Warby about all this -- the wife of the governor of West Virginia.The other two women you have talked to?
WALSH: Yes, I have.
LAMB: And what's their reaction to you?
WALSH: Alison Estabrook has said that she finds it to be a kind of an amazing bonding process for her because, as I said, a number of patients have come up and said, "I've had a similar experience." A number of people in the hospital, same thing. And ...
LAMB: Anything she didn't like?
LAMB: Anything she didn't like?
WALSH: Oh, she told me that somebody in the hospital, one of the superiors said, "You know, Alison" -- my book was excerpted in The Washington Post and this person was complaining that Alison, in the excerpt at least, didn't say that things have gotten better. And things have gotten much better for her because, in fact, the whole sort of supervisorial structure there has changed now.
LAMB: She today then is...
WALSH: She's still the head, but there's a new chairman of the surgery department --has replaced one who really, in fact, was one of the obstacles in her getting the job.
LAMB: At Columbia Presbyterian?
WALSH: At Columbia Presbyterian. She's been offered jobs in a lot of different places, places that want a woman as head of their breast surgery department. And so she told me this. She said she went and then told -- she's hired a new female surgeon to help her out and told her about this other person's complaints. And she said, "Well, Alison, you know, when they write the stories of World War II, they don't put a little asterisk at the end and say, 'And now we're friends with the Japanese.'" And so...
LAMB: What about Meredith Vieira?
WALSH: I gave the book to Meredith, again, early on and Meredith said it was very hard to read. She said she she liked it very much. She said, "I love it.' But, you know, I think that Meredith is such a nice person, she would say that. She said, "It brings a lot of clarity to a situation that at that time seemed very confusing to me. And I feel that I've learned a lot from it." I think that Meredith, in fact, did learn a lot. What she learned was that she needed to be able to make choices, that she needed to make compromises, and as a result of that, she's got a much more balanced life.
LAMB: Go back to a controversy that arose -- I don't remember what year it was -- it was either in '88 or '92 -- about Pat Schroeder and crying. And the reason I bring this up is because all three...
WALSH: A lot of crying.
LAMB: A lot of crying with all three women all over the place. Did that ever worry you as a woman, that you were portraying them as having a hard time with the tears?
WALSH: No, because I think that one of the big problems in this country is now that women tend to think, "Oh, you can't cry. You can't tell the truth. You can't say things are hard-nosed." As a result of that, we all tend to play Pollyanna and things never change. I said to Meredith once when she was crying, I said, "Are you worried about this, talking so honestly? And hasn't it been hard for you?" And this was near the end of our process. And she said, "Yes. I would like everyone to think that I've been, you know, victorious and successful. Most people in the professional world don't want to hear that you're having a hard time, but the truth is what good does it do me if I continue to say, 'Oh, yeah, everything is fine. It's great?' It'll just stay the same and people will say, 'Oh, you can do it again,' and I can't." And I think that that's true.
LAMB: There are a lot of Richard Cohens in this world, and you thank another Richard Cohen from The Washington Post in the back of your book. But back to the...
LAMB: ... the husband of Meredith Vieira, one other small point. You talk about revealing for the first time publicly maybe that Richard Cohen has MS... the producer of Jane Wallace now. Has that bothered them? Has that bothered his career, that that's been admitted?
WALSH: No, actually, he asked me to put it in there. I had initially just described it as a degenerative neurological disease because Meredith had asked me to do that and that seemed to me to be fair. We were talking about her life, not his so much. And after he read the galley's copy, he said, "I have a favor to ask you." He said, "I want you to put in there that I have MS." He said, "When you put in there I have a degenerative neurological disease, it makes it sound like that I've got something that is really awful and makes me sounds like I'm crippled." And the truth is he's not. I know he's not. And he doesn't really have a lot of symptoms of it, and I think he felt that it had been kind of unmasked already, or, as he said, "You've already suggested there's something really wrong with me, so why don't you just really put the whole thing in? How do you how do you feel about doing that?" And I said, "Well, if you want me to do that, that's fine. I'd rather."
LAMB: Anything left out of this book that you'd just as soon your publisher had left in?
WALSH: I really was able to do most of the cutting myself. I mean, my editor really did stylistic and grammatical change, but no factual.
LAMB: Next book?
WALSH: Do you have a good idea?
LAMB: Maybe the outtakes of this one?
WALSH: The CD-ROM.
LAMB: Are you going to write another book?
WALSH: I hope so. I've got a couple of different ideas, but I think that one of the problems that you have sometimes after you write a book is you live so much in your own head and you live so much in your own room that you really do need to get back out as I'm a journalist. I'm not a novelist. You really do need to get back out and see what people are talking about, what they're thinking and what's interesting because what's interesting to you after you've lived in your own head for several years could be pretty boring to other people.
LAMB: What are the -- we only have a minute -- what did you learn about yourself?
WALSH: I learned that I needed to keep my own life in balance and in perspective, and that it was important for me to be honest when something was bothering me; that when you let a problem, when you're silent about a problem it only amplifies with time.
LAMB: Why do you think people want to reveal all this about themselves?
WALSH: I think it's therapeutic. I think that when you talk about -- when you tell the truth about your life, it gives you insight and insight allows you to change something.
LAMB: Do you think that after people read you doing this with these three
women that they'll be as open as these were?
WALSH: I would hope so. I...
LAMB: Does it worry you at all that they might not be because they see...
WALSH: To me?
WALSH: I worry that people would think that because of the reaction to Rachael Warby that they would say, "Oh, there's still a penalty for telling the truth." But I would like them to think not. I think that there've been enough people who have really sort of applauded the courage of these women that, in fact, there is benefit to it.
LAMB: This is what the cover of the book looks like. The title is "Divided Lives." And our guest has been its author, Elsa Walsh. Thank you very much.
WALSH: Thank you.
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