Not For Women Only

Liz Dubelman

December 31, 2022

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When I was growing up in New Jersey, my mother would religiously watch a daily television show called Not For Women Only. The show featured Barbara Walters as the host, a panel of experts, and a knowledgeable audience seated at round tables who could raise their hands and ask questions. The topics were related to "women's issues," like abortion, birth control, and the generation gap, and each topic would run for the week of shows.

Barbara Walters was my introduction to how to talk about important and sometimes uncomfortable issues. She handled each guest with respect and deference. She admitted when she didn’t understand an answer and needed follow-up. She taught me that women’s issues were human issues.

The show was originally called For Women Only and was hosted by Aline Saarinen. When Ms. Sarinen became the chief of NBC's Paris News Bureau, the network asked Barbara Walters if she wanted to be the new moderator. She replied that she would if the title of the show was changed to Not For Women Only. The subjects were the same, but with the addition of one small three-letter word, it became inclusive. The audience tripled.

Some twenty-odd years later, I had the opportunity to meet Carolyn Leighton and WITI. She very much reminded me of the grace and intellect of Barbara Walters’ Not For Women Only. As Barbara Walters was quoted, "We had the most dignified and respected experts address these issues, and our questions were also dignified, but we managed to be candid and therefore exciting in a way few shows were in those days."

I know most of you haven’t seen this show that was so formative for me. Here is a clip I found on YouTube. While it clearly seems very dated, it is also somehow timeless.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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