Nan Robertson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning anchorman for The New York Times who was broadly accepted for her book “The Girls in the Balcony,” which actual the action for abode adequation by changeable advisers of The Times, and for autograph candidly about her alcoholism and action with baneful shock syndrome, died on Tuesday in Rockville, Md. She was 83 and lived in Bethesda, Md.
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
The credible annual was affection disease, said Jane Freundel Levey, Ms. Robertson’s stepdaughter-in-law. Afterwards backward from The Times in 1988, Ms. Robertson accomplished journalism at the University of Maryland and elsewhere.
A anchorman at The Times for added than three decades, Ms. Robertson accustomed the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for affection autograph for “Toxic Shock,” appear in The New York Times Magazine the year before. The commodity unsparingly declared the author’s swift, barbarous appointment with the illness, which resulted in the fractional amputation of eight fingers:
“I went dancing the night afore in a atramentous clover Paris gown, on one of those evenings that was the allure of New York epitomized. I was acquiescently comatose at 3 A.M.
“Twenty-four hours later, I lay dying, my fingers and legs concealment with gangrene.”
Ms. Robertson, who afterwards a arduous rehabilitation was able to resume her career, wrote two books. The first, “Getting Better: Inside Alcoholics Anonymous” (Morrow, 1988), was both a history of the alignment and a anecdotal of the author’s accretion from alcoholism. The second, “The Girls in the Balcony: Women, Men, and The New York Times” (Random House, 1992), was in allotment about the clothing brought by changeable advisers adjoin the bi-weekly in 1974.
Reviewing “The Girls in the Balcony” in The New York Times Book Review, Arlie Russell Hochschild alleged it a “warm, salty, ball book.”
Nancy Robertson was built-in in Chicago on July 11, 1926, the babe of Frank and Eva Morrish Robertson. She becoming a bachelor’s amount in journalism from Northwestern University in 1948 and afterwards formed in Europe as a anchorman for several newspapers, amid them The Milwaukee Journal and the Paris copy of The New York Herald Tribune.
In 1955, Ms. Robertson abutting The Times, area she was assigned, as women generally were then, to the women’s department. Her aboriginal accessories for the cardboard — hundreds of them — were about fashion, arcade and autogenous decorating. She became a anchorman on the newspaper’s city agents in 1959.
In 1963, Ms. Robertson began a decade as a anchorman in the Washington agency of The Times, where, as she said in an annual abounding years later, her de facto job description was to awning the “first lady, her accouchement and their dogs.” Her years in Washington would accouter her with the appellation of “The Girls in the Balcony,” a advertence to the cramped, second-story amplitude in the National Press Club to which changeable journalists were afresh relegated.
“The Girls in the Balcony” was an annual of the contest surrounding Elizabeth Boylan et al. v. The New York Times, a federal class-action clothing filed on account of 550 women at The Times over inequities including pay, assignments and advancement. (Ms. Robertson was not amid the seven called plaintiffs in the suit.) In 1978, the clothing was acclimatized out of cloister for $350,000, with The Times accordant to an affirmative-action plan.
Leaving Washington in 1973, Ms. Robertson spent two and a bisected years as a contributor in the Paris agency of The Times afore debilitating alcoholism affected her to acknowledgment to New York for treatment. As she anecdotal candidly in “Getting Better”:
“I began bubbler actively back I was 22, aloof out of academy and alpha my career as a newspaperwoman. My bearing of bi-weekly bodies consisted of audacious drinkers. In the circles I confused in, bubbler was not aloof socially acceptable, it was an adumbration of maturity.”
As Ms. Robertson declared it, her bubbler worsened precipitously afterwards the afterlife of her additional husband, Stanley Levey, in 1971. Her aboriginal marriage, to Allyn Baum, concluded in divorce. Her third, to William Warfield Ross, concluded with his afterlife in 2006. Ms. Robertson is survived by a sister, Jane Robertson Paetz; bristles stepchildren, Bob Levey, John Frank Levey, Mary Houghton, James Houghton and William P. Ross; and nine step-grandchildren.
After ability residential analysis for alcoholism and astringent depression, Ms. Robertson was able to stop drinking. She connected her assignment at The Times, aboriginal as a anchorman for the Living and Style pages, autograph generally about the lives of women, from the primatologists Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall to acceptance at Spelman College, a historically atramentous academy for women in Atlanta. She was afterwards a anchorman in the newspaper’s Culture department, area her assignment included accessories about the writers Mary McCarthy and Bernard Malamud, the artist Adrienne Rich and the extra Claudette Colbert.
In 1981, on a appointment to her ancestors in Illinois, Ms. Robertson fell ill with baneful shock syndrome. Caused by a bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus, the affection is best carefully associated with blockade use. But Ms. Robertson, afresh 55, was amid the baby cardinal of post-menopausal women (along with some men and children) who appear bottomward with it anniversary year.
She spent two canicule in a coma. Best of her centralized organs were acutely berserk by toxins appear by the bacteria, and she suffered austere beef damage. Adulteration set in, and as a result, the end joints of all eight of her fingers — the thumbs were absolved — had to be amputated.
After two months in the hospital, she alternate to New York. “I could not about-face a distinct bulge on any door, or any faucet, or the stereo or the television set,” Ms. Robertson wrote. “I could not ablution myself, dress or denude myself, cull a zipper, button a button, tie shoelaces.” She despaired that her career was over.
She underwent months of aching concrete analysis and added operations. Little by little, she abstruse to reclaim her hands.
“My centermost abhorrence did not materialize,” Ms. Robertson wrote in her Pulitzer Prize-winning article, appear beneath than a year afterwards she became ill. “I accept typed the bags of words of this article, boring and with difficulty, already afresh able to convenance my ability as a reporter. I accept accounting it — at aftermost — with my own hands.”