“Our parents did not have the children go away when the grown-ups came,” Ms. Roberts said. “In retrospect, I’ve sometimes wondered, ‘What did those people think to have all these children around all the time?’ But we were around, and it was great for us.”
Although her father had considerable influence on her, so did her mother, who was active in furthering her father’s career, along with other women she came to know, like Lady Bird Johnson.
“I was very well aware of the influence of these women,” she said, adding, “I very much grew up with a sense, from them, that women could do anything, and that they could sort of do a whole lot of things at the same time.”
It was a theme she teased out in her 1998 book, “We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters.”
“For years my mother kept telling me that it’s nothing new to have women as soldiers, as diplomats, as politicians, as revolutionaries, as explorers, as founders of large institutions, as leaders in business; that the women of my generation did not invent the wheel,” she wrote. “In the past women might not have had the titles, she painstakingly and patiently explained, but they did the jobs that fit those descriptions.”
Ms. Roberts attended Catholic schools in New Orleans and Bethesda, Md., and graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1964 with a degree in political science. In 1966 she married Steven V. Roberts, who was a correspondent then for The New York Times. Journalism was a largely male world at the time, something driven home to her when she went job hunting.
“In 1966 I left an on-air anchor television job in Washington, D.C., to get married,” she told The Times in 1994. “My husband was at The New York Times. For eight months I job-hunted at various New York magazines and television stations, and wherever I went I was asked how many words I could type.”
She eventually became a radio correspondent for CBS before joining NPR in 1978. (Sources give both 1977 and 1978 as her start year at NPR.) With her fellow newswomen Nina Totenberg and Linda Wertheimer, she began to change the journalistic landscape.