Queen of the Oil Club: The Intrepid Wanda Jablonski and the Power of Information

Queen of the Oil Club: The Intrepid Wanda Jablonski and the Power of Information

by Anna Rubino
     
 

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This is the story of a gutsy journalist who challenged power-and succeeded. Wanda Jablonski was an investigative reporter, publisher, and power broker who came to wield exceptional influence on twentieth-century geopolitics by shedding light on the secretive world of oil from the 1950s through the 1980s. Jablonski unveiled many mysteries of the oil club, an elite…  See more details below

Overview

This is the story of a gutsy journalist who challenged power-and succeeded. Wanda Jablonski was an investigative reporter, publisher, and power broker who came to wield exceptional influence on twentieth-century geopolitics by shedding light on the secretive world of oil from the 1950s through the 1980s. Jablonski unveiled many mysteries of the oil club, an elite group of Western executives who once controlled the international petroleum business.

Nicknamed the midwife of OPEC, Jablonski undermined Big Oil's dominance by exposing the vulnerabilities of the major oil companies and encouraging the rise of oil nationalism. Her scoops, commentaries, and private networking helped shape the debate that led to the creation of OPEC, the oil shocks of the 1970s, and the largest transfer of wealth in history.

Tenacious and glamorous, Wanda-as she was known in the oil world-coaxed her way into exploration sites in Middle Eastern deserts, drilling camps in the Venezuelan jungle, male-only boardrooms in New York and London, and the king's harem in Saudi Arabia. She survived threats, boycotts, and suspicions of espionage as she elicited information and insight from CEOs of the oil giants and political leaders, including the shah of Iran.

Working for the Journal of Commerce and other New York publications, Jablonski defied the prevailing view that a woman reporting on business had no credibility. In 1961, divorced and suddenly jobless, she took a big gamble by starting her own newsletter, Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, which was soon dubbed the "bible" of the oil world.

Today, when conflict in the Middle East and climate change cause us to reexamine our reliance on oil, Jablonski's prescience-whether about oil dependency, cultural insensitivity, or market manipulation-proves remarkable.

Anna Rubino, who reported for Jablonski in the 1980s, uses scores of interviews, exclusive access to her private papers, and newly declassified information to tell the dramatic story of this journalistic pioneer and the power of information.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Wanda Jablonski was one of a kind—a reporter who revealed the secret world of the oil business, a woman who penetrated the inner sanctums of the Arab oil sheiks, and an entrepreneur who created a publication that was the industry's bible. Jablonski's colorful career comes alive in Anna Rubino's richly reported biography.—David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post and author of Body of Lies: A Novel

"A page-turner and a substantive biography, Queen of the Oil Club makes Middle East oil history come alive through the eyes of a truly trailblazing woman journalist."—Ambassador Connie Morella, former Maryland congresswoman

"Part detective story and part political thriller, Queen of the Oil Club is the true account of the most influential woman of the early oil age. It's a book you can't miss."—Gregg Easterbrook, author of The Progress Paradox

"What a fascinating story and what a remarkable woman! Before women were even allowed to join the National Press Club, Wanda Jablonski managed, through determination, hard work, and excellent reporting, to overcome the odds and become one of the most influential journalists in our history. Jablonski not only chronicled the growth of the oil industry, she helped shape it—and brought oil barons to their knees." —Bill Press, political commentator, author, and radio host of The Bill Press Show

"A gem of a book about a remarkable woman and the shadowy world of oil and global politics. Anna Rubino has followed in Wanda Jablonski's footsteps, mining the data and presenting a fascinating story."—Rachel Bronson, author of Thicker than Oil: America's Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia

Kirkus Reviews
How one woman hurdled journalism's gender barrier to help shape the future of Big Oil. Off the Record Research reporter Rubino once worked for Wanda Jablonski (1920-1992), the subject of this case study in how knowledgeable journalism can shape events. Born in Slovakia, Jablonski came to America at age five, when her father Eugen was hired by a Standard Oil affiliate. They arrived in Texas in the heyday of U.S. oil exploration; young Wanda was immersed in the excitement, and the technical jargon, of the petroleum boom. The family also lived in England and Egypt while Eugen pursued a peripatetic oil career. Wanda returned to the United States to get a bachelor of arts degree from Cornell and began graduate studies in public law and government at Columbia, but quit in 1943. She tried to get a job at the Council on Foreign Relations, but was turned down because she couldn't type. Chance took her to the stodgy but respected New York Journal of Commerce as a messenger. Her career took off when the regular petroleum reporter left and Jablonski was given a string of temporary assignments to write articles on the oil business, initially using the byline W.M. Jablonski to disguise her gender. After she moved to Petroleum Week in 1955, however, she won the right to use her full name; her ability to pry inside information from the secretive major oil companies had made her columns an industry must-read. Later, the affinity she developed with national leaders and oil ministers throughout the Middle East made Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, the publication she founded in 1961, "the bible of the international oil world." She often chided U.S. CEOs on their arrogance and insensitivity in internationaldealings, and to the extent that she saw it all coming, Jablonski deserved her nickname as "OPEC's midwife."Intimate but also sweeping, capturing the myopia of both business and government as America's addiction to foreign oil set in over four decades. Agent: Lisa Adams/The Garamond Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807072776
Publisher:
Beacon
Publication date:
06/28/2008
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Anna Rubino, a journalist and historian with a Ph.D. from Yale, has covered oil and business news from New York and Brussels. Her work has appeared in Business Week, the International Herald Tribune, and Petroleum Intelligence Weekly. Rubino is now an investigative reporter for OTR Global, a San Francisco-based investment news service.

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