If you are as tired as we are of the oft-heard complaint that women lack role models, because, unfortunately, “there have hardly been any women worth mentioning and/or knowing about”, you might be happy about a decision made by the editors of the «New York Times». Evidently, they, too, are fed up with this complaint and they have found a way of slipping history lessons into the paper by revolutionizing the – OBITUARIES section! Here’s the thought behind this by two of the editors, Amisha Padnani and Jessica Bennett:
“Obituary writing is more about life than death: the last word, a testament to a human contribution. Yet who gets remembered — and how — inherently involves judgment. To look back at the obituary archives can, therefore, be a stark lesson in how society valued various achievements and achievers.
Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones.
Charlotte Brontë wrote “Jane Eyre”; Emily Warren Roeblingoversaw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband fell ill; Madhubala transfixed Bollywood; Ida B. Wells campaigned against lynching. Yet all of their deaths went unremarked in our pages, until now.
Below you’ll find obituaries for these and others who left indelible marks but were nonetheless overlooked. We’ll be adding to this collection each week, as Overlooked becomes a regular feature in the obituaries section, and expanding our lens beyond women.
You can use this form to nominate candidates for future “Overlooked” obits. Read an essay from our obituaries editor about how he approaches subjects and learn more about how the project came to be.”
Apart from the fact that this makes exciting and stimulating reading, it is a good example for finding allies if you wish to introduce such a groundbreaking innovation. Instead of complaining about a seeming lack of women worth knowing about, follow the invitation of the editors and report on remarkable women of our fascinating past!
And finally: Look forward to a portrait of an exceptional woman every month in the section «History? HERstory!» Let’s start this with a big bang: Mary Ellis, spitfire pilot of World War II, who died in July 2018 at the age of 101 years.