Thursday, March 17, 2016

Herstoric All-Women Obits Day in the NY Times

The New York Times' print edition on March 16 made history, or, more accurately, herstory when it published four obituaries all about women of note. As a regular reader of the paper, I can't recall the last time all obituaries were about the deaths of women.

In recent years, the paper has come under deserved fire for ignoring the lives of women and their accomplishments on the obituary page. Public editor Margaret Sullivan in May 2014 wrote:

"Or how about the number of women in Times obituaries? The poet and feminist Lynn Melnick complained on Twitter last week that only seven of the past 66 obituaries were on women. (My count yielded similar numbers.) Obituaries are chosen on the basis of the newsworthiness of their subjects; but that is subjective."

A survey of notable deaths in top newspapers, by gender, compiled by Mother Jones December 2012 found in that year female obituaries in the Times amounted to 29 versus 108 for males.

On March 16, the main obituary page featured the life of writer Anita Brookner, who won the Booker Prize, which warranted a banner headline and took up half of the page.

The second obituary page, taking up the entire right side, led off with a notice about the life of Dr. Barbara Almond, who studied maternal ambivalence.

Next up was the obituary for Ernestine Anderson, who was an accomplished and versatile jazz and blues singer who enjoyed a career spanning over six decades.

The fourth and final obituary yesterday was about Gogi Grant, a pop singer who knocked Elvis Presley off the top of the charts with her song "Wayward Wind" in the 1950s.

All of the women's obituaries included a photo of the subject and were written by male writers. You can read the online versions here.

Women's lives, and deaths, matter!

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