Since 1851, The New York Times published thousands of obituaries. The vast majority featured white men. So, what is the issue with that?
For people thinking of their local obituary pages, this seems insignificant or irrelevant. For most Americans, the obits just list deaths and funeral arrangements. But for major national papers like The Times, an obituary resembles a feature article, covering only those lives of importance.
Therein lies the problem. For 167 years, The New York Times deemed most women unworthy of recognition on their obituary pages.
Now, for International Women’s Day, The Times wants to rectify that gender bias. They selected 15 women who deserved recognition.
Their choices include civic leaders like Ida B. Wells, authors like Syliva Plath and Charlotte Brontë, and Chinese poet and revolutionary Qiu Jin.
I’ve been writing the NYT for a long time asking them to stop only profiling men. The Obit pages are still skewed.
— Jeanne Koenings (@OlyJeanne) March 8, 2018
— Ivan Kreilkamp (@IvanKreilkamp) March 8, 2018
New Obit for “Sylvia Plath” in NYT. The Bell Jar was one of the first books I read fully, amazing women’s writer. she spoke of levels and depths of women’s live i didn’t know existed. pic.twitter.com/mXjZPnItpX
— potty mouth bakery (@pottymouthbaker) March 8, 2018
In 2004 when Gloria Anzaldua passed, I was naively aghast that @nytimes didn’t run an obituary for her. Now NYT invites nominations of ppl who should’ve received obituaries. I nominated Anzaldua. Might you do the same–or nominate someone equally worthy? https://t.co/LgvbrbdvTw
— Robin Bernstein (@RobinMBernstein) March 8, 2018
The obit that Ida B. Wells should have had in NYT, written for #InternationalWomensDay Overlooked No More: Ida B. Wells, Who Took on Racism in the Deep South With Powerful Reporting on Lynchings https://t.co/syeQmPcf1N #PhlEd
— K.R. Luebbert (@teacherinphilly) March 8, 2018
Honestly, that the NYT omitted these women from their obit pages sorta blows my mind. Also, Ada Lovelace, Charlotte Brontë…yeesh. https://t.co/nH5jD13nPT
— Joanie MacPhee (@JoanieGentian) March 8, 2018
Overlooked: @nytimes begins project to add obituaries of prominent women who never made male-dominated NYT obits. The 1st 15 profiles include (pictured) Ida B. Wells, Qiu Jin, Diane Arbus, Sylvia Plath https://t.co/p45kEDNmXq @jessicabennett pic.twitter.com/mu1FuMKpJQ
— David Beard (@dabeard) March 8, 2018
— Elizabeth Djinis (@djinisinabottle) March 8, 2018
Overlooked No More:
Henrietta Lacks gets an obit in the NYThttps://t.co/W2nqI7xpyC
— Ross Cheit (@ProfCheit) March 8, 2018
Some truly incredible stories of women long overlooked https://t.co/Kwh0XfPOtN Also: “even in the last two years, just over one in five of [NYT obit] subjects were female.”
— Carrie Brown (@Brizzyc) March 8, 2018
NYT obit for Ida Tarbell, whose muckraking journalism led to breakup of Standard Oil and stronger antitrust laws, described her as “the type of woman who by sheer grit and hard work raised herself to prominence.” No mention of policy impact. https://t.co/qW8WFCNbhl
— Julia Angwin (@JuliaAngwin) March 8, 2018
The New York Times acknowledged they continue to have a problem in 2018 with gender bias and overall diversity. Women comprise over half the population, yet garner only 20 percent of their obituaries. They asked for the public’s assistance in identifying other important people who deserved a place in their pages.
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.
Who would you nominate?
The NYT is publishing obituaries for women and POC who didn’t get them when they died. Who would you suggest? https://t.co/ig0uSttsba
— Jennifer Jett (@jennjettkw) March 8, 2018