“Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. With Overlooked, we’re adding the stories of remarkable women.”
The New York Times’ “Overlooked” is a new series comprised of obituaries of important women in history who never received that tribute when they died. The New York Times contains many obits, yet these significant women were forgotten in their own time.
Amisha Padnani, the woman who had the idea for this collection, stated in an interview with Democracy Now! that “about 80 percent of [the New York Times’] obituaries are about men.” Her realization that the newspaper lacked many famous women’s obituaries prompted her idea for “Overlooked.”
In her article about how this project began, she stated, “It is difficult for me as a journalist to see important stories go untold. But perhaps more important, as a woman of color, I am pained when the powerful stories of incredible women and minorities are not brought to light.”
The first installment of “Overlooked” was published on March 8th, which is International Women’s Day, and started with 15 women. Some of them included Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), a mathematician who is considered to have written instructions for the first computer program; Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), an African-American journalist who reported on lynchings in the American South; and Margaret Abbott (1878-1955), the first American woman to win an Olympic championship.
“These women are no longer overlooked. They’re now coming out of the woodworks. They’re coming out of the shadows, and we’re finally giving them their due,” stated Padnani in the same interview.
Since its debut, “Overlooked” has received lots of attention. In a CBS News interview, Caitlin Dickerson, a New York Times national reporter, stated, “The interest [in this series] reflects how important the issues of gender and inequality are even in a time of fast-breaking news.”
William McDonald, The Times’ obituaries editor, said in a recent article, “Many readers legitimately ask: Why are the vast majority of our obituary subjects white men?” He continued to say that the obituaries section covers the past, and “the prominent shapers of society back then, those who held (and didn’t easily give up) the levers of power, were disproportionately white and male.” It was difficult for women to get their due in a time when men were largely in control of deciding who mattered. McDonald then said that he would “like to think that those portrayed in “Overlooked” would be prime candidates for an obit in The Times today.”
The New York Times reported that they will be adding to “Overlooked” weekly, making it a regular feature in the obituaries section. They also added a form for people to send in suggestions of who they think should be added to this list, encompassing anyone who was marginalized in their own time, not just women.
“This series is just the beginning,” Padnani stated, “I’m hopeful it will inspire many more conversations inside the newsroom and beyond about diversity and what we can do to make sure no one is overlooked.”
Blair Academy is also working to make sure no one is overlooked. Next year, for instance, Blair will offer new elective courses on women’s history and race. Check back for the interview June Dinias ’20 and Katherine Holding ’20 are doing with Mrs. Brandwood about her new class, Women’s History.
(Copyright 2018 June Dinias)