REMEMBER THEM?: The New York Times is observing International Women’s Day by rolling out “Overlooked,” an ongoing project that writes obituaries of influential women who didn’t get their due from The Times at the time of their death. The project, which is overseen by Times gender editor Jessica Bennett, kicks off with 15 obituaries for women including Diane Arbus, Sylvia Plath, Henrietta Lacks and Ida B. Wells.
According to Bennett, one of the difficulties inherent to the project was just figuring out who had, in fact, been overlooked.
“We consulted historians for ideas and also just started looking up random names who came to mind — but until only a few decades ago, married women’s obits were under their husband’s names, if you can believe it,” Bennett said. “We found odd things, like how Ida B. Wells had a front-page story about her marriage but no coverage of her death. Then there were women like Ada Lovelace, whose contributions we knew had not been recognized by society-at-large until much later, so we had a big debate about who should count as ‘overlooked,’ since sometimes it was society, not The New York Times specifically.”
The initiative coincides with the launch of a new ad, part of the Times’ ongoing “The Truth is Hard” campaign, to highlight the paper’s reporting on women. The Times unveiled a commercial during The Golden Globes in January to emphasize its work uncovering sexual harassment.
“This is one part of a much larger initiative to elevate women’s voices in our pages, and cover gender more broadly. So that means special projects like this, but it also means a newsroom-wide effort to better represent female voices, as well as covering masculinity, sexuality, gender identity and a whole host of other things. The way we see it, gender is a lens through which we view our journalism at large,” said Bennett, who started as gender editor in October of last year — right around the time that the paper published its investigation into Harvey Weinstein, which ushered in a new era of reporting on sexual abuse allegations.