While obituaries notify the public of the deaths of important figures, obituary columns are celebrations of the lives of its subjects. For nearly two centuries, the New York Times Obituary page has chronicled the passing of history’s most impactful citizens—with noted exceptions.
Now, the Times has admitted bias in those it featured (just 20% have been women) and has launched a new series to correct the mistakes of its past. In honor of International Women’s Day (Mar. 8), they have released an initial 15 obituaries of historically and culturally important women in what will become a regular features in the section, titled Overlooked.
“Obituary writing is more about life than death: the last word, a testament to a human contribution… To look back at the obituary archives can, therefore, be a stark lesson in how society valued various achievements and achievers,” said Amisha Padnani (an Obituaries editor) and Jessica Bennett in their introduction to Overlooked.
“Today we introduce Overlooked—a project to write the obituaries for the women who never got them, but should have,” said Bennett, Time’s gender editor, via Twitter.
Even within the last two years, the Times admits, they have only published one obituary for a woman, among five men. Overlooked’s first release publishes obituaries for the following 15 remarkable women:
- activist, Ida B. Wells
- Qiu Jin, China’s “Joan of Arc”
- Mary Ewing Outerbridge, who brought tennis to the US from Bermuda
- photographer, Diane Arbus
- Greenwich Village activist Marsha P. Johnson
- poet, Sylvia Plath
- Henrietta Lacks, origin of the HeLA cells still used in medical research today
- Bollywood legend, Madhubala
- Brooklyn Bridge stand-in engineer, Emily Warren Roebling
- Harlem Renaissance writer, Nella Larsen
- Ada Lovelace, mathematician and the first computer programmer
- Margaret Abbott, first American woman to win an Olympic championship
- Cuban printmaker, Belkis Ayón
- “Jane Eyre” novelist, Charlotte Brontë
- Lillias Campbell Davidson, who founded the first women’s cycling organization.