In Canada, a woman other than Queen Elizabeth II is finally on our currency in a $10 bill that will go into circulation later this year. Not quite certain of why we can’t replace all the men all at once and for as long as women have been excluded, but I guess it’s a first step. Read all about Viola Desmond, the Black Nova Scotian jailed for sitting in the white section of a movie theatre years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, here:
For decades, I read the Globe and Mail daily, and when I turned to the obit section, I would see that in Canada only white heterosexual men ever died, and I’d always breathe a sigh of relief. If they kept on being the only Canadians succumbing, well then, the rest of us might live long enough to see equality. Hope the Globe sees fit to do exactly what the Times is doing:
At the NY Times, obits have been dominated by white men–as selectors, as subjects. Today, they unveil a new column, Overlooked, to redress the problem. I’ve reprinted the introduction here. Follow the links as the stories are fascinating and well worth your investment of time.
Obituary writing is more about life than death: the last word, a testament to a human contribution.
Yet who gets remembered — and how — inherently involves judgment. To look back at the obituary archives can, therefore, be a stark lesson in how society valued various achievements and achievers.
Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones; even in the last two years, just over one in five of our subjects were female.
Charlotte Brontë wrote “Jane Eyre”; Emily Warren Roebling oversaw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband fell ill; Madhubala transfixed Bollywood; Ida B. Wells campaigned against lynching. Yet all of their deaths went unremarked in our pages, until now.
Below you’ll find obituaries for these and others who left indelible marks but were nonetheless overlooked. 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.