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Why women are finally being given the honourable obituaries they never received

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Susan Devaney
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The New York Times has launched the series, Overlooked, to honour the remarkable women in history who were never rightfully given an obituary after their death.

Everyone wants to be remembered in the best way possible after they’ve gone. That’s why throughout history people were given an obituary (published in newspapers) as a way to mark their passing with great credit. But, for some women in history, due to gender inequality they never got such an historic nod.

Now, the New York Times are going back in time by acknowledging the women who should’ve been given an obituary in their new series, Overlooked. From accomplished authors Sylvia Plath and Charlotte Brontë to journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, the paper has started off by crediting 15 heroic women, and will continue to add to the ongoing series.

Since 1951, the NYT has now admitted to focusing heavily on writing obituaries for white men: “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.”

Caitlin Dickerson, who wrote one of the first featured obituaries in the series for journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, told CBSN that the global news outlet was “quite honestly, part of the problem.”

“The New York Times is the paper of record – it always, to a certain extent, reflected the culture of the moment,” Dickerson continued. “When we talk about Ida B. Wells, for example, born in the 1860s, we’re talking about a moment when we, as a general culture, didn’t pay attention to African Americans – especially African American women.”

Dickerson said “everybody in the building” was eager to be involved. “I think this is going to be a rolling project.”

“The list goes on. We’ve got photographers, we’ve got writers, we’ve got scientists – we’ve got more than 100 people featured right out of the gate,” Dickerson said. “Also we’re encouraging readers to please let us know who you think we’ve missed – women, but also men of colour – we want to address these inequities of our time.”

If you have a suggestion of a woman you’d like to see featured you can submit it here.

Images: Twitter / Rex Features 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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