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Overlooked No More

by Marianne Picha

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Three years ago, the New York Times began a new feature in the obituary column called “Overlooked No More” and the goal was to profile people since 1851 who had made notable contributions to New York, society, or the world but the paper had not run obituaries at the time of their passing. The newspaper’s goal was to purposefully look farther than the many white men the paper had noted over the years and retroactively honor those contributions.

And WOW. It’s impressive. As the Eurythmics used to sing, “Sisters been doin’ it for themselves. Standing on their own two feet. Ringin’ their own bell!”

The NYT obituary section has come alive (pardon the pun) with stories of women who have done amazing things such as finished the Brooklyn Bridge construction (Emily Warren Roebling), campaigned against lynching in the south (Ida B. Wells), fought for women's rights to education and racial equity (Jovita Idár), protested for the right to vote (Mabel Ping Hua Lee) and became the first female computer programmer (Ida Lovelace - in 1843!!). Artists, researchers, poets, mathematicians, scientists, dancers...nearly 200 years of “women’s work.”

When you read these stories, there is often an inspiring moment with a teacher or professor that helped these women follow an idea or a passion forward when the way was not clear. And, you see that many of these women needed a community of like-minded learners to support them when the traditional avenues did not. In a way, the New York Times Obituary Section really is an example of the Hatch motto: Change the game, not the girl.

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