Female idols in an attempt to draw attention to the accomplishments of some remarkable women in the history of the world.
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. 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, and we are expanding our lens beyond women.
Ida B. Wells took on racism in the Deep South with powerful reporting on lynchings.
Qiu Jin A feminist poet and revolutionary who became a martyr known as China’s ‘Joan of Arc.’
With her passion for wine, swords and bomb making, Qiu Jin was unlike most women born in late 19th-century China. As a girl, she wrote poetry and studied Chinese martial heroines like Hua Mulan (yes, that Mulan) fantasizing about one day seeing her own name in the history books.
But her ambitions ran up against China’s deeply rooted patriarchal society, which held that a woman’s place remained in the home. Undeterred, Qiu rose to become an early and fierce advocate for the liberation of Chinese women, defying prevailing Confucian gender and class norms by unbinding her feet, cross-dressing and leaving her young family to pursue an education abroad.
Mary Ewing Outerbridge established what may have been America’s first tennis court in the 1870s.
Mary Ewing Outerbridge didn’t have an easy time bringing tennis to America in 1874.
First she had to get past customs agents. And they were suspicious. What was this large net? Clearly it wasn’t for fishing, they said. And what were these stringed things with long handles?
Read more about these history making female idols on nytimes.com.