Skip to navigationSkip to content
Vivian Maier photos
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Visibility.
REST IN A PIECE

Other female literary figures overlooked by the New York Times obituary writers

Thu-Huong Ha
By Thu-Huong Ha

Reporter

New York Times obituaries are renowned for their ability to capture the impact of a person’s life. But since its founding, the paper has mostly captured the lives of white men.

In 1973, the paper tried to course correct for at least one of its omissions, writing an obituary for the American poet Emily Dickinson nearly 90 years late. Today the Times adds 15 more retroactive obituaries for women who were neglected at their time of death, dating back to 1851.

The project, called “Overlooked,” includes writer Nella Larson, photographer Diane Arbus, and poet Sylvia Plath. Fifteen-hundred-word justice was also served to novelist Charlotte Brontë, whose husband’s death received a brief mention in the Times, while hers did not.

As part of the interactive, the Times is calling for submissions of other women whose lives were left out of its pages. Here are a few figures from literature and the arts we thought would make fine additions, starting with the most recently deceased.

Magda Szabó (d. 2007)

The Hungarian writer was well known in her home country, but had few of her works translated into English during her lifetime. The 2015 US reissue of her haunting 1987 novel, The Door, has led to a resurgence in interest in Szabó.

Vivian Maier (d. 2009)

The American street photographer was intensely private during her lifetime. After Maier died, her work became the subject of intense fascination and acclaim, and her life was featured in the documentary Finding Vivian Maier, which was nominated for an Oscar in 2015.

Clarice Lispector (d. 1977)

An enigmatic Brazilian writer and journalist, Lispector became a cult literary figure after her death. Her last novel, The Hour of the Star, was published the year she died.

Violeta Parra (d. 1967)

Parra was a Chilean composer and folk singer who wrote the song “Gracias a la Vida,” which was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013.

Anna Julia Cooper (d. 1964)

Cooper was the child of a slave and her master who grew up to become a respected scholar. She argued in her 1892 book, A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South, that in order to help all black Americans it was essential to educate black women.

Charlotte Forten (d. 1914)

An African-American schoolteacher from the north, Forten went south during the American Civil War to teach former slaves. She wrote for The Atlantic Monthly and left behind diaries that give a glimpse into her intellectual and cultural inner life.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (d. 1907)

A German painter, Modersohn-Becker was part of the early Modernist wave and is praised for her nude self-portrait and honest, lumpy depictions of women.

Christina Rossetti (d. 1894)

The Victorian poet is considered one of the greats, and is most famous for her 1862 poem “Goblin Market,” a narrative poem that depicts the allure of self-indulgence and wantonness.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.