Sunday, March 11, 2018

Ada, More than a Daughter

You may have heard the New York Times started a feature last week called Overlooked, in which they wrote obituaries for 15 women whose deaths where not noted at the time. I've been seeing mentions of it, but hadn't gone to check it out until now, and that's only because the Star Tribune carried one of the obits this morning on page 2, next to their usual "personalities" box.

The woman they picked was Ada Lovelace, and this is how they chose to headline her importance:

Yes. Ada Lovelace, now considered to be the first computer programmer, is framed primarily as the daughter of Lord Byron.

That's not how the Times lists her online, thank goodness, but I don't know what they did with the  headline in the print edition. Instead, they have her name largest, followed by a deck that reads, "A gifted mathematician who is now recognized as the first computer programmer."

Byron isn't even mentioned until halfway through the story. Seriously, Star Tribune, how wrong can you get it?

Other women included in the Times piece are Diane Arbus, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Plath, Henrietta, Lacks, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Warren Roebling, Nella Larsen, and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells. The Wells obituary elicited critiques pointing out the Times not only didn't cover her death, they actively supported the worldview and forces she fought against.


Michael Leddy said...

Reminds me of a Lorine Niedecker poem: “Who was Mary Shelley? / What was her name / before she married?”

The Times ignored LN’s death in 1970 too. I submitted her name last night.

Gina said...

I saw this too in the Star Tribune and was a bit dismayed. However, I didn't know she was Lord Byron's daughter -- didn't even know he had children, shame on me -- but I did know about her because she played a prominent secondary role in the recent second season of Victoria on PBS.

It's astonishing how much female accomplishment was ignored or downplayed in the past, and still suffers from diminishment in the present. The New York Times may not be perfect in its response, but at least they're trying and calling attention to the fact that women contributed great accomplishments and have been great minds. Women with great minds, hearts and accomplishments continue to contribute to human life today.