I am not and never have been a Time Magazine subscriber.
At one time in my much younger life someone paid for a year’s worth of Newsweek, which I enjoyed, but not enough to continue. But when I caught a morning talk show interview with editor-in-chief Nancy Gibbs previewing and promoting a Time special project— Firsts-women who are changing the world, I went in determined search of the September 18 issue.
I learned that if you are not a signed up paid reader, it was not easy to score a copy, at least not in a timely manner. It took several return trips to the Barnes and Noble periodical section, and an expedited delivery purchase on ebay (mailed carefully in do-not-bend packaging). I tore it open, eager to read about what Gibbs had described as the “experiences of women who were pioneers in their field,” hopefully in a positive way. The venture had taken more than a year, after having been proposed by Kira Pollack, the magazine’s director of photography and visual enterprise. What began as a series of portraits, in the words of the editor-in-chief, quickly evolved into a multimedia project including dozens of interviews and a book.
What were the “striking themes”?
“The importance of joy, the fierce motivational force of failure, the satisfaction of successes both achieved and shared.”
The section profiling 50 women who were firsts, starts on page 64. It follows articles on a U.S. commander’s year on the front line against ISIS; the new NFL season; and the prospect for civil war in Venezuela—all with male bylines. There is a feature on California Governor Jerry Brown titled “The Philosopher King,” written by a female reporter, Katy Steinmetz.
The women whose lives and accomplishments are described range in age from 16 to 87, and as Nancy Gibbs writes, with stories of success knitted with stories of setbacks.” Women talk about the people who tried to stop them as making them more determined, of the lack of role models, and the large roles played by the men in their lives: older brothers who were first competitors, and fathers who believed in them. And the “special place in hell,” as former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says, “For women who do not help each other.”
Among those selected: Aretha Franklin, who was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Sylvia Earle, the first woman to become chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Mo’ne Davis, the first girl to pitch a shutout and win a game in the Little League World Series.
Among the women in color selected were Mae Jemison, the first in space; Issa Rae, first black woman to create and star in a premium cable series, Ursula Burns, first black woman to run a Fortune 500 company, and Rita Moreno, first Latina to win an Emmy, a Grammy, and Tony.
A of course Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first woman to win a major party’s nomination for President of the United States who says, “being the first of any adventure or achievement does have added pressure. You want to be the first to open the door to others, and you hope you’re not the last.”
Nancy Gibbs’ legacy gift to Time Magazine may well be this special project, providing for younger woman, as she had set as a goal, “many other women of dramatically different backgrounds… and everyone gets to choose their own icons.” As the first woman-identified editor-in-chief of this venerable weekly, her name belongs in this pantheon.
Shortly after announcing its imminent arrival on newsstands, she submitted her resignation.