This week marked the passing of two women journalists who pioneered great change in their times. According to The New York Times obituaries section, Nancy Hicks Maynard, the first black woman to be a reporter at the New York Times, died at 61. Ms. Maynard joined the New York Times in 1968 where she stayed until 1974. At the Times, she reported on race riots, student takeovers at Columbia and Cornell, and the death of Robert F. Kennedy. She also wrote for the paper’s education and science news departments. She founded the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which has trained hundreds of minority journalists in the past 31 years. Ms. Maynard and her husband, Robert C. Maynard, a columnist for the Washington Post, bought the financially-ailing Oakland Tribune in 1983. The Times reports that her interest in journalism was sparked after a fire destroyed her former elementary school in Harlem. Outraged by the way her community was described in the press, she “decided she could make a difference.” Indeed, she did.
And so did Mary Garber, a journalist who first began covering athletics more than 60 years ago when female sportwriters were barred from press boxes and locker-room interviews, who passed away on Sunday. When Ms. Garber began her career as a sportswriter, the craft was dominated by men. Coaches treated her badly, her fellow sportswriters ignored her, and professional associations excluded her. But she perservered, first covering high school sports and then on college athletics. She also highlighted the acheivements of black athletes in the 1950s, in particular at Winston-Salem State, a time when “news about black people ended up on the Sunday newspaper’s ‘colored page.'” The Hall of Fame basketball coach Clarence Gaines told a reporter in 1990 that “We had outstanding athletes . . . and Mary came to write about them when no one else cared. Mary was always trying to help the underdog.” She later wrote for The Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem and The Winston-Salem Journal. In 2005, at 89, she became the first woman to receive the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Award, presented annually for major contributions to sports journalism.