Remembering the Legacy of Journalist Betsy Wade


The New York Times

Betsy Wade was the first woman to edit news for The New York Times.

  Betsy Wade, the first woman to edit news copy for The New York Times, has died in her home from colon cancer at the age of 91. The legacy she left for women in the journalism industry and her lasting impact is worth commemorating.  

  Wade was born in Manhattan, New York. After working and attending college in several other states, she returned to her home state to receive her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. In 1952, her career started at the New York Herald Tribune where she wrote in the women’s section. 

  After being fired when the paper refused to pay for her maternity leave, she worked for the Newspaper Enterprise Association for two years. By 1956, she found her way to The New York Times where she became the first woman to edit news for the paper. 

  Her career with The Times broke a 105-year precedent of only men editing in the news section. Women rarely even wrote in the news department and were restricted to write about topics like fashion or cooking. 

  Sanderson High School english teacher Natalie Macpherson reflects on Wade’s legacy saying, “Journalism is so much larger than one person or one news agency— at its finest, it includes the voices of the silent, the overlooked, and the bound.  Journalism should reflect the country it represents; women and other diverse journalists will help equalize our power instead of giving it away solely to those who may not represent us.”

  In 1974, Wade was one of seven plaintiffs in a successful class action lawsuit against The Times for gender discrimination. This lawsuit is now known as one of the earliest fights for equal treatment in hiring, pay, and promotion in the journalism industry. 

  Her list of accomplishments does not end there. Wade is known for helping to prepare The New York Times’ 1972 publication of the Pentagon Papers. This publication received a Pulitzer Prize for meritorious public service in journalism. 

  She also received The Society of Siuliarin’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. In her acceptance speech she said, “This acknowledgement— that speaks to all of us who challenged our employer 40 years ago— also recognizes a need for listening to the others who are always amongst us.”

  Betsy Wade’s never ending battle for gender equality continued over her 45-year The New York Times career. She will be remembered as a pioneer for women in journalism, and her efforts in reforming the writing industry are greatly appreciated.