Condemn New York Times for Sexist Obituary of Rocket Scientist

Target: Jill Abramson, New York Times Executive Editor

Goal: Condemn the New York Times for the sexist obituary of a famed rocket scientist that focused on her domestic qualities rather than her professional accomplishments.

Yvonne Brill, a famous rocket scientist, recently passed away at age 88. She had a distinguished career which included being awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama in 2011. The New York Times originally chose to start the story with a sentence illustrating her qualities as a wife and mother. Sign the petition to condemn the New York Times’ sexist obituary.

Brill’s obituary in the NYT originally began, “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.” It is unthinkable that a male rocket scientist would have an obituary that focused on his domestic role. Obituaries for men tend to focus almost exclusively on their professional and career accomplishments with their personal and domestic lives an afterthought. After receiving criticism the NYT modified the lede to, “She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” NYT made no mention that it had made a modification. Even this focuses a great deal on her domestic role.

NYT’s lede belittles Brill’s contributions to science. The fact that she developed a propulsion system to help keep satellites from falling out of orbit is added as an afterthought. This is characteristic of a sexist attitude toward female scientists. Sign the petition to condemn NYT for their lede.


Dear Executive Editor Abramson,

I am a human rights activist condemn New York Time’s lede for Yvonne Brill’s obituary. The lede diminished her contributions to rocket science to focus on her role as a wife and mother first. It is unthinkable that a male rocket scientist would receive the same treatment. Even more strangely after this was pointed NYT modified the article online to mention how she followed her husband from job to job and raised her children.

It is mind-boggling that either of these two lede’s could be considered acceptable. The choice reflects a sexist attitude toward a female rocket scientist versus a male rocket scientist. There are already too few women in the field of science and math. This obituary diminishes the remarkable scientific contributions of a highly skilled woman.

I urge you to rethink how you write obituaries in order to be less sexist.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: US Patent and Trademark Office

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One Comment

  1. To the creators of this petition:

    You are writing the New York Times and asking me to sign a letter that has two glaring grammatical or proofreading errors in it? What exactly are you thinking, that the New York Times is going to take a sloppy letter seriously?

    In the first sentence of the letter, do you mean, “I, as a human rights activist, condemn (the) NYT’s . . . “? Or do you mean, ” I am a human rights activist who condemns (the) NYT’s . . . . “?

    By the way, the way you have written the letter is that everyone who signs it is a “human rights activist.” This is just way off base. You can’t possibly fool the New York Times to think that everyone who signs this letter is a “human rights activist.” Don’t try to be pretentious here, folks. You should be happy if just regular people sign the letter and not try to present us all as human rights activists!

    The other messed up sentence is the last one in the first paragraph. You missed a comma and you left out two words, “out” and “the”. The sentence should read, “Even more strangely, (note the need for a comma, I mean you ARE writing to THE New York Times) after this was pointed OUT, THE NYT modified the article . . . ”

    Shape up your writing, folks, if you want people to take you seriously.

    I can’t understand who is writing these letters. Many of them are just sloppily written.

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