NYT's first woman exec. editor wrote in 2006: "When Will We Stop Saying 'First Woman to _____'?"


Irony: Jill Abramson, who today became the first woman to serve as the executive editor of the New York Times in the paper's entire 160-year history, wrote a piece for the New York Times back in 2006 titled, "When Will We Stop Saying 'First Woman to _____'?"

For what it's worth, I, too, long for the day when "First Woman To ____" is no longer notable. But for now, in many cases, it still is a big deal.


  1. This sort of thing is most notable when it comes to the issue of Mount Everest.
    First woman to…, first blind person to…, first twitterer to…, first left-handed blindfolded cycling juggler to… etc.
    I’m afraid the ‘first (insert here) to’ will never go away.

    -Throw a Stone for Jesus-

  2. Using Google’s Ngram viewer you can get a nice plot of “first woman to …” vs “first man to …”(http://goo.gl/cXtR0). Looks like mankind peaked sometime in the 1950s while womankind has an exciting future of firsts to look forward to. Also I have a feeling that men may have set the bar pretty low on some of those firsts so women can still top them!

  3. If that’s all you have to worry about in the world, than I’m the first woman to say, “Get a life.”

  4. I fail to see how her being a woman makes her being the Executive Editor of the NYT (more?) significant. Does this mark a radical shift for the dying medium or something? as if.anyhow, congratulations on the new job Jill.

    1. It’s particularly notable because journalism, historically, has been a profession dominated by men, and even now it is still very difficult for women to move up the chain of command — the old boys network is sometimes a reality today. This signifies a bit of a sea change in the industry.

  5. My guess is that we’ll stop seeing “First Woman To ______” around 5 to 10 years before we stop seeing “First African American To ______” and maybe 20 to 25 years before we stop seeing “First Openly Gay Man/Woman To ______”

  6. random aside: I worked for her husband and stayed at their house once. Very nice people!

  7. We must be about due for the next wave – “first atheist to…”

    P.S. – as a registered human being, the CAPTHAs are getting harder!

  8. When? Do you mean when you mean when will people stop saying “first X to Y” or when will all Xs have done all Ys? Neither is very likely to ever happen. There will always be individuals who are proud to be the first X to do Y, or others will consider it newsworthy. There are enough Xs and enough Ys that someone will always be the first at something.

  9. If it just happen to be the first woman to _______, then that is what she is: the first woman to ______. Just like Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the Moon.

    But that is just me being a not-funny-and-semantically-logical a$$.

    I get the point and then I wonder why there’s a Women’s World Chess Championship. It is a game where physical attributes don’t make any difference.

    1. Yes, in sports were the physical attributes don’t mean zilch, there should be no mens or womens league, it’s just stupid.

  10. While it was nice to see the NY Times announcement this morning, for quite a few hours the photo accompanying the article was not of Ms. Abramson but of the guy she’s replacing.

    First woman anything doesn’t mean much if you can’t even get your picture in the paper.

  11. Me, I’m waiting for the “First Woman to not have a ‘First Woman to ___’ headline written about her.”

  12. I feel like when XX people make up roughly 1/2 the population, there should be many less “firsts” for achievements for them. I think it says something about our culture when such a great amount of the population doesn’t have the same chance at success as another.

  13. Funny a few stories down – on the BB front page – is this:

    “The New York Times will announce at noon today that managing editor Jill Abramson will become the paper’s first-ever female executive editor, beginning in September. Bill Keller, the newspaper’s current executive editor, is stepping down to return to writing.”

  14. I imagine when firsts stop existing. Although… first woman’s atoms to suffer heat death?!?!

  15. This is stupid and overly PC. We say “first woman to” the exact same way we say “first man to”, “first latino to”, “first african to”, etc. When someone does something for the first time it’s notable.

    That’s it.

  16. The issue is that there are two ways of being “the first woman to ____” :

    1. Many people have done ____ before, but they were all men, or

    2. No one has done ____ before, but the first person who does happens to be a woman.

    #1 is what she is seeking to see the end of. #2 is fine, but seems to be much rarer than #1, at least for media-noteworthy achievements.

  17. I find far more insideous is drawing attention to soldiers that die being women – at least on the likes of BBC. Every time it’s special attention, like women’s death are more significant, or women being in the army is some HUGE shock.

    “Woman soldier killed” was a recent headline. Woman soldier?

    Sorry, their coffins are just the same as the men’s. Just like #100 is no more important than 99 or 101 to his or her family, the loss of a ‘woman solider’ will be felt no more or less keenly than a man.

  18. The first __ will go away when they’re no longer the first!

    It’s like losing your virginity. It can only happen once.

  19. Exactly, when the first woman does something then there you go, that will be the last time someone say the first woman did this….what if a woman becomes president, then what will be said? the first woman to become the first…lady or woman…confusing.

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