Women at the Table: Writers, Artists and Photographers in the Beginnings of the Voice

In the current season of The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselAbe Weissman, father of protagonist Midge Maisel, is greeted by grumpy and avuncular staff on his first day on the job as Voice of the village theater critic. “Kennedy for President” posters are plastered throughout the bustling office, and as the editor makes introductions around a conference table planted right in the middle of the hubbub, we meet the only woman on the editorial team, Bernie, who receives the simple title “News.”

Considering the story is set in 1960, that’s pretty much true, since in the real world Voice This year, Marie Perot Nichols was listed simply under the heading “News” at the masthead, editing other reporters and writing its own coverage of street concerns in the city.

Nichols (1926-1996) had obtained the post a few years earlier after approaching Dan Wolf – who co-founded the paper with fellow World War II veterans Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer – to ask that the Voice cover efforts to prevent city planner Robert Moses from crashing into a roadway through Washington Square Park. Wolf, whose title on the masthead was simply “Editor”, told her to write the article herself and that he would edit it. Wolf, Nichols and other writers beat the drum to keep cars out of the square, eventually beating Moses in 1958, and Nichols first appeared at the masthead in the September 10, 1958, issue with this Wide-ranging “News”. Title. (Berenice Abbott, a pioneering modern photographer, was listed under the “Contributors” section of this issue; his photos – including a striking portrait of painter Edward Hopper accompanied by a pot-bellied stove in his Washington Square studio – have graced a number of Voices during that first decade.) Editor Wolf had once described the paper as “just one big, unhappy family”, and Nichols did not bow to any of the male staff members when it came to Sharp political coverage: The “Runnin’ Scared” column, which premiered in the late 1960s, was originally titled “Mary Perot Nichols and The Voice Staff”. Nichols left the paper in the mid-1970s and went on to work on revamping founding radio station WNYC through provocative shows such as “The John Hour”, which aired the names of men convicted of dating prostitutes. in order, as Mayor Koch said, “to deter people who plan to roam the streets of New York to pick up prostitutes.

Before Nichols’ time, there had been a few women on the Voice masthead, although they have long remained a minority. Of six people with actual titles on the very first masthead (October 26, 1955), only one was a woman, Nell Blaine, listed as “Art and Production”. Blaine (1922–1996) was class leader and lissome Voice of the village logo that ran from 1955 to 1969, but in her off hours she pursued a serious career as a painter. In April 1960, Blaine appeared on the art pages of the newspaper in an advertisement for the downtown Poindexter gallery promoting his solo exhibition “Paintings of Greece”. What this concise exhibition title elucidated was the fact that Blaine had contracted poliomyelitis on the island of Mykonos and, during a difficult convalescence, practiced painting with his left hand. Six years later, the April 14 issue of the paper featured a photo by Fred W. McDarrah of Blaine in a wheelchair, but she remained fearless as an artist – printed on the opposite page was a new Poindexter advertisement: “Nell Blaine / Recent painting from Saint Lucia and England.

In 1957, a new female crew member appeared at the masthead, although that five-to-one ratio has remained the same. Sorting out historic Voice documents reveals staff photographer Gin BriggsThe playful studio stamp of – filled with a camera, squeeze light bulb and a bird – on the reverse with images of literary luminaries as once Voice columnist Jean Shepherd (of A Christmas story notoriety). Briggs photographed street life, art exhibitions and many other subjects, including intimate portraits of Lorraine Hansberry, author of A raisin in the sunand occasionally Voice donor. In one instance, Briggs herself became the subject of a front-page story, when she put a poster – “Clean up the Democratic Party” – in the window of her village studio, a challenge to the politicians of the machine that had long represented the neighborhood. . His landlord threatened Briggs with eviction and his wife told the photographer, “They’re going to break your window.” But Briggs stood firm, and the article noted, “A native of Ponca City, Oklahoma, and inexperienced in the ways of Tammany politics, the six-foot-seven photographer, who isn’t used to philosophize, observed succinctly, “It’s a country, isn’t it? »

Briggs continued to shoot for the Voice until 1962, when a notice in the August 23 issue announced that McDarrah would replace “Gin Briggs bound for California”. Unfortunately, the trail of his career gets cold from there.

Around the time of Briggs’ departure, Linda Solomon (b. 1937) began covering live music for the newspaper. In spirited blurbs, she slammed everyone from folk musicians and pipers to jazz guitarists and comics, as in this May 2, 1963, take in the “Notebook for Newspaper’s Night Owls: “Concluding the lineup, comedian Woody Allen, who continues to accentuate the negative with an ounce of wit and a pound of dissent. When Solomon wasn’t roaming the cafes, clubs, and cafes of the town, she was reviewing new albums under the Voiceprosaic “Records” slug. In the July 25, 1963 issue, she focused on Bob Dylan’s Freewheelobserving that the “scruffy-voiced citybilly…stands out of its problems and writes a creed for people to live by”, distinguishing “the strongly integrationist, nonchalantly poetic, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind'”. Salomon guessed that this second album by the Minnesota folk was going to be with us for a long, long time, concluding: “A brief listen to the emotional understatement of his vocals underscores the power of his lyrics and his genuine concern for the state. of the world.”

Solomon passed from Voicecontributing to ABC-TV hootenanny and write for NME and other magazines in the following decades. But his first prescient critique of Dylan captured the zeitgeist of the times – a “concern for the state of the world” that remains stubbornly relevant six decades later.

To come up “Voice Lore columns will focus on everything we’re passionate about – the people, the stories, the artwork, the ads – to illuminate the Voice’s 67 years of history.