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Judith Daniels: Trailblazing journalist


Judith Daniels, who died on 1 September at the age of 74, blazed a trail for women in the publishing world and became the first woman to serve as top editor of Life magazine. Daniels served in senior editing positions at The Village Voice, New York magazine, Time Inc and Conde Nast over a career that spanned 35 years.

During her career, Daniels oversaw creation of a magazine for executive women called Savvy at a time when women's magazines catered to stay-at-home mthers, and she helped to found the Women's Media Group in New York. At Life, she oversaw the publication's 50th anniversary.

Her husband Lee Webb said she was "a real pioneer. She really was one of the women who broke the glass ceiling that allowed women to rise high in the publishing world."

Daniels was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was raised in Brookline. She set off for New York after getting her English degree from Smith College, rising through the ranks in magazines. Patricia O'Toole, who worked for Daniels as a writer and editor at Savvy, said Daniels was naturally curious and loved writing and editing. And writers loved to work for her.

"Everybody wanted to please Judy," said O'Toole, a biographer and professor. "Sometimes when there's a boss like that it's because they have to please them because otherwise there's going to be hell to pay. But Judy wasn't like that at all. You wanted to please her because she was such a good coach. She had very high editorial standards, and she'd help you measure up."

John MacMillan, editorial director at Smith College, where Daniels was a long-standing member of the Smith Alumnae Council, called Daniels a "change-maker" who helped the next generation of women get ahead.

"She was thinking about the issues facing successful professional women long before they were trendy, like work-life balance and the pressure that women face to get ideas heard," he said. "She was thinking about those way back in the 1970s and '80s."