September 3, 2013

Trailblazer for women journalists dies in Maine at 74

Judith Glassman Daniels, the first woman editor of Life magazine, was a mentor to many and added serious content to publications for women.

By Randy Billings
Staff Writer

UNION – Judith Glassman Daniels, a pioneering magazine editor who shattered the glass ceiling for many female journalists that followed, died Sunday at her home here. She was 74.

Over a 35-year career in New York City, Daniels held managerial positions at The Village Voice and New York magazine, Time Inc. and Condé Nast. She was the founder and editor of Savvy, a women's business and lifestyle magazine, and co-founder of the Women's Media Group in New York.

Daniels passed away peacefully on Sunday at her home overlooking the St. George River after a brief battle with stomach cancer, said her husband, Lee Webb.

Friends and family on Monday remembered Daniels as a warm, sharp, generous and elegant woman who knew how to get the best out of people -- whether through her publications, charity work, as a mentor or simply being a friend.

"She not only gave me my first big break as a writer, but she became a model of how to be in the world, how you treat other people and how to take an idea and carry it forward," said Patricia O'Toole, who worked as a writer and editor at Savvy and has since authored several books.

Born in Cambridge, Mass., on March 19, 1939, and raised in nearby Brookline, Daniels graduated from Smith College in 1960. She spent childhood summers in Maine, where her father was a shoe designer. Her sister owned and operated a restaurant in Maine for many years.

In the early 1980s, Daniels served in a variety of editorial positions at Time Inc. before becoming the first woman editor of Life magazine. She later moved to Conde Naste, where she held senior posts at Glamour and Self.

"Judy was well-known in media circles as one of the smartest and most strategic editors in the industry," said John MacMillan, editorial director at Smith College. "That reputation was well-earned."

She met Webb in 1984 at a charity auction in New York City. Webb said he was bidding on a first-edition novel by the nation's first published black author when Daniels -- a former English major -- began asking about the book.

A few months later, the two were married.

"She was elegant, learned and incredibly decent with people. She had an extraordinary ability to bring people along," Webb, 71, said in a telephone interview Monday night. "I think the world of my wife."

In 1987, they bought a summer home in Union. In 2004, they left New York and moved to Union full time.

In Maine, Daniels devoted herself to volunteer work. She was a longtime member of the Smith Alumnae Council and served as a board member of the Maine Women's Policy Center, the Women's Lobby, The Maine Humanities Council and the Camden Conference.

From 2008 to this year, she chaired the board of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. She is largely credited with putting the organization on sound financial footing and making it one of the state's prominent arts groups.

MacMillan first met Daniels in 1994 during a brainstorming session for the Smith Alumnae Quarterly. Three years later, she accepted his invitation to become an editorial adviser.

MacMillan said Daniels emphasized the importance of both editorial freedom and listening to and respecting readers.

"Judy was a great lover and champion of magazines," he said. "She understood and appreciated their power to entertain and educate. She was a lover of language and words."

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