Photography, Maggie B.W. and me
Recently my husband and I adopted a dog. My husband wanted to name the dog Daisy. I wanted to name her after a famous female journalist: Nellie Bly, Ida B. Wells, Barbara Walters or Margaret Bourke-White.
Not everyone knows these heroines of American journalism, but when people ask the name of my dog, I want to educate them on the history of women in journalism.
Nellie Bly is known for her investigative journalism in the 1880s, covering factory working conditions for women and mental asylums. She took a trip around the world in 72 days, breaking fictional character Phineas Fogg's record in Jules Verne's "Around the World in 180 Days."
When Barbara Walters co-hosted television news in the 1960s and 1970s, she wasn't allowed to ask questions during "serious" interviews until the male co-host had asked his.
Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist who wrote about civil rights and reported on lynchings during the 1890s. "Ida B." has a nice ring to it. But if you know me, then you expect to see me with my camera. I once posted a Facebook photo of myself as a baby and someone asked, "Where's your camera?" Ida B. was known for writing, not photography.
I've always considered myself a photojournalist. In college I studied documentary photographer Margaret Bourke-White.
"Who?" my mom asked when I told her our new dog's name is Maggie B.W.
That Mom didn't know who Margaret Bourke-White was surprised me. Mom has always supported my photography. When my photography talent took off during college, Mom became a founding member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1981. The museum opened in 1987 in Washington, D.C. with a mission to make sure women artists did not go unacknowledged. Mom, who doesn't consider herself artistic, said she joined as a way to show her support for my photography and women artists in general.
"Can't I just say Maggie? Do I have to use B.W.?" my octogenarian mother emailed back.
"B.W.," I replied.
Maggie B.W. is a 18-pound basset hound mix. The third dog my husband and I have owned since the beginning of our marriage, she looks like the love-child of our previous two dogs: Wishbone, a Jack Russell terrier, and Buddy, a basset hound. Other people say she looks like a beagle.
Midwest Animal Rescue saved this emaciated dog whose ribs showed from her first owners. Her foster family told us the poor little dear would eat and eat as long as food appeared in front of her.
After a month in our home, she can now look at her bowl with food in it and walk away. But she still can't give us enough kisses.
We kennel Maggie B.W. at night, but we like to cuddle with her in our bed for a bit first. One night, while enjoying our new nighttime routine, I told my husband about the email exchange with my mother.
"Well that's better than Maggie B.M.," he said in a baby foo-foo voice to our dog.
Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) started as an industrial and architectural photographer, visiting construction sites, factories and steel mills during a time when both women and cameras were thought too delicate for such work. Soon her compassionate lens captured scenes from the dust bowl in the 1930s, the horrors of World War II and the violence during the partition of India and Pakistan during the 1940s. She became the photo editor of Life magazine. During her short marriage to Erskine Caldwell, the two collaborated on books about Southern sharecroppers, Czechoslovakia before the Nazi takeover and the industrialization of the United States.
Her photos shaped the way Americans see wars, economic depression, race relations and other social issues.
I admire photographer Bourke-White's compassion, tenacity and drive. My new canine companion reminds me of my heroine every time I call her name: Maggie B.W.
This is my last column as editor of the Budgeteer. I plan to continue to capture decisive moments in Duluth and elsewhere, knowing that Maggie B.W. is at home waiting to cuddle, give kisses and walk in our 6,834 acres of Duluth parkland with me AND my camera, channeling Margaret Bourke-White.
Naomi Yaeger has resigned from her position as Budgeteer editor. She plans to finish a manuscript and recharge her batteries. Follow her Duluth adventures at www.DuluthDailyPhoto.com.