My very first note as editor of the precursor of this magazine was for the May issue, back in 1993. Naturally, I took advantage of the column to sneak in a quick “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom
It was called NH Editions back then and then-publisher Patricia Gregg (herself a great mom) didn’t mind my gesture, but she warned me not to share too much of my personal life on this page. I had only recently moved north from Atlanta, Georgia, and her concern for me (as a new kid on the media block) was that local folks would be bothered knowing the editor of the state’s official glossy magazine was from somewhere else.
It was probably good advice, though I’ve ignored it ever since. Those were the days when New Hampshire bona fides were pretty important and “Welcome to NH, Now Go Home” bumper stickers were de rigueur at the town hall and the transfer station. The unspoken rule was you were a “local” only if you could trace your ancestry back a few Granite State generations.
That tendency to look at others from other places with a measure of suspicion is no doubt an evolutionary trait that served our species well on its way from the savannas of Africa to the suburbs of America.
Somewhere along the line, though, what was an instinct of self-preservation became an attitude of superiority, a clubby tool for sheltering inner circles and excluding outsiders — for petty biases or even just for sport.
Immigrant groups and minorities have borne the brunt of this, but most puzzling in terms of who has been “excluded” from the circles of power over the years has been the suppression of women.
There’s nothing “other” about women. They are not a minority, nor from somewhere else. Still, across the world and even to some degree in the most enlightened nations, there seems to be an “otherness” thrust upon women by the power structures.
Fortunately, so much has changed in recent years that many young American women know more about this from history books than personal experience. But in the late 20th century, plenty of magazines, both regional and national, would publish annual lists of the “most powerful people” — lists in which women would rarely appear. Gregg, herself a savvy businesswoman, knew the influence that women were having in commerce, arts and politics, and decided to dedicate one issue of each year to recognizing the “Powerful Women of NH.”
Much changed, but this vision continued when we were transformed into New Hampshire Magazine under the leadership of new publisher, Sharron McCarthy in 1999. I recall we all felt personal pride when, back in 2012, it was announced that ours was the first state in the country to have an all-woman Congressional delegation and a woman governor.
Meanwhile, our Powerful Women issue has morphed into an annual feature story on the state’s most remarkable women, published each May and curated to illustrate just one area of their power and sway.
This month we feature women artists, which is doubly appropriate. Women who have felt the sting of exclusion are alert to the need to draw people together. Artists incorporate “otherness” and open eyes to unifying themes as parts of their creative process.
Maybe we should consider a new Hallmark card celebration. We could call it “Others’ Day” and send notes of thanks to newcomers and outsiders for granting us the gifts of open minds and generous hearts.
I should confess that doctors and hospitals have been on my mind recently, not just because of this issue. By the time you read this, I’ll be a first-time grandfather. I hear it’s a particularly rewarding experience. It will no doubt require a lot more courage from my daughter Eleanor, but she was born with a calm soul. Besides, much like doctoring, motherhood is really all about grace under pressure.