Judith G. Daniels
Union — Judith Glassman Daniels, a magazine editor who, through her own pioneering career at the New York Magazine Company, Time, Inc., and Condé Nast, and as the creator and editor of the business and lifestyle magazine Savvy, charted a course for a new generation of professional women, died at her home in Union, Maine, on Sept. 1, 2013. She was 74. Her husband, Lee Webb, announced her death.
A co-founder and one of the first presidents of the Women’s Media Group, Daniels was a senior editor at New York and The Village Voice when she noticed that there was hardly anything published in magazines that spoke to her and the growing cohort of women with successful careers, broad interests, and disposable income. In 1975 she began a folder with ideas for articles and names for a potential magazine. Three years, dozens of names, hundreds of article ideas, and countless lunches, dinners and meetings later, she raised $1.5 million and launched Savvy with an insert in an issue of New York. By the end of 1980, Savvy had a circulation of over 200,000.
Daniels had great style and an eye for talent. She published smart writing that told women how to get ahead in the business world and how to manage their money. Savvy covered politics and culture, and its lifestyle section featured fashion spreads styled by Anna Wintour, in her first New York job. The list of writers Daniels brought to Savvy and to other magazines includes: Anne Fadiman, Beth Gutcheon, Nicholas von Hoffmann, Molly Ivins, Jane O’Reilly, Patricia O’Toole, and Letty Pogrebin. She mentored many young editors who went on to work at America’s leading magazines.
In the early 1980’s, Daniels went to Time, Inc. and served in a variety of editorial positions before becoming the first woman editor of Life magazine. Later she moved to Condé Nast, to senior posts at Glamour and Self. At Glamour she assigned and edited many award-winning articles and created the Women of the Year awards. She built a reputation for developing new magazines and repositioning old ones, responding to the enormous changes that she saw taking place in women’s lives. In 1999, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the influential Women’s Media Group, Daniels wrote: “In the beginning…there were dreams. I can still recall the great excitement of that first year, the newness of what we weren’t sure what. It turned out to be a seismic shift in the role of women.” Savvy become the expression of those dreams, and the model for what women’s publications could be: broad-reaching, inclusive, direct, self-aware, funny, and confident.
Daniels herself was all of those things. Elegant and slender, with thick hair that she let go silver, intense dark eyes and black-rimmed glasses, a low voice that managed to sound both patrician and down-to-earth, she exuded authority and curiosity. She understood how to make dreams into realities, and she had a gift for seeing possibility in people, ideas, and organizations. Her enthusiasm was contagious and effective. More than anything, she believed that collaboration was the key to making things happen.
Born in Cambridge, Mass. March 19, 1939, Daniels graduated from Smith College in 1960. She spent childhood summers in Maine. Her father was a shoe designer, and at the time, the American shoe business was based in that state. In 1987 she and her husband bought a summer house in Union, in Maine’s Midcoast region, and in 2004, they left New York and moved to Union full time. In a Smith College alumnae report, Daniels wrote that she had been “entirely unsuccessful in keeping volunteer commitments to a minimum.”
She brought the same abilities to her volunteer work that she had brought to her career. She was a longtime member of the Smith Alumnae Council and served as a member of the board of the Maine Women’s Policy Center, the Women’s Lobby, the Maine Humanities Council, and the Camden Conference. As chair of the board of trustees of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art from 2008 to 2013, she was responsible for establishing its sound financial footing and positioning it as one of the state’s prominent arts organizations.
She is survived by her husband, her sisters Stacey Glassman of Lincolnville and Linda Beaty of Sarasota, Fla., her brother Thomas Glassman of Medford, Ore., her daughter, Jennifer Webb of Boulder, Colo., her husband, Jason Kiefer, and three grandsons, Lucas, Jack, and Quinn Kiefer. Her first husband, Ronald S. Daniels, died in 1980.
A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Center for Maine Contemporary Art Building Fund, 162 Russell Avenue, P. O. Box 147, Rockport, ME 04856, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England: Maine, 443 Congress St., 3rd Floor, Portland, ME 04101. This obituary was written by Deborah Weisgall and edited by Patricia O’Toole.