Editor, pioneer, art advocate Judith Daniels dies

Posted Sept. 03, 2013, at 3:46 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 03, 2013, at 6:05 p.m.
Judith Daniels
Davis Thomas
Judith Daniels

UNION, Maine — A trailblazer for women journalists and a staunch supporter of contemporary art in Maine, Judith Glassman Daniels, 74, died last weekend at her home in Union.

The founder of Savvy Magazine, the Women’s Media Group and a magazine editor at the New York Magazine Company, Time Inc. and Conde Nast, Daniels is remembered as a woman of wit, style and integrity.

“She was a real mentor to so many people. She was a great listener and had a way of bringing people together,” said Suzette McAvoy, director of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, where Daniels served as chairwoman of the board of trustees from 2008 to May of this year.

Daniels lead the center through difficult financial times and “helped us bridge that. She was instrumental in getting funding through the Quimby Family Foundation and helped get us on solid financial footing,” said McAvoy. “All of us are deeply saddened. She was a terrific friend and a mentor and just a classy lady.”

Her obituary, written by writer and friend Deborah Weisgall, portrays Daniels as a pioneer who, while senior editor at New York and The Village Voice, “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.”

Along the way, she empowered young women to become rising stars in the magazine industry.

Dominique Browning, former editor-in-chief of House & Garden, worked for Daniels in New York and got her first taste of grace under pressure while helping her start “Savvy Magazine: The Magazine for Executive Women.”

“Judy was leaning in way before leaning in became a concept. Nothing was going to stand in her way,” Browning wrote in a blog post titled “Judith Daniels: A Thoroughly Modern, Old School Woman.” She was “easily the most glamorous woman I had ever seen.”

When she moved to Maine full-time in 2004, her urban glamour did not overshadow her business sense. “She was a leader in a quiet, graceful way,” said McAvoy. “I admired her so much.”

Daniels’ husband, Lee Webb, announced her death in a statement Sunday night. The cause was stomach cancer.

“Surrounded by her family, flowers from her garden, and scores and scores of notes from friends, Judith passed away quietly and comfortably this morning (Sept. 1, 2013) at her and Lee’s home, Fairview Farm, in Union Maine.

“There are several givens about Judith. She was a generous and amazing woman. Lee was the love of her life. She cherished her family and friends. We know that all of us will miss her greatly.”

Born in Cambridge on March 19, 1939, and raised in Brookline, Mass., Daniels graduated from Smith College in 1960. She spent childhood summers in Maine. Her father owned shoe factories in Saco and Kennebunkport, where she spent summers as a youth. In 1987 she and her husband bought a summer house in Union.

Settling into an old farmhouse surrounded by “meadows, birds and the breeze,” she created a “home away from home,” for a revolving door of writers from New York and across the globe, said Webb.

“We had the anchor of the Shanghai TV station and the editor of the Capetown News in South Africa who stayed with us,” recalled Webb. “It was a very active home with lots of cocktail parties.”

In her downtime, when she wasn’t gardening, she read novels, poetry and prose of authors that she had helped along the way, her husband said. “She was an extraordinarily warm and engaging woman.”

Her volunteer work in Maine was as extensive and deep as her career. She 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.

Sarah Standiford, former director of The Maine Women’s Policy Center and Maine Women’s Lobby, where Daniels was the treasurer for years, called her a visionary who stood up for women’s rights and led by example.

“She was absolutely committed to the principles of fairness, equality and putting an end to discrimination. And she was very forward-thinking as well,” said Standiford, who credits Daniels with rebranding the organization and increasing membership. “She was such a mentor to me. We should really recognize her legacy in Maine.”

She is survived by her husband, her sisters Stacey Glassman of Lincolnville, Maine, 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.

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