Lillian A. Lewis


Dublin Core


Lillian A. Lewis


United States--Boston
Lewis, Lillian Alberta ( (pseudonym: Bert Islew), 1861-?


Lillian A. Lewis was one of the first women to make a name for herself as a columnist in Black newspapers. Her Column "They Say" appeared first in The Boston Advocate throughout the 1880s. In the 1890s, she became "the society editress of the Boston Herald" (Boston Post, Sep 20, 1892), where she later also wrote a more personal column concerned with travels and current events with titles such as "An Episode in Virginia" (July  1897). Lewis was an active member of the New England Women's Press Association. Myra B. Lord's History of the New England Woman's Press Association, 1885-1931 (1932) hence includes several interesting snapshots of her career (as well as on the racial integration of the Association). Regular references in other newspapers of the time (usually to Lillian Lewis rather than Lillian A. Lewis), often updates on Lewis's travel plans or her career paths, testify to her popularity. The Freeman (Feb 23, 1889, p. 4) lauded her in their "Women as Journalists" feature as follows:
"Those who know much about the newspapers of the race, know something of Bert Islew's Budget of Gossip in the spicy "They say Columne" of The Boston Advocate. Bright, witty, sparkling, one would not think Bert Islew's career antedates only three years and that she was barely twenty when she caught the public ear."
For examples of her writing as a gossip columnist, visit our "Gossip in Black Periodicals" exhibit.



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Secondary Texts: Comments

Robert Hayden describes her as "the first African-American woman journalist in Boston," explaining that in "the 1880s, she wrote for The Advocate, a Black community newspaper. She then went to The Boston Herald, writing under the name of Bert Islew, scrambling the letters of her last name to disguise the fact that she was a woman, as female journalists were "frowned upon" by society" (African-Americans in Boston 113).
A more detailed account of her career and contextualization among other Black female journalists is provided in Garland Penn's influential 1891-study The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (881 pp.).
In The Pen is Ours. A Listing of Writings by and about African-American Women Before 1991 with Secondary Bibliography to the Present, edited by Jean Fagan Yellin and Cynthia D. Bond (Oxford UP, 1991) her work is still listed as "unlocated" (7).

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“Lillian A. Lewis,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed July 15, 2024,

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