Eliza Jane Nicholson

Picture of Eliza Jane Nicholson and Pearl Rivers

Who: Eliza Jane Nicholson; the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, the Daily Picayune (now known as the Times-Picayune) in New Orleans; March 11, 1843-February 15, 1896

Why She Dazzles: Eliza moved to New Orleans and became the first professional female journalist in the South. She married the owner and publisher of the Daily Picayune until he passed away in 1876, leaving the paper $80,000 in debt. She decided against declaring bankruptcy, and at the age of 27 she became the publisher of the Daily Picayune. She owned the newspaper until 1896 and tripled its circulation.

Why You Need to Know Her Today: Media is suffering from a myriad of issues, but thanks to Eliza and her proteges, the Times-Picayune remains the epitome of stellar journalism and thoughtful community storytelling. Under Eliza’s leadership, the Daily Picayune became one of the leading newspapers in the South. After the Civil and at the end of Reconstruction, her staff published notable stories about the deadly yellow fever epidemic, the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, and a major hurricane. Eliza also hired many female writers including Dorothy Dix, the Dear Abby of her time.

What She Would Say—Because She Said It Then: “These are the plans. I’m not letting the paper die. I will be running it. And if you don’t want to work for a woman, then that’s fine, but if you stay, know that I’ll be the boss.”

Picture of a long necklace with Swarovski crystals and pearls made by A New Lady
Eliza became the first president of the National Women’s Press Association in 1884.


What She Would Wear to the Newsroom Tonight:
 Swarovski crystals mixed in with pearls (obvi) made by A New Lady. Eliza wrote under the pseudonym Pearl Rivers, named after the Pearl River near her childhood home in Mississippi. Like a boss, she began the Society Bee, a local gossip column and published the first weekly issue of a serial novel. She added stories about women, children, and animal issues in to the newspaper, particularly to heighten the importance of women in society.

Picture of Jackson Square New Orleans Notecard by Alexa Pulitzer
“Not only did she hire a lot of women, most papers in town didn’t even have any women in them, but she paid them exactly the same that paid men in the same position,” Pat Brady, a historian and writer, says about Eliza.


What She Would Send to Her Friend:
A poem by Pearl Rivers on a notecard by local NOLA artist Alexa Pulitzer. Eliza started her career as a poet, and she was one of the most well-known in the South during her time. She submitted her work to magazines and newspapers, which eventually led her to her first job as the literary editor of the Daily Picayune.

Picture of the Eliza Jane Hotel front desk in New Orleans
The Eliza Jane Hotel is located on the grounds where the Daily Picayune was produced. The hotel is comprised of nine historic warehouses near the French Quarter.


Where She Would Instagram:
NOLA. Eliza influenced the city’s cultural life with new features, including a gossip column and a popular cartoon weather frog known as the newspaper’s Weather Prophet. She transformed the city into a vibrant center for literary women, or as one woman described the city “as the headquarters of the New Woman” in the late 19th century.

Tweet This: The jazzy @ElizaJaneNOLA hotel is named after the first female publisher and editor of a major American newspaper, Eliza Jane Nicholson #anewlady

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