20 May 2022 • Alums Wickenden ’76 Wins 2022 Christopher Award

The Agitators by Dorothy H. Wickenden ’76, L.H.D. ’14 is one of six nonfiction books for adults recognized this year for affirming “the highest values of the human spirit.”

Executive Editor of The New Yorker and former HWS Trustee Dorothy H. Wickenden ’76, L.H.D. ’14 earned a Christopher Award for her 2021 book, The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights.

The book recounts the intersecting lives of Harriet Tubman, Martha Wright and Frances Seward, who together shaped the national policy and attitudes toward abolition, the Underground Railroad, the early women’s rights movement and the Civil War. The three extraordinary women operated out of Auburn, less than 30 miles from Geneva, at a time when upstate New York was a center of radical reform.

Announced in April, the 73rd annual Christopher Awards celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit” and reflects the Christopher motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Tony Rossi, the Christophers’ Director of Communications, said, “After the hardships we’ve endured in the last two years, we need stories of hope, light, and unity to lift our spirits and guide us toward a brighter path.” 

In The Agitators, Wickenden’s subjects “cross racial and class divides to become friends who fight to abolish slavery and establish women’s rights and true equality for all,” according to the award’s press release.

To purchase this book visit the HWS College Store.

Before joining The New Yorker, Wickenden spent 15 years at The New Republic, first as managing editor and later as executive editor. Wickenden went on to serve as national affairs editor of Newsweek before moving to The New Yorker in 1995. In addition to her role as executive editor, which she has held since 1996, she is the moderator of The New Yorker’s weekly podcast, “Politics and More.”

In 2011, Wickenden published Nothing Daunted, a New York Times bestseller that traces the westward journey of Rosamund Underwood and Dorothy Woodruff, Wickenden’s grandmother. NPR’s Fresh Air said of the book: “Wickenden summons up the last moments of frontier life, where books were a luxury and, when blizzards hit, homesteaders’ children would ski miles to school on curved barrel staves…. Nothing Daunted also reminds us that different strains of courage can be found, not just on the battlefield but on the home front, too.”

Wickenden has written for The Wall Street JournalThe Washington Post and The New Yorker. She is the editor of The New Republic Reader: Eighty Years of Opinion and Debate, a compilation of the best work from some of the magazine’s top contributors, including George Orwell, Rebecca West, John Dewey, Arthur M. Schlesinger and many others.

Wickenden has served on the faculty of The Writer’s Institute at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City, and is a member of the final selection committee for The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Wickenden graduated from William Smith magna cum laude as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, earning her B.A. in English. She was a 1988 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a 2018 fellow at the MacDowell Colony. She served as a member of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees from 1994 to 1998. She received the President’s Medal in 2006 and an honorary doctorate in 2014, and delivered the Commencement Address in 2019.

Watch a 2021 Reunion Conversation with Wickenden: