Dorothy Schiff - Biography
Dorothy Schiff (March 11, 1903—August 30, 1989) was an owner and then publisher of the New York Post for nearly 40 years. She was a granddaughter of financier Jacob H. Schiff. Schiff was interested in social services and reform, and was involved in several welfare groups.
Schiff was born in New York City into a prominent German Jewish banking family, the daughter of Mortimer Schiff and Adele Neustadt Schiff and the granddaughter of financier Jacob H. Schiff. She attended secondary school at Manhattan's Brearley School and attended Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Afterward, she began living as a wealthy debutante.
Marriages, The New York Post
Schiff's first marriage came in 1923, in spite of strong resistance by her parents, to Richard B.W. Hall, a broker. In the 1930s when she married George Backer, a city councillor and a staunch liberal Democrat, Schiff's political stance changed and she became a strong supporter of the Democratic party and the New Deal. She was interested in social services and reform, and was involved in several welfare groups, chief among them the Henry Street Settlement. She lived in New York City and had a countryhouse in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
In 1939, Schiff bought control of the New York Post, at the urging of Backer, installing him as publisher and president. When he resigned in 1942, she took up the mantle and became New York's first female newspaper publisher. After divorcing Backer in 1943, she married Ted Thackrey, whom she had earlier installed as editor; it was Thackrey's idea to change the Post's format from a broadsheet to a tabloid. Under her tenure the Post was devoted to liberalism, supporting trade unions and social welfare. During the 1940s, The Post featured the most popular columnists of the time, such as Drew Pearson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Eric Sevareid. She also wrote her own column called "Dear Reader". In 1945, Schiff launched the Paris Post, the second ever American newspaper to be published in Paris. It lasted until 1948.
Thackrey left the Post after a disagreement over whom to support for the presidency in 1948; Thackrey favored Henry A. Wallace whereas Schiff favored Thomas Dewey. This caused Thackrey to resign in 1949, and they divorced a year later.
Schiff's fourth husband was Rudolph G. Sonneborn.
In 1958, Schiff caused controversy by withdrawing her support at the last minute of Governor Averell Harriman. Though she did not endorse Harriman's opponent, Nelson Rockefeller, the sudden disendorsement of Harriman—it came in the final edition of the Post on the day before the election—swung the vote in Rockefeller's favor, and helped to launch his political career.
Jeffrey Potter's Men, Money and Magic: The Story of Dorothy Schiff, a biography about Schiff, was published in 1976. The book generated significant publicity after The New York Times reported on its front page that Schiff, in the book, claimed to have had an affair with Franklin D. Roosevelt. Schiff denied this, saying she only had a "relationship" with FDR.
Schiff sold the Post to Rupert Murdoch in 1976 for a reported $31 million. It is believed that she was pessimistic about the future of afternoon papers in the city; also, a change in federal inheritance laws would have affected the value of her estate unless she sold the paper when she did. She remained as an official consultant until 1981, although she played no actual role at the paper. She died at her home in New York City on August 30, 1989. A more complete biography, The Lady Upstairs: Dorothy Schiff and the New York Post by Marilyn Nissenson, was published in 2007.
- Jones, Alex S. "The Post: 187-Year Fight to Survive Wildly Political and Violent Heritage", The New York Times, February 9, 1988; retrieved March 23, 2007
- Sheehy, Gail. "The Life of the Most Powerful Woman in New York", New York Magazine, December 10, 1973