Lee had institutional memory, according to The Girls in the Balcony, Nan Robertson's 1992 book about women at the Times. After working at newspapers in Texas and Kentucky, Lee joined the Times in 1978, the year the paper settled a lawsuit brought by seven women who believed their kind were underpaid and underpromoted. As a result of the lawsuit, the Times launched a systematic hiring plan for women.
Lee seemed to arrive everywhere first. She was the Times' first woman picture editor, and in 1990, she became the Times' first woman AME. She may have also been the first AME to publicly dis her boss. When former executive editor Max Frankel told a Times assembly that he welcomed Lee as the latest "adornment" on his masthead, she replied, "Thank you, but I have not worked so hard all these years to be called an adornment."
But now this frequently outspoken woman has exited in silence. When asked why Lee retired, a Times spokesman suggested contacting her directly. Lee did not return calls for comment.