Mary Schmich

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Mary Schmich
Born (1953-11-29) November 29, 1953 (age 70)
EducationPomona College (BA)

Mary Theresa Schmich (/ʃmk/ SHMEEK;[1] born November 29, 1953) is an American journalist. She was a columnist for the Chicago Tribune from 1992 to 2021,[2][3] winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Her columns were syndicated nationally by Tribune Content Agency.[4] She wrote the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter for the last 28 of its 60 years and she wrote the 1997 column Wear Sunscreen. The line "Do one thing every day that scares you" from the column has frequently been misattributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.


Born in Savannah, Georgia, the oldest of eight children, Schmich spent her childhood in Georgia. She attended high school in Phoenix, Arizona, and earned a B.A. from Pomona College.[5]

After working in college admissions for three years and spending a year and a half in France, Schmich attended journalism school at Stanford. She has worked as a reporter at the Palo Alto Peninsula Times Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and since 1985 at the Tribune, where she was a national correspondent based in Atlanta for five years. Her column started in 1992 and was interrupted for a year when she attended Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship for journalists.[5]

From 1985 Schmich was the writer of Brenda Starr, Reporter until its final appearance in January 2011. The long-lived comic strip, set in Chicago, was created by Dale Messick for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate in 1940. Messick continued to the early 1980s; Schmich was the third and final writer, working with the second and third artists.[6][7][8]

She has also worked as a professional barrelhouse and ragtime piano player.[9]

About four times a year for some years, Schmich and fellow Tribune metro columnist Eric Zorn wrote a week of columns that consisted of a back-and-forth exchange of letters.[citation needed] Each December since 1999, Schmich and Zorn have hosted the "Songs of Good Cheer" holiday caroling parties at the Old Town School of Folk Music to raise money for the Tribune Holiday Fund charities. On December 18, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schmich and Zorn held a virtual streaming event that was livecast over YouTube.[10][11]

Schmich won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, recognizing 2011 work with the Tribune, citing "her wide range of down-to-earth columns that reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city."[12][13]

'Wear Sunscreen'[edit]

Schmich's June 1, 1997, column began with the injunction to wear sunscreen, and continued with discursive advice for living without regret. In her introduction to the column, she described it as the commencement address she would give if she were asked to give one.[14] The column was circulated around the Internet, with an erroneous claim that it was a commencement address by Kurt Vonnegut, usually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the misattribution became a news item when Vonnegut was contacted by reporters to comment.[15] He told The New York Times, "What she wrote was funny, wise and charming, so I would have been proud had the words been mine."[16]

In 1998, Schmich published the column as a book, Wear Sunscreen. In 1999, Baz Luhrmann released a song called "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" in which this column is read word for word as written by Schmich, who gave permission and receives royalties. This song was a number one hit in several countries.

Schmich's June 1, 1997, column (as well as the Baz Luhrmann song based on it) includes the sentence "Do one thing every day that scares you." The statement was Schmich's original work,[17] but has frequently been misattributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27]


  • Wear Sunscreen (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1998) ISBN 978-0-8362-5528-7. 54 pages
  • Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now: the best of Mary Schmich (Chicago: Midway, 2013) ISBN 978-1-57284-145-1. – 415-page collection of "ten Pulitzer-winning columns along with 154 others"[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Pomona's Daring Minds: Mary Schmich '75 in conversation with TSL Editor-in-Chief Julia Thomas SC'16". YouTube. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Mary Schmich Columns - Chicago Tribune". Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  3. ^ "Mary Schmich Leaves Tribune". Washington Retrieved 2021-07-22.
  4. ^ "Mary Schmich articles". Tribune Content Agency. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b "About Mary Schmich". Chicago Tribune. July 11, 2001. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  6. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (December 9, 2010). "Stop the Presses: 'Brenda Starr, Reporter' Comic Is Ending". The New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  7. ^ "End of Story for Brenda Starr Comic Strip" (Press release). Tribune Media Services. December 9, 2010. Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
  8. ^ Schmich, Mary. "Living inside Brenda Starr's head for 25 years". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  9. ^ Mary Schmich: Bio" Archived 2013-02-14 at the Wayback Machine. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  10. ^ "Songs of Good Cheer | 12/18/2020 | Old Town School of Folk Music".
  11. ^ "Songs of Good Cheer with Mary Schmich and Eric Zorn: A Caroling Party - 20th Edition". Old Town School of Folk Music. 2018. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  12. ^ "The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Commentary". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved November 17, 2013. With short biography and reprints of ten works (Chicago Tribune columns February 13 to November 20, 2011).
  13. ^ "Tribune's Mary Schmich wins Pulitzer Prize". Chicago Tribune. April 16, 2012.
  14. ^ Schmich, Mary (June 1, 1997). "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  15. ^ MacNeill, Kyle. "How we made: 'I thought it was a speech by Kurt Vonnegut': Baz Luhrmann on making Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2024.
  16. ^ Fisher, Ian (August 6, 1997). "It's All the Talk of the Internet's Gossip Underground". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You – Quote Investigator".
  18. ^ "Why you should do something every day that scares you |". Archived from the original on 12 June 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  19. ^ "Everything you wanted to know about Jessica Alba". October 2, 2015.
  20. ^ Daskal, Lolly (December 4, 2014). "Do One Thing That Scares You Every Day".
  21. ^ "The one way to guarantee failure at work". Fortune.
  22. ^ "Eleanor Roosevelt Was The Original Blogger: An Interview With Molly Mogren". HuffPost. September 2, 2015.
  23. ^ "Inspiring Quotes From Trailblazing Women".
  24. ^ "Quotes from Inspirational Women -". Archived from the original on 30 July 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Do One Thing Every Day that Scares You | World of Psychology". Archived from the original on 2015-12-25. Retrieved 2015-12-24.
  27. ^ "This Is Why You Should Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You". April 29, 2015.
  28. ^ "Even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now : the best of Mary ..."[permanent dead link]. Library of Congress Catalog Record. Summary provided by publisher. Retrieved 2013-11-17. Internally the publisher description suggests main title The Best of Mary Schmich.

External links[edit]