Bruce Lawson's personal site

Goodbye Molly Holzschlag–a memoriam post

I woke this morning to the news that Molly Holzschlag is dead. I can’t remember how I first met Molly. It feels like I’ve known her since I started working on the Web. She was definitely one of the people who helped me with the CSS for this very site when I made it in 2004 (she emailed me the code to centre the ransom note logo: .header img {margin: 0 auto;}; there was no social media back then).

Here we are at @media conference in London in 2005:

Bruce and Molly

We co-edited a book together. She was perhaps the only person who could persuade me to go on stage with her at a conference dressed as a cowboy. She came to stay at my house, we got riotously drunk and she threw up on my guest bed. We fell out for a while when we both worked at Opera (about the WebKit engine, ridiculously but so typically). I suspect one team wasn’t big enough two Jupiter-sized egos. We made up again, at Future Insights 2014 in Las Vegas, and celebrated by getting so drunk I lost my laptop so we retraced our steps through the bars we could recall visiting, before I remembered I’d left it on my hotel bed.

And that was the last time I saw her. We stayed in touch occasionally after her illness; her last email was some gossip and backstory on persuading Bill Gates that web standards are good idea. She sent it to me after watching a video of me talking about Open Web Advocacy‘s efforts to end the Apple Browser Bans, which she cheered from the sidelines. Perhaps I’ll include some of it if I ever reprise that talk.

As the announcement in the Tucson Sentinel says

She was steadfast in her insistence that the World Wide Web be usable by disabled people, including sites being able to be parsed by screenreader technology for people with impaired vision.

I was about to type “rest in peace”, but Molly was Jewish, and Jewish chums tell me that the phrase “may her memory be a blessing” is more appropriate. But I think she would prefer “may her teachings about an open, inclusive and humane web be passed on”. They will be.

Buy "Calling For The Moon", my debut album of songs I wrote while living in Thailand, India, Turkey. (Only £2, on Bandcamp.)

6 Responses to “ Goodbye Molly Holzschlag–a memoriam post ”

Comment by Ric Fink

Bruce, this is so hard. As we lose friends, we at some point realize that our circle has gotten smaller. Not that everybody is a top friend, but each is a piece of our world of friendship. You’re much younger. I’m 79. I code because I started coding in 1966 and have never stopped. I like to exercise my brain and learning new technologies. I really LOVE Node.js! I code, too, because I enjoy the world coding community I find myself in.

Sometimes my age is an ugly encounter. Once at a meetup on Node.js, here in San Francisco, a fellow programmer actually had the gall to sidle up to me and ask if I really knew anything about computers or was there for the free pizza. Fucker. I used (1970’s) to run the International Data Center of East African Airways in Nairobi Kenya. An IBM mainframe operation, of multiple mainframes. I coded in s/370 Assembler in those days!

But mostly I note the smaller group of humans I am a part of today. Being my age, I’ve had my share of wives and girlfriends. TWO of those girlfriends are no longer on this earth. I’m consciously aware of that. It is part of the loss I feel, when I read your words here.

So I share your loss of Molly today. I really enjoyed the writing on this page, that you gave to her. BRAVA Molly!

Best to you, Bruce. Keep posting on Twitter/X and I’ll keep enjoying your thoughts, cooking, and lessons learned & shared from your kids!


Comment by Eric Meyer

I can’t remember how I first met Molly. It feels like I’ve known her since I started working on the Web.

I feel exactly the same way, Bruce, and have a similar lack of memory. I know I didn’t know about her when I wrote my first HTML. And then at some point we were friends. How that happened, I haven’t a clue. I’m just glad that it did.

Comment by André Luís

I never met Molly in person, yet… I feel like I lost the funny and knowledgeable aunt who just happened to have changed all our lives for the better. We owe her a lot and yes Bruce, her teachings are definitely going to be passed on.

Comment by Maxine Sherrin

Thanks for posting Bruce… and how nostalgic it is to comment on a blog post like this :). Hope you are well.

Comment by Ed Tittel

After my first edition of HTML For Dummies appeared in early 1995, Molly reached out through my then-current email address to offer some insights and suggestions. We were never close, but she was always a witty and reliable source of info on markup languages and best strategies for their use. I’ll miss her tongue-in-cheek attitude towards nearly everything, personal and professional. As Mr. Fink observed, her passing hits pretty close to all kinds of homes for many reasons. And indeed her memory is already a blessing. Best wishes,

Comment by chaals

I’m pretty sure the first time we met in person she was buying drinks for everyone she thought might be worth talking to, and I was lucky enough to be considered part of that.

I remember meeting for dinner in Paris, and sitting on John’s balcony in Mountain View, drinks in Oslo, discussing existential doubts in Boston and nothing much in Austin, among many memories of watching her light up a space and a group of people with something that she thought was important enough to share.

May her memory be a blesing, may she be recalled by those who knew her, and those whom she touched along the way. May her star shine strongly, as it has for so long.

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