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1977 Nieman Fellow Cassandra Tate

Cassandra Tate, a 1977 Nieman Fellow, died on June 10, 2021, at her home in Seattle, Washington, after a lengthy battle with fallopian tube cancer.

A journalist, historian and author, Tate was born in Twin Falls, Idaho, grew up in Seattle, and attended the University of Washington for a year before beginning her journalism career. She worked as a reporter at the Twin Falls Times-News in Idaho and for the Elko (Nevada) News. From there she moved to the Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune where she met her husband, Glenn Drosendahl, and won a yearlong Nieman Fellowship at Harvard for her environmental reporting. She was the first Idaho journalist awarded that honor.

After spending the 1976-77 academic year in Massachusetts, she and her family returned to Lewiston before moving to Seattle in 1979. Tate reviewed restaurants for the Puget Sound Business Journal, wrote for The Weekly, served as managing editor of Seattle Voice magazine and, while working as a science/medical reporter for the local Journal-American, wrote about the revival of nature at Mount St. Helens five years after the volcano erupted.

Following those assignments, and after writing op-ed pieces for The Seattle Times and magazines such as Smithsonian, she returned to school. She used credits from Harvard and a year of classes on campus to earn her bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington and stayed on to get her Ph.D. in American history. Tate turned her doctoral dissertation into a book: “Cigarette Wars: Triumph of the Little White Slaver,” published by Oxford University Press.

She later became a major contributor to, the online encyclopedia of Washington state history. She wrote more than 200 essays for HistoryLink before turning her interest in missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman into the book “Unsettled Ground: The Whitman Massacre and its Shifting Legacy in the American West,” which was published by Sasquatch Books in November 2020.

Besides her husband and daughter, Linnea Tate Rodriguez, she is survived by two grandchildren, Emma and Samson Rodriguez, and two close nieces, Shelly and Elizabeth Delaney. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in her name to Planned Parenthood, Book-It Repertory Theatre and West Seattle’s ArtsWest Playhouse.

Read comments from her 1977 Nieman classmates.