One morning in spring 2007, Jill Abramson was crossing 44th Street in Manhattan when a delivery truck turned the corner and ran over her foot. After stitches, blood transfusions, and a titanium rod placed in her femur, Abramson left the hospital having secured her spot as one tough woman in the journalism world.

Or is that "brusque"?

Or "trailblazing"? Or "polarizing and mercurial"? Or "confident"? In a culture confused about women leaders, we've had trouble landing on the right Abramson Adjective.

These words are among the many used last week to describe The New York Times's first, now fired, female executive editor. For a newspaper that's struggled to retain women leaders, Abramson's 2011 appointment rang of historic import. "The Times is a place where truck-size egos constantly careen past newsroom cubicles and down the aisles," wroteSlate's Jack Shafer, referring to her accident. "Her superheroine powers as both immovable object and unstoppable force will come in handy."

Abramson, whose love for her job is tattooed on her back, joined the staff in 1997 as Washington bureau chief, later becoming managing editor. Like all leaders, Abramson had critics. Even some of her devotees said she could be "short with people, curtly cutting them off in mid-sentence." In a funny detail in Ken Auletta's exhaustive New Yorker profile, she would tell staff, "You have to read my book." But the same big personality that irked some peers also likely helped secure her the executive job. During her tenure, the news team gleaned eight Pulitzers as well as more women reporters and editors. At the least, she probably caused Clifton ...

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