Women and journalism

War correspondents
Copyright: Kate Williams, 2010

Kit Coleman, 1856 – 1915
Kit Coleman, born Kathleen Watkins, started her career as a journalist in 1889, hired to write for the women’s page of Toronto Mail. Wanting to cover more serious issues than her usual beat of cookery, fashion and romance, she petitioned the American secretary of war, to give her accreditation to cover the Spanish-American conflict as the first official war correspondent. In 1889, she reported from the conflict in Cuba, and her compelling reports on the human cost of war proved popular with readers.  In 1904 she was amongst a group of women who founded the Canadian Women’s Press Club, and Kit served as its first president. In 1910, she gave her support to the campaign for women’s suffrage, and continued to write until her death in 1915.

Margaret Bourke-White, 1904 – 1971
In 1937, photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White, alongside novelist, Erskine Caldwell, worked on the book You Have Seen Their Faces angering many the Deep South of the United States with its fervent attack on racism. While reporting on the Second World War Bourke-White survived a torpedo attack and accompanied United States troops as they reached the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. After the war Bourke-White continued to document inequality, reporting on Gandhi’s campaign of non-violence and the South African apartheid. Because of her left wing politics she became a target for Joe McCarthy and the House of Un-American Activities Committee, but escaped testifying. Bourke-White’s favourite photograph was taken during her coverage of the Korean War. The subjects were a meeting between a returning soldier and his mother, who thought he had died during the conflict.

Martha Gellhorn, 1908 – 1998
Martha Gellhorn first started working foreign correspondent, for the United Press bureau in Paris, and later, in 1937, she reported on the Spanish Civil war. It was there she began a relationship with her future husband, Ernest Hemingway. Before the Second World War, Gellhorn reported on the growing popularity of Adolf Hitler, and later covered the conflict from Finland, Hong Kong, Burma, and Britain. She went as far as to go undercover as a stretcher-bearer to witness the D-Day landings.  After the war Gellhorn dispatched from other conflicts including the Vietnam War, the Six-Day War and the wars in Central America. She published numerous books including The Face of War (1959), a collection of her war reports, and Travels With Myself and Another (1978, recounting her relationship with Hemmingway.

Marguerite Higgins, 1920 – 1965
In 1942 Marguerite Higgins began working for the New York Tribune and two years later she reported the war in Europe, initially from London, then France and later in Germany where she joined troops when they entered the Nazi extermination camps of Dachau and Buchenwald. After the war and covered the Nuremberg Trials. On the outbreak of the Korean War, Higgins moved to South Korea where she reported the fall of the Seoul, to North Korean forces. The New York Tribune sent their male war reporter, Homer Bigart, to South Korea and ordered Higgins to return to Tokyo. Instead she remained and competed with her colleague to file the best stories. She later wrote a book about her time there called, War in Korea, which became a best-seller. She also won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting and was voted Woman of the Year by the Associated Press.