Clare Hollingworth, a British reporter who uncovered one of the biggest scoops of modern times, died yesterday at 105.
You should know Hollingworth (even if you work outside journalism) not just for the one moment that made her famous, but because she trail-blazed despite the physical—not to mention reputational—risks.
In 1939 at age 27, Hollingworth broke the news that Germany was about to invade Poland—an event that would mark the outbreak of World War II. That story launched Hollingworth’s career as a war correspondent, a profession so dominated by men at the time that a British commander once ejected her from his press contingent saying women did not belong on the front lines.
But Hollingworth didn’t let her gender or her stature—barely 5 feet tall—deter her. She embedded with American troops under General Dwight D. Eisenhower, learned to parachute and pilot a plane, was nearly killed by a sniper in Vietnam, and regularly slept on the floor of her apartment to acclimate herself to the conditions of covering conflict.
“It was essential to be able to go without washing, sleep in the open desert and live on bully-beef and biscuits for days on end,” she wrote in 1990. “Many male correspondents got themselves sent back…because they could not take it.”
Yet she downplayed her achievements. “I enjoy action,” she told the Telegraph in 2011. “I’m not brave, I just enjoy it. I don’t know why. God made me like this. I’m not frightened.”
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