Clare Hollingworth: Breaking News of WWII and Breaking Female Norms On the Front Lines of Journalism
Clare Hollingworth, the reporter who broke the news of WWII when she was just 27 years old, passed away on Tuesday in Hong Kong at 105 years old.
On August 28, 1939, during Hollingworth's first week on the job, she reported the gathering of hundreds of German tanks, armored cars, and field guns concealed in the valley of the Polish border preparing for invasion. She was driving alone from Gleiwitz, Germany, to Katowice, Poland.
Working for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Hollingworth rushed to phone her editor.
Her article was published the next day, and on September 1, Hitler's forces invaded Poland, marking the beginning of World War II and Hollingworth's career in journalism.
The peace activist not only became one of the first females reporting on the front lines but she also helped thousands of political refugees gain asylum in Britain during Hitler's reign, NPR reports.
"I must admit that I enjoy being in a war," she told The Telegraph on the eve of her 100th birthday in 2011.
Spending her career covering wartime in Poland, North Africa, and communist China, Hollingworth was often noted as always being in the right place at the right time.
"I was not brave," she told The Telegraph. "I was not naïve. I knew the dangers. But I thought it was a good thing to do and witness and see, and I was more or less relaxed. I used to stop and sleep in the car, have a biscuit and a drop of wine, and go on. In those days we said you could go anywhere with a T and T — a typewriter and a toothbrush."
Coming from a more traditional upbringing, she agreed to marry Vandaleur Robinson in 1936 at the age of 24. Reluctant to give up her own name, she became, she was told, "about the eighth woman in England" to hold a passport in her own name, The Guardian reports.
Hollingworth declared her career as more important than her trying to rush back home to be with her husband and in 1936 Robinson divorced her for desertion after 15 years of marriage.
"When I'm on a story, I'm on a story — to hell with husband, family, anyone else," she told The Guardian in 2004.
However, after working and collaborating with Geoffrey Hoare, who worked the same job for the Times, their mutual interests led her to a desire to remarry in 1951.
Proving that a woman could easily be a war correspondent just as any man could, Hollingworth put herself in harms way to break many stories and obtain first interviews from public figures such as the 21-year-old new shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi.
She remembers her time traveling in Patrick Garrett's 2015 account of her life, "Of Fortunes and War: Clare Hollingworth, first of the female war correspondents."
"When it grew too dark to drive, I stopped, ate some biscuits, took a pull of whisky, and curled up for the night with my electric torch and revolver on the seat beside me."
Hollingworth contributed articles to entities such as The Telegraph, The Guardian, The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the Observer.
She would prepare herself for the field by sleeping on her apartment floor, learning to parachute, and pilot a plane.
Periodically into her 90s, Hollingworth spent nights sleeping on the floor of her Hong Kong apartment just to keep from "going soft," The Guardian reports.
At the end of her life she did not expect to be called on to cover front line news or war, but slept with her passport and pair of shoes within easy reach, just in case, The New York Times reports.
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