If you only learned about Clare Hollingworth this week, you’re not alone. The legendary female war correspondent, who had the “scoop of the century” — the outbreak of the Second World War — passed away at age 105. The British reporter paved the way for women in war zones to get close to the front lines. So the question is, why didn’t we know more about her? Surely Hollingworth, as a female war correspondent, should have been one of the writers who inspired Rory Gilmore? Maybe it’s because Hollingworth didn’t get a byline for her scoop — that was just the norm back then, not total sexism. And while most of us are only learning about her now, she’s a true legend among foreign correspondents and journalism obsessives.
A sixth sense for reporting
Hollingworth discovered the scoop that established her as a female war correspondent by chance. As she told the Telegraph, “I stopped [in Germany] to buy aspirin and white wine and things you couldn’t get inside Poland. And then I was driving back [to Poland]… I looked into the valley and saw scores, if not hundreds, of tanks.” When she broke the news of the German invasion of Poland, Britain still believed that diplomacy could prevent a war. As the legend goes, when the British embassy refused to believe her, Hollingworth held the phone out the window so they could hear the tanks.
Later, during the Cold War, she discovered that a fellow British journalist was a Russian defector. It took three months for The Guardian to publish her story — the paper was worried about a libel suit. She was also one of the first to predict trouble for American troops in Vietnam.
Feisty and confident
As a war correspondent, Hollingworth seemed fearless. When she was threatened by a French far-right group during the Algerian War, she’s said to have responded: “Go away at once, monsieur, or I will have to hit you over the head with my shoe, which is all I have.”
After she moved to Hong Kong, Hollingworth became a regular at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Fellow former war correspondent Janine di Giovanni told Public Radio International: “She had her own table there… She would go there every day, sit there. She liked to have a beer for breakfast. And always, apparently — the legend is — that she still kept her bag and her shoes ready, in case she had to go run to do a breaking news story.”
Following her dreams
Even becoming a reporter was an act of rebellion for Hollingworth. Her parents didn’t approve of her career choice – journalism was considered “beneath” a middle class woman of her day. But as Hollingworth put it, “I didn’t want to be bothered with children because I wanted to devote all my time to writing.”
Obviously, we’re glad she did. Here’s to Clare Hollingworth — our new inspiration.