Saturday, January 14, 2017

A remarkable woman

Journalists were much less known in the past partly because their names were not published with their stories, that is newspaper stories did not have a byline. Perhaps that is one reason I have never heard of Clare Hollingworth who recently died at the age of 105 in Hong Kong, where she has lived since the 1980s.

I wonder if she ever met Helen Thomas, a fine American journalist who was feared and treated with great respect, even by presidents.

Let me tell you a little about Clare Hollingworth. This photo from The Guardian.


In 1939 she was helping refugees on the German Polish border. She was recalled to London and then hired by the London Daily Telegraph and sent back to the Polish border city of Katowice as a reporter. She borrowed a diplomat's car and took a little investigative trip into Germany by simply driving across the closed border. She noticed a hessian barrier which the wind caught and blew aside and she was able to see in the valley below hundreds of German tanks lined up and ready to invade Poland. The consul-general did not initially believe her when he was told. She phoned through her story back to the Tele in London while the consul-general contacted the Foreign Office. Three days after the story headlined, '1000 tanks massed on the Polish border', Germany invaded Poland and so began WWII.

She reported from various trouble spots after the war, Poland, Germany, Algeria, Egypt, Beirut, India, Israel, China, Vietnam, Romania, Greece and Yemen. She exposed Kim Philby as being the third man in the English spy triumvirate. She was the Daily Tele's first resident correspondent in China in Mao's time and watched the Tiananmen Square massacre from her hotel window. 

She finally stopped reporting when she was in her 90s and could be found daily at her own table in the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club where she would imperiously knock her walking stick on the floor when she wanted service. She was truly a remarkable journalist and woman, and I had never heard of her.

If you would like to read a little more, the best obituary I came across is in The Guardian.

26 comments:

  1. I too had never heard of her, until her death. Which is a sad way to learn about someone's achievements. She sounds like a force to be reckoned with.

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    1. EC, I should think she was quite formidable.

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  2. I have read about and heard broadcasts about Hollingworth but only in recent years.

    An extraordinary life.

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    1. Victor, and it seems a happy life too.

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  3. Great blog entry...i have just watched a tv documentary on her...an extraordinary woman who loved war zones!

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    1. John, I hope I am able to see the doco.

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  4. A life well lived. I was reading about this amazing woman the other day.

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    1. Lee, and perhaps for you too it was the first time you had heard of her.

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  5. She sounds like a very interesting woman and in those days women were not taken as having any idea what was going on but sounds like she proved them wrong.
    Merle.........

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    1. Merle, they were at times taken like that, but clearly some had an ability to rise above opinion.

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  6. Anonymous10:26 am

    She was from a time when journos reported the news ie facts, unlike today where those fluffs stand in front of a camera spouting their opinions as if that was the story. It isn't but hey, everyone wants to be a star. - Ian

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    1. Ian, the upside now is that reporters are far less likely to be directly censored by editors. I think our ABC reporters, especially the international ones, are very good.

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  7. Never heard of her either until now. Seems as if she was a remarkable women, a reporter from the old school..

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    1. Margaret, very much so.

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  8. No I've never heard of her either. Someone should write her biography, I would love to read it.

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    1. Diane, I think it has been written already, or an autobiography.

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  9. A remarkable woman indeed. I would like to read more of her life. Such achievements for a woman of that era and what a wonderful age. Charlie's Mum, Lynn!

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    1. Lynn, women had to overcome such obstacles to succeed in the male domains. As Ginger Rogers was supposed to have said, she danced as well as Astaire, but also she had to do it backwards and in high heels.

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  10. Some women do remarkable things. Others, like me, just read about them.

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    1. River, while I admire many high achievers, I wouldn't want too many of them around.

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  11. Goodness she was quite a character wasn't she, so English 'what what' 😊 it was a dangerous life for war correspondents and war photographers, a few lost their lives. One of my very favourite photographers Robert Capa was killed when he stepped on a landmine, he was only 40. Tragic!

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    1. Grace, English women like her needed to behave like that to succeed, I should think. I am not familiar with Capa either.

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  12. Now I have someone admirable to read about, thank you.

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    1. Strayer, as person, who knows what she was like, so admire her success and hope she was a good person.

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  13. You should pair her with another brilliant woman, Lee Miller. who started as a nude model for Man Ray. One of the best photographers of the 20s, Lee went from model to camera with his teaching and was one of the first women war photographers to land in Europe after D Day. She insisted that Vogue magazine publish her photos of the horror she witnessed and one famous shot has her floating in Hitler's bath. She and her companion had reached Berlin before the troops. English tv also made a great doco about her life which John might be familiar with.

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    1. Sounds interesting Jah Teh. I will take a look. Lee Miller kind of rings a bell.

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