Journalists

Jessie Tarbox Beals, America’s First Female Photojournalist

Though Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870 – 1942) wasn’t a literary figure, we’ve been highlighting pioneering female journalists here on Literary Ladies Guide, and she was a true trailblazer. Though she rarely contributed the texts to the news stories she took, she was a storyteller with her camera. As America’s first woman news photographer, she broke many barriers and encouraged other women to follow suit.

Jessie was the first woman to be hired as a staff photographer on a U.S. newspaper and the first American woman to get a byline as a photojournalist. She herself found nothing extraordinary about the pursuit, claiming that photography was a profession that could be mastered by any woman who “has good health, perseverance, and a nose for news.”

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Dorothy Thompson, Trailblazing Correspondent & Broadcaster

 Dorothy Thompson (1893 – 1961) used her charm, wit, sense of adventure, and strong work ethic to create an incredibly illustrious career in journalism. Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, she studied politics and economics at Syracuse University.

After completing her degree in 1914, a rarity for a woman in her time, she felt an obligation to contribute to the public good. Her cause of choice was the women’s women’s suffrage movement. After women won the right to vote in 1920, she moved to Europe to pursue journalism and became one of America’s first foreign correspondents.

In her heyday, she reported from across the European continent and at the same time enjoyed a fabulous social life. Her circle of friends included many writers and artists as well as some of the most notable journalists in the field. Read More→


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Learning to See: A Novel of Dorothea Lange by Elise Hooper

Dorothea Lange‘s influential photography has been collected and displayed in museums and institutions everywhere, yet few know the story of how Dorothea Nutzhorn became Dorothea Lange, social justice activist and pioneering photojournalist. In Elise Hooper’s much anticipated second novel, Learning to See (William Morrow, 2019), Dorothea Lange and her legacy is reimagined in a riveting new light.

In 1918, a fearless 22-year-old arrives in San Francisco with nothing but a friend, her camera, and determination to make her own way as an independent woman. In no time, Dorothea goes from camera shop assistant to celebrated owner of the city’s most prestigious and stylish portrait studio.  Read More→


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In Search of Nellie Bly: Uncovering America’s Pioneering Investigative Journalist

Excerpted from Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist by Brooke Kroeger, the most comprehensive biography to date on the pioneering investigative journalist, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran (she later spelled her name Cochrane) on May 5, 1864, in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania:

Nellie Bly was one of the most rousing characters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the 1880s she pioneered the development of “detective” or “stunt” journalism, the acknowledged forerunner of full-scale investigative reporting.

While she was still in her early twenties, the example of her fearless success helped open the profession to coming generations of women journalists clamoring to write hard news. Read More→


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Ruth Gruber: Journalist, Documentary Photographer, Humanitarian

Ruth Gruber (1911 – 2016) led a life that was so incredible, it could have been a movie. And in fact, just one of the many courageous episodes in her 105-year life was made into a film. Ruth’s multi-faceted career as a journalist and documentary photographer isn’t as well known as it should be, and as with many women who were ahead of their time, deserves to be revisited and celebrated.

The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Ruth was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She was a brilliant student with a passion for Jewish culture, and always loved to write.

At age fifteen she started college and was only twenty when she completed her doctorate in 1931 at the University of Cologne in Germany. That made her the world’s youngest Ph.D. at the time. Read More→


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