Philobiblon: The 'first' female war correspondent

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The 'first' female war correspondent

One of the first things you learn as a journalist is never to accept informants' claims that this is the _first time_ this has been done. The accepted form of writing this up is in a quote, or by saying "it is said to be the first" ...

That way, when you get the inevitable, "but my grandfather did that in 1930" letters, you can point out that the newspaper didn't say it was the first.

If the Dictionary of National Biography says it, however, if must be true, so I'll report that I learnt today that the first female war correspondent, one of Barbara Tuchman's predecessors, was Lady Dixie. The DNB says says:
"The publication of Across Patagonia (1880) established Lady Dixie's reputation as a bold and resourceful traveller with a pen as ready as her gun. It was also partly the reason for her appointment as the Morning Post's war correspondent in South Africa where the Anglo-Zulu War was raging; she was the first woman to be officially appointed by a British newspaper to cover a war.
"Her husband accompanied her and, although on arriving in Cape Town in March 1881 they found to her chagrin that hostilities were over, they spent the next six months in southern Africa. They toured the country, visiting the battlefields and learning something of the causes and the course of the late conflict, while Lady Dixie contributed articles to the Morning Post in which she championed the cause of Cetewayo and his Zulu people. These provided material for A Defence of Zululand and its King (1882)."
This from the DNB's free daily email, for which you can sign up here.
(I know I also posted from one of these on Friday, but I'm not on commission, really!)


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