Marguerite Higgins: “Ban on women correspondents in Korea has been lifted. She is held in highest professional esteem by everyone.”

Marguerite Higgins.

From The Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the birthday of war correspondent Marguerite Higgins—she was born in 1920 in Hong Kong, and her family lived there while her father worked at a shipping company. They moved back to the States when Marguerite was three years old; she grew up in Oakland, California….

She studied French at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University in 1942. Because many male reporters were serving in the military during the war, newspapers were willing to give female reporters a chance.

Higgins got a job with the New York Herald Tribune, and in 1944, after working for them for two years, she persuaded them to send her to Europe to cover World War II. She reported from London at first, and then Paris. In 1945, she was sent to Germany, where she witnessed the liberation of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, and covered the Nuremberg Trials and the Soviet blockade of Berlin.

She was named Tokyo bureau chief in 1950, and soon after she arrived in Japan to take her post, the Korean War broke out. She was one of the first reporters on the scene, but the Herald Tribune sent their best male reporter, Homer Bigart, to replace her when General Walton Walker soon ordered her out of the country; Walker was of the opinion that women didn’t belong at the front. She appealed to Douglas MacArthur, who cabled the newspaper: “Ban on women correspondents in Korea has been lifted. Marguerite Higgins is held in highest professional esteem by everyone.”

She died in 1966 after contracting the tropical disease leishmaniasis while covering the war in Vietnam. She was 45.

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