Marguerite Higgins Hall September 3, 1920 – January 3, 1966
Born as an American girl in Hong Kong, and traveling throughout various Asian countries as a child, Marguerite never quite felt at home when her family relocated back to the U.S. suburbs of Oakland, CA. Her intelligence, combined with a broad world view, gained her acceptance to Berkely (now UC Berkeley) at the tender age of 17. There she earned a B.S. in French, before continuing her studies at Columbia University where she attained a Master of Science on Journalism. From there, she secured a job writing for the esteemed New York Herald Tribune.
It was 1944, and most of the men at the Tribune were serving overseas allowing Marguerite to pursue dreams not possible for a woman before the war. Marguerite, anxious to be out in the world at such a momentous time of political conflict, persuaded theTribune’s upper management to send her to Europe. She wanted to be on the front lines reporting on the critical issues faced by the Allies and civilians in war-torn countries. A few months later, her wish was partially granted; the Tribune assigned her a post reporting from London, and though the country had suffered greatly, this was still not what Marguerite wanted. Neither was her post in Paris later that year. It wasn’t until her assignment in Berlin that she found her passion, arriving just in time to see the Allied liberation of both the Buchenwald and Dachau Concentration Camps. The U.S. Army awarded her its Campaign Ribbon for her assistance during S.S. surrender of the Camps. Following the war’s end, she also reported on the Nuremberg Trials and the Soviet Union’s blockade of Berlin, Germany.
If only it were true that WWII was the war to end all wars, then perhaps Marguerite’s career as war correspondent would have been short-lived, but it wasn’t. She continued to cover both the Korea and Vietnam Wars, earning a posthumous Order of Diplomatic Service Merit medal from South Korea, which was presented to her daughter and grandson in 2010, for her courage in reporting the country’s struggle for freedom from its northern neighbor.
Marguerite covered each of these conflicts from the front lines, suffering the same atrocities as the soldiers with which worked and lived. Her accomplishments are substantial not only in the excellence of her reporting, which earned her the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a female correspondent, but also because she was a woman doing what was considered a ‘”man’s job.” In fact, it was during the Korean War that she successfully urged General Douglas MacArthur to lift the ban that prevented women from being present on the front lines. She had thus paved the way for future female correspondents to add their voices, intellect, and perspective to the political narrative.
Over the years, Ms. Higgins wrote numerous award-winning columns and prominent books about her experiences in war and used the power of her fame to speak out against the U.S. participation in the Vietnam conflict. During her assignment in Vietnam, she contracted a tropical parasite that ultimately proved fatal. She died in 1966 at the age of 45, leaving behind a husband and two young children.
In 2002, Marguerite was recognized by the USPS, as part of its “Women in Journalism” series by being included as one in a set of four stamps recognizing important female journalists.
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