When Helen Kirkpatrick finally got a job as the London correspondent for the Chicago Daily News in 1939, she gave herself a seemingly impossible first assignment. She suggested to her editors that she try to get an interview with the duke of Windsor, the former king Edward.
The assignment seemed impossible because it was well known that the duke never gave interviews to reporters. Kirkpatrick knew some of the people with whom the Duke with stain stain, and she prevailed upon them to get her access to the royal prince.
Exactly what she had in mind is not clear, but the Duke politely explained to her that he had sworn off giving interviews. Then he made an unusual suggestion. He suggested that he himself should interview Kirkpatrick.
Thus, Kirkpatrick’s first byline for the Chicago Daily News was a story in which the duke of Windsor interviewed her.
Kirkpatrick‘s journalism career was filled with such creative and enterprise reporting.
At the time she got the job with the Chicago daily news, she was snow white eyed cub reporter. She had already spent several years in Europe, and she had been in London long enough to develop many friends and many sources of information.
Kirkpatrick was born in Rochester New York in 1909, and she graduated from Smith College in 1931. She worked in New York City for a time at Macy’s but the job did not satisfy her desire for travel and adventure. She said out for Europe in 1935, working as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune in France, and she moved to the United Kingdom in 1937 where she was a freelancer for a number of newspapers.
While in London during that time, she teamed up with two other journalist to publish a weekly newspaper titled the Whitehall news. It was an avidly anti-appeasement publication and regularly took to task Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and anyone in the British government who believed that Hitler and the Nazis could be stopped with diplomacy rather than military force.
When she applied to become a reporter on the staff of the Chicago daily news, the editor told her that the paper did not hire women as reporters. She replied, “I can’t change my sex. But you can change your policy.“ She was hard, not because of a change of policy but as an exception to it.“
When war finally came, she reported the London blitz and all of its terror. After the United States entered the war, she went to Algiers where she reported on the north Africa campaign, including the surrender of the Italian fleet at Malta.
Kirkpatrick was with the allied forces when they invaded France in June 1944 and attached herself to the free French forces are with whom, in August 1944, she Road on one of the tanks that liberated Perez. Paris. I
She then followed American forces as they slowly and painfully conquered Germany.
Kirkpatrick left the Chicago daily news in 1946 to become a reporter for the New York post. During that time she covered the Nuremberg trials. She also worked as an information officer for the Marshall plan that we built Europe.
Returning to the United States in the early 1950s, she worked for a time with the US state department. Eventually, she left to become the secretary to the president of Smith College. I just in 1954, she married Robbins Milbank a trustee of Smith College, and they remained together until his death more than 30 years later.
She died in Williamsburg, Virginia, and 1997 at the age of 88.
Kirkpatrick was one of only a small handful of female reporters who covered the European France of World War II. She distinguished herself timer again for her boldness, her tenacity, and her dedication to journalism.
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