As a fearless war correspondent and powerful force in women's broadcasting, Clare Hollingworth has carved her own way into the field of journalism and left a lasting impact on both her field and world history as a whole. Most notable for her work on broadcasting the early signs of the outbreak of the second world war, across her career Hollingworth remained at the forefront of her field, and often directly in the action.
When she died at age 105 in January 2017, her obituary in the Guardian described her as a 'fearless war correspondent,' who was 'one of the most active war correspondents of the 20th Century and one who managed to circumvent official rules banning women,' therefore demonstrating her to be a pioneer, not just within journalism but also in redefining a woman's place in the working world.
Hollingworth established herself as a force to be reckoned with early in her career through her work in Eastern Europe. In 1939, she successfully bought the news to the British Homefront and press of a potential invasion of German troops into Poland. According to her biography, Hollingworth was working near by when she decided to borrow the consul-general's car and drive over the border into East Germany. She managed this with relative ease because the car she was driving was flagged. Once she had completed what she had set out to do, she began to drive back towards the boarder to meet with the consul general. However, on her journey back, she noticed some large hessian screens had been put up to prevent onlookers from being able to see into the valley below. As she was driving past, the wind blew some of the hessian aside and she was able to see a large number of German tanks lined up as though they were preparing to enter Poland.
Although her initial report to the consul-general was met with scepticism, she was later allowed to telephone the report to the Daily Telegraph while he sent a secret message to the foreign office, therefore delivering the news to both the government and the general public that the outbreak of the second world war was imminent.
The year after her story in Germany, Hollingworth was working in Bucharest, following the story of the abdication of King Carol and the riots which followed. For the first two months she had taken a lot of careful measures to avoid their strict censorship by sending one story through the official press bureau with the seal of approval, and then dictating another totally different version down the phone to her contact in Geneva. However, this did not last long, and the police eventually came to her house to arrest her. When the police arrived, she stripped completely naked and told the men: ‘You can't possibly arrest me, I'm naked.' She rang her friend Robin Hankey at the British Legion and, within a few minutes, he came and escorted her (wrapped in a blanket) to the British Embassy.
In 1941, she began to work in Egypt where, although she lacked the official accreditation, she worked with and alongside other British correspondents. Hollingworth was frustrated by the restrictions which her gender had on her work. Despite this, she still managed to attend official press conferences and briefings, as well as going on trips into 'more dangerous conditions than any other female reporter.' This included venturing behind enemy lines. After she had covered the desert campaign, she was moved to Algiers and managed to affiliate herself with Chicago Daily News. General Dwight. D. Eisenhower was recorded as welcoming the presence of female reporters and correspondents, only on the condition that they asked for no special treatment.
While reading about Hollingworth's career, there are countless examples of almost action-movie style events. From dealings with the Romanian secret police, to fighting off a whole gang of French terrorist gunmen with only her own shoe, Hollingworth displays herself as a formidable woman. In 1962, she won the Hannen Swaffer award for the Woman Journalist of the Year and the 'What the Papers Say' award for the best news reporting of the year for her work on the Algerian War. From 1963 to 1967, she was the first woman to be a defence correspondent for the Guardian, where she travelled the world reporting on western defence, NATO, and conflicts abroad.
In 2015, her great-nephew Patrick Garrett published her biography where he notes that: although she has given up her habit of drinking beer for breakfast, she always kept her shoes beside her bed in case she had to leave somewhere in a hurry.
In a lot of the interviews about her life, Hollingworth is always careful to note that she would never use her femininity to get a story that a man could not get. Journalist Anne Sebba noted that 'she thrived on danger and believed that the more dangerous the assignment the better the story.' This not only proves Hollingworth to be determined, driven and incredibly brave, but also defiant of the restrictions of her gender.