Thursday, 18 January 2018

BOOK REVIEW: “The Woman War Correspondent, the U.S. Military, and the Press” by Carolyn M. Edy

Drawing on a large selection of resources, the aim of the book is to provide a history of the women accredited by the U.S. Government as war correspondents.  Although my particular field of interest is the First World War and this book covers American women war correspondents from 1846 until 1947, I found it extremely interesting and will be referring to it again and again.   Carolyn Edy - who teaches journalism at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina - addresses not only the stories of the women who went to battle areas to write about war but also the conflict women experienced, and are still experiencing, in order to gain recognition and be taken seriously in a patriarchal society.

I find it incredible to discover in Chapter Two that women reported on war as long ago as 1846 (The Mexican War), yet we are only now, in the 21st Century, beginning to hear of those remarkable women.   It seems that the idea of recruiting women to report on conflicts was with an eye to increasing the newspapers’ advertisement revenue but, whatever the reason, having women war correspondents was, nevertheless, a cautious step towards equality.

It is difficult to pick out one or two items of interest for the purposes of this review but I particularly liked the story about the British reporter Lady Mary Howard who went to cover the Boer War for the “London Telegraph” (page 27).  There are many illustrations throughout the book with those taken during WW1 being of special interest to me.   The comprehensive list in Appendix 1 beginning on page 136, lists 44 American women war correspondents who covered WW1, of which I had only heard of two!

The chapters on the women reporters of the Second World War are a real ‘eye-opener’ – who knew that one, Caroline Iverson, as well as being ‘pretty’ also had a pilot’s licence (p. 84)?    Eisenhower’s comment about women in total warfare on page 76 made me realise that is why so many women in Britain rallied to the cause in WW1, yet in 1943 Britain’s General Montgomery (known after his WW2 successes affectionately to the British public as ‘Monty’ – p. 89) refused to allow women anywhere near his troops in North Africa.  It seems Monty did, however, change his mind later on.

With an Index, extensive bibliography and copious notes, this is a must-read book for anyone interested in, or studying, the history of the First and Second World Wars.
“The Woman War Correspondent, the U.S. Military, and the Press” by Carolyn M. Edy, published by Lexington Books, Lanham, Boulder, New York and London 2017.  Lexington Books is an imprint of The Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.

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