#84: Dorothy Thompson


dorothy thompson Dorothy Thompson was born in 1893 in New York. When she was seven, her mother died. As she did not get along with her stepmother, Dorothy went to live with her father's sisters in Chicago in 1908. She attended private school there, then went to Syracuse University, graduating in 1914.

After her graduation, Dorothy first worked as an organizer for the women's suffrage movement, which she later descibed as "the last romantic political movement this country ever had.”

Wanting to make her living as a writer, Dorothy first tried her hand at fiction, then went to Europe in the hope of becoming an international correspondent. On a 1920 trip to visit relatives in Ireland, she was able to interview Sinn Fien leaders including Terence MacSwiney. MacSwiney died two months later during a hunger strike, leaving Dorothy's interview to be his last. Dorothy continued this ambitious journalism the next year, sneaking into Budapest disguised as a Red Cross worker. Her coverage of the attempt Emperor Franz Josef's grandnephew to reclaim the Hungarian throne ran in papers all over the world and earned Dorothy her first regular journalist job at the Philadelphia Public Ledger.

Dorothy eventually became the Central Europe bureau chief for both the Ledger and the New York Evening Post. She lived and worked in Poland, Austria, Germany, and the Soviet Union. In 1928, she married notable American author Sinclair Lewis (her second marriage), and in 1930 the couple returned to the U.S. and had a son, Dorothy's only child.

After her move back to the States, Dorothy continued to travel and write for newspapers and magazines. She interviewed Adolph Hitler for Cosmopolitan, and was in 1934 the first foreign journalist to be thrown out of Germany by Hitler.

In 1936, Dorothy began writing a column called "On the Record," which was syndicated in newspapers across the country, reaching an audience of 8-10 million people a day at the height of its popularity. She also wrote a monthly column for the Ladies' Home Journal. Next, she started making radio broadcasts on NBC, starting with celebrity-oriented material, but shifting to political, anti-fascist commentary when war broke out in Europe in 1939. For the years proceeding the American entry into World War II, Dorothy's voice was among the strongest in the country to speak against Hitler. In 1939, Time magazine called her one of the two most influential women in America. The other was Eleanor Roosevelt.

After World War II, Dorothy continued to be politically involved. She opposed the creation of Israel and argued for nuclear disarmament. She died in Portugal in 1961.

Museum of Television & Radio
George Washington University
American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson

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