Clare Hollingworth: the relentless foreign correspond


In her 105 years of life, Clare Hollingworth had remained fiercely curious for as long as she could and resented the idea of ever retiring. At the age of 80, she had climbed a lamppost just to get a better look at the crackdown of Tiananmen Square. When well into her 80s, she still preferred to sleep on the floor to “toughen” her body., according to the Economist.

Clare Hollingworth’s unrelenting commitment to journalism, and fearlessness to encroach the most dangerous parts of the world during political unrest inspired me to write about her here.


From this portrait of her taken about the 1920s, it is hard to imagine such a young beautiful women would later defy all conventional notions of women’s place is at home, and that women are unsuitable and unfit to handle the harshness of war. Her life’s story is a testimony to the importance to break away from the social conventions that underestimate women’s potential impact on the world dominated by men.

Hollingworth began her journalistic career in 1939 at the age of 29. When only 4 days into her job as a foreign correspondent, she “borrowed” a car from a British consulate without authority’s consent, and drove into Germany via Poland. Revealing Hitler’s army assembled for the invasion, she put out the scoop of the century. When no one believed her crossed border, she produced her shopping of German products unavailable in Poland.

‘If you put me in a rickety lift, I’d be terrified. It’s just that I don’t feel frightened under machine-gun fire. The excitement of the job overcomes it,’ said Clare Hollingworth. Photograph: the Guardian

Using her femininity and intelligence she had befriended people of political and military power. After the fall of the last Shah of Iran in 1979, she got the first interview with him, because he agreed to only speak to her.

Hollington had never let her age got in the way or her work. At an age when most people are retiring, she had moved to Beijing and opened the Daily Telegraph bureau. Although she never spoke a word of Chinese, she had became a remarkable “China-watcher.” She reported on Deng Xiaoping‘s rise after Mao‘s stroke in 1974. Again, no one had believed her story and were skeptical, but it had turned out to be true.

The foreign correspondent was not without shortcomings. Although she had been adventurous obtaining the stories, but her reports in print were laconic and unadventurous. What made her such a notable and an admirable journalist was her clairvoyance and fearlessness.

To read a more detailed recount of her life’s contribution as a foreign correspondent, click here and here. If you are interested in reading her biography, please click here.


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