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News from the Front:
Women Reporters of World War II

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Unknown to many people, in spite of ongoing opposition from military personnel and male reporters, 127 women correspondents covered many of the important stories of World War II. Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II, tells the stories of some of those women who had to wage their own battles just to do their jobs. Share their stories with your students as the United States observes Armed Forces Day on May 18. Included: Suggestions for using Where the Action Was in your classroom.

Penny Colman

Although seeing, hearing, and reading "on the spot" reporting by women in war zones is not unusual today, during World War II, women reporters and photojournalists often had to argue and cajole their way to the frontlines to report the news. Author Penny Colman has captured their stories and spirit in Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II.

Education World: What inspired you to write about female war correspondents?

Penelope Colman: I found my first book about a woman war correspondent -- Margaret Bourke-White -- on an outdoor bookseller's stand in New York City in 1997. Then I found Lee Miller's book War: Photographer and Correspondent with the Allies in Europe in 1944 - 1945 for sale on a book table at the Getty Museum in California. Next, I found The Face of War, a collection of Martha Gellhorn's dispatches from the frontlines of war, and Dickey Chapelle's autobiography, What's a Woman Doing Here? (A Reporter's Report on Herself). Reading those women war correspondents' words and seeing the pictures taken by women war photographers was an extraordinary experience that affected me deeply -- and compelled me to write their stories.

EW: What was your favorite part of writing this book?

Colman: I loved the hours I spent in libraries reading the women war correspondents' articles and seeing their photographs, which were published in newspapers and magazines during World War II.

EW: What would you want girls to take away with them after reading this book?

Colman: I hope girls and boys will be in awe of the women correspondents' courage, determination, and resourcefulness, just as I was. I hope girls and boys will understand why correspondents risk their lives to report from where the action was then -- and is today.

EW: How can teachers use Where the Action Was in the classroom?

Colman: Where the Action Was can be used across the curriculum to teach current events, including issues surrounding current conflicts and how they are handled and reported; issues facing contemporary women journalists; nonfiction writing; and photography, including using visual texts and photojournalism.[Teachers can also use the book to teach] various aspects of World War II, including the events leading up to the war and key events during the war, and the history of women in journalism, including biographies and autobiographies of selected women journalists (See the bibliography in the book.). A chronology based on Where the Action Was is posted on my Web site, Penny Colman.

EW: What types of educational programs do you offer for students and teachers?

Colman: I present a wide variety of programs, including assemblies, in-class presentations, and workshops for all ages. I participate in panel discussions and give keynote speeches. I also teach at Queens College, part of the City University of New York, and Teachers College at Columbia University.

This e-interview is part of the Education World weekly Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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Copyright © 2002 Education World

5/13/2002