Friday, January 6, 2023

Dorothy Thompson and Hitler

Library of Congress.     
Happy New Year! Thanks to all of you who “traveled” with me through my home state of Maryland during 2022. For 2023, I’ll be doing a year-long series about “Women of Valor: Ordinary Women Who Did Extraordinary Things.” For my kickoff post, I’ll be sharing about Dorothy Thompson, a reporter and radio broadcaster often referred to as the First Lady of American Journalism.

Born in Lancaster, New York in 1893, she had two siblings. Her mother passed away when Dorothy was seven years old, and her father, remarried a few years later. Unfortunately, Dorothy didn’t get along with her stepmother, and she was sent to live with her aunts. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1914, she moved to Buffalo where she threw herself into woman’s suffrage and quickly rose to a leadership position. Three years later, the state would grant women the right to vote.

Highly ambitious, Dorothy decided she wanted to be a journalist and moved
Library of Congress
overseas to pursue the dream. Not a course I would have chosen, but it worked out for her VERY well. She went to Ireland where she managed to obtain an interview with Terence MacSwiney, a major leader in the Sinn Fein movement. It was the last interview he gave before being arrested days later, and he died two months after that. The following year, in 1921, she disguised herself as a Red Cross nurse to get into the castle of former King Karl I, part of the Hapsburg German royal family, who she’d heard wanted to reclaim the Hungarian throne. The only journalist to report from the inside, she “scooped” every other newspaper in the world.

The incident exhibited her willingness to do whatever it took to get the story, no matter how risky. As a result she was offered a full-time job as the Vienna correspondent and Central European bureau chief for the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Quite an achievement for a women of the time.

She did quite well, and her reputation grew. Most of her articles covered the political situation in Europe, and she focused heavily on the emerging leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi), Adolph Hitler. Her star continued to rise and by 1927, she was head of the New York Post’s Berlin bureau. She continued to keep an eye on the Germany where her work came to the attention of the Nazi party, and in 1931, she was invited to interview Hitler for Cosmopolitan.

Three years later, she would expand the article into a book, I Saw Hitler, in which she would write: “He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature, a man whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones. He is inconsequential and voluble, ill poised and insecure. He is the very prototype of the little man.”

Library of Congress.  
Needless to say, the Nazis expelled her as a result of the publication, the first American to be tossed out of the country. She landed on her feet and was hired by NBC as a radio broadcaster, where her show “On the Record” became one of the most popular in the US. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, she remained on the air for fifteen consecutive days and nights. Unsurprisingly, she was recognized that year by Time magazine as having as much influence as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Despite all the good she did, Dorothy wasn’t without controversy. She made disparaging remarks about African-American voters in 1936, and after WWII wrote columns criticizing right wing Zionist terrorism toward the British. In 1961, she passed away in Lisbon, Portugal while visiting her grandsons.

Do you read or watch the news? Why or why not?


Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry (of Star-Spangled Banner fame), and has lived in historical places all her life. Linda is a volunteer docent and archivist at the Wright Museum of WWII and a former trustee of her local public library. She lives in central New Hampshire where she enjoys exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors.

Under Fire

How far would you go to find a killer?

Small-town journalist Ruth Brown’s missing sister is declared dead. Convinced Jane is still alive, Ruth gets herself accredited as a war correspondent and follows clues from their tiny New Hampshire village to war-torn London trying to find her. Discovering that Jane has been murdered results in a faith crisis for Ruth, and she vows to find Jane’s killer. Ultimately, she stumbles upon smugglers, resistance members, and the IRA, all of whom may want Ruth dead for what she knows.

Purchase Link:


  1. Thank you for posting today, and Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to your series this year, and I appreciated learning about Dorothy. And by the way, your book sounds great!

  2. Thank you Connie! You are always such an encouragement! Happy New Year!