Women have been and are among the bravest reporters. Italian Oriana Fallaci was one. She covered the Vietnam War and the Middle East conflicts with the resolution of an entire platoon. In a more understated yet also larger way, she had a precursor in British journalist Clare Hollingworth.
A stroke of luck prompted her to fame. Hollingworth crossed into Germany from Poland on the last day of August 1939 in a car she borrowed from an ex-boyfriend in the British Foreign Service. She assumed a car flying the Union Jack would be allowed into Germany. And she was right.
“The border guard was a bit surprised when they saw the Union flag flying on the car, but they let me in,” she told the Telegraph in 2011. “I stopped to buy aspirin and white wine and things you couldn’t get inside Poland. And then I was driving back along a valley and there was a hessian screen up so you couldn’t look down into the valley. Suddenly, there was a great gust of wind which blew the sacking from its moorings, and I looked into the valley and saw scores, if not hundreds, of tanks.” It was the beginning of the Second World War.
Hollingworth was 27 and had been on the job as a correspondent for The Daily Telegraph for only three days. She filed a dispatch, which came to be known as “the scoop of the century.” It was the first of many others she broke, none equal to its first one in importance. Sure, it takes a combination of chance and hard work to be in the right place at the right time. But as Henry Cartier-Bresson said of his photos, you sometimes had to wait for the right moment.