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Picks and Pans Review: Women of the World

updated 08/22/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/22/1988 01:00AM

by Julia Edwards

Subtitled The Great Foreign Correspondents, this is an engaging history of women journalists from Margaret Fuller, who covered Louis Napoleon's assault on Rome for the New York Herald' in 1849, to Shirley Christian, who won a Pulitzer in 1981 for her reporting on upheaval in Central America for the Miami Herald. Edwards, a foreign correspondent for 25 years for various publications, sometimes lapses into rah-rah feminism as she writes of women who often were disdained by the men with whom they worked. Of Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway's third wife, Edwards gushes, "During the Battle of the Bulge, on a freezing night in January 1945, she climbed into a Black Widow night fighter and flew off to Germany with a pilot searching for a dogfight with Nazi war planes....Not even Hemingway, who envisioned himself as a daredevil, surpassed that stunt." Defensiveness aside, the women profiled are a fascinating group, including Irene Corbally Kuhn, the first person to do a radio news broadcast out of China, and Sigrid Schultz, first woman foreign bureau chief (Berlin) for a major American newspaper (the Chicago Tribune). The liveliest account of male-female rivalry was a feud between Marguerite Higgins and Homer Bigart, who both worked for the New York Herald Tribune in Tokyo. When war broke out in Korea, Bigart, a famous war correspondent, tried unsuccessfully to get Higgins banished from that country so he'd have the story to himself. Writes Edwards: "Fellow correspondents, relishing the dispute, hired Korean urchins to gather outside Bigart's billet at a time he needed his sleep and chant 'Homer loves Maggie! Homer loves Maggie!' " But laughs are few in this book. Many correspondents sacrificed marriage, children and even their lives to run with the breaking stories about war or peace. They were as different as the wars they covered. Edwards writes, "They were young and old, short and tall; most were friendly, a few mean. There were bleeding hearts and bloodless military strategists among them. What united them was their ambition to see for themselves, to be part of history in the making, and to inform the world." (Houghton Mifflin, $17.95)

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