Dorothy Thompson

Dorothy ThompsonOne of the premier commentators in the early days of radio news was Dorothy Thompson. A rareity in the field of radio journalism because of her sex, Thompson came to radio later in her career having forged her credentials in the print world.

On July 9th, 1893, the Reverend Peter and Margaret Thompson gave birth to their daughter, Dorothy. After attending Syracuse University and graduating in 1914, Dorothy had her sights set on becoming a writer. She contributed stories to the New York magazines to no avail. But to help the family with expenses, she took a job working for the Women's State Suffrage Party. It was here she honed her craft by writing publicity items and promoting women's issues. When the Suffrage Amendment was passed, she moved on to other public relations jobs landing finally with National Social Unit Organization promoting social rights.

In the fall of 1919, she no longer was needed to help the family and so she left for Europe and began interviewing socially relevant people including Zionist leaders while on the boat heading to Europe. The interviews turned into articles and she got a job as reporter for the Jewish Correspondence Bureau. From there she continued to publish news articles that were used by the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Eventually, she landed a job as Vienna correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. Soon after, the Public Ledger offered the permanent positon as Berlin correspondent.

She was becoming well-known in America as her writings were picked up by other papers. In Europe, she was able to interview world leaders including Gustav Stresemann, Aristide Briand, Chicherin, Trotsky, and Atatürk. She also obtained exclusive interviews with Sigmund Freud and Richard Strauss.

In the late 1920's after divorcing her husband, she met and soon married the author Sinclair Lewis. The birth of her son Michael, soon followed.

Continuing her work as a print journalist for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, she returned to Berlin as their Central European Bureau Chief and was able to interview Adolph Hitler. Partly out of this interview, partly out of her own values formed from her childhood, Dorothy became an outspoken anti-Nazi. However, she also predicted that Hitler would never come to power in Germany. She became, nonetheless, identified as a "leading opponent of the Hitler regime." From her articles and a book, I Saw Hitler, her writings so infuriated the Nazi government that she was deported with only a 24 hour notice. On August 25, 1934 she was ordered to leave the country. Her hatred of Hitler showed.

When Dorothy Thompson returned to New York, she began writing a regularly syndicated column (1936) for the New York Herald Tribune to be called "For the Record" and took up the lecture circuit speaking about Facism and the Nazis. While on the speaking tour, CBS offered her an opportunity to do her speaking into a radio microphone. But she turned it down only later to accept a similar offer from NBC Radio as a commentator for the Democratic and Republican Conventions. The articulate, perceptive radio work resulted in a contract for a weekly series of commentaries. This radio work and the column combined with her notoriety as the only female journalist to be thrown out of Nazi Germany, propelled Thompson to national fame.

When war by the Western European powers against Nazi Germany seemed inevitable, NBC turned to Ms. Thompson on September 2nd, 1939 for a comment [Click for Sound] on her view. She references a speech by Chamberlain before the House of Commons given on September 1 and which can be read here. And again, after France fell to Germany in June 1940 and Hitler was contemplating invading England in early 1941, her comments [Click for Sound] continued to be direct and to the point on the impact of these events.