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Thursday, 9 February 2017

Peggy Hull, Pioneer War Correspondent

American war correspondent Peggy Hull (Henrietta Eleanor Goodnough-Hull-Kinley-Deuell, 1889-1967) at her Corona 3 portable typewriter for a Newspaper Enterprise Association publicity shot taken in New York in 1925.
There is a crater on Venus named for Peggy Hull. It seems only fitting. As a pioneering female journalist, Hull was simply out of this world. In 1918 she became the US War Department's first accredited female war correspondent and she went on to become the first woman to serve on four battlefronts. The 5ft-tall brown-eyed girl reporter from Kansas described her facial appearance in passport applications as featuring a "retroussé" (turned up) nose. In almost 58 years of first-rate reporting, sending stories from Siberia to Shanghai and many flashpoints in between, Peggy Hull proved that she possessed one of the most brilliant noses for news of any newspaperperson, of either sex, in the entire 20th Century.
Peggy Hull was aware from the very start of her amazing career as a war correspondent, in 1916, that she was smashing through the glass ceiling for female journalists. "Yes," she wrote in the El Paso Herald in late August 1916, "it's a regular Richard Harding Davis assignment. But with the Russian girls of '16 fighting in the army alongside their brothers and fathers and with women voters braving the Ghetto of Chicago, a girl these days has as much right to attempt the daring as has a man." At that time she was planning to fly into Mexico to confront Revolution leader and head of state José Venustiano Carranza Garza. (Davis, who had died four months earlier, aged 51, was an American journalist and writer known for being the first American war correspondent to cover the Spanish-American War, the Second Boer War and the First World War.)
At the time, it was newsworthy that Hull wore a wristwatch. "The element of time is so essential in our work," she told a fellow reporter in Texas, "that difference of a few minutes might mean a 'beat' [scoop] ... Pockets are de trop [unneeded] these days, you know." The El Paso reporter added that Hull believed in suffrage but was not a suffragette. Flowers and pink ribbons "and things" still had their appeal to her, Hull told him.
Peggy was born Henrietta Eleanor Goodnough on a farm near Bennington, Kansas, on December 30, 1889, and grew up in Marysville. She had nothing to do with her father, Edwy Goodnough of Salina (1862-1947), from an early age, and was raised by her mother Minnie Eliza Finn (1866-1929) and Minnie's second husband, Henry William Hoerath (1868-1941). The Hoeraths were married in Marysville in 1896, when Peggy was six.
Minnie Hoerath in 1922
In 1906 Peggy began her newspaper career 75 miles south of Marysville, as a 16-year-old typesetter for the Junction City Sentinel, having been turned down by editor Arthur Downey Colby as superfluous to needs as a reporter. However, after only two weeks at the case, Colby moved her to the editorial department. She had shown Colby her worth when a fire broke out in town and no one else was available to cover the story. In late 1909 Peggy moved to the Denver Republican, where she quickly established a wide reputation for her feature writing and in particular her human interest stories from the juvenile court of social reformer Judge Benjamin Barr Lindsey (1869-1943). It was while in Denver that Peggy met social and political reporter, the recently-widowed Indian-born lush George Charles Hull (1878-1953), a former soldier almost 12 years her senior. Peggy moved further back east to become society editor for the Salina Union in 1910, and on October 27 that year she married Hull in Christ Cathedral, Salina. The Hulls returned to Denver, then moved to Hawaii, where George worked as a reporter for the Honolulu Star and city editor of the Evening Bulletin and Peggy was a feature writer and women's page editor for the Pacific Commercial Advertiser and a reporter for the Bulletin. Four years into the marriage, on the day in 1914 when her tipsy husband tried to climb a flagpole naked, Peggy left him. They were divorced in 1916, by which time Peggy had moved to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she wrote advertising copy. In her subsequent passport applications, Peggy said George Hull's whereabouts were unknown to her, and she believed he was dead (possibly wishful thinking). But she kept his surname for her byline throughout the rest of her illustrious career. George Hull was very much still alive - indeed, he outlived all of Peggy's three husbands - and had gone to California, where from 1918-32 he became a noted film scriptwriter. 
In March 1916, the Ohio National Guard was mobilised and sent to El Paso, Texas, to join General John Pershing's expedition in Mexico to capture Francisco "Pancho" Villa. Peggy Hull requested permission to travel with the Guard, but was turned down. She moved to Texas, where she worked first for the El Paso Herald, then the El Paso Morning Times. She was allowed to accompany the troops on a gruelling two-week training march from El Paso to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Villa was not captured, but the expedition helped prepare American troops for entry into World War I. 
With the United States entering into World War I in April 1917, Peggy Hull paid her own way to France with a promise from the El Paso Times to use her articles. She came down with an attack of appendicitis, but gained assistance from the Paris office of The Chicago Daily Tribune and reached Valdahon in the fast east of France. There she shared barracks with women working for the YMCA canteen and wrote articles for US consumption. In late December she was in Chicago, "booted and spurred" according to the Tribune, giving Christmas shoppers an "eyeful". Hull's mother Minnie had taken ill, and Peggy had returned to care for her. (Minnie recovered to travel to Japan, China and Hong Kong while visiting her daughter in 1922, but died in 1929)
Peggy remained restless, however, and in August 1918 set her journalistic sights on the American military expedition to Siberia to guard the Trans-Siberian Railroad, which was delivering supplies to the White Army. With the help of General Peyton C. March, chief of staff of the army, whom she knew from both her El Paso and Valdahon days, Peggy was accredited to cover the expedition. This time, she gained much more substantial backing for her venture, from editor-in-chief Samuel Thomas Hughes (1866-1948) of the Cleveland-based Newspaper Enterprise Association:
Hull boarded a Russian steamer and landed in Vladivostok in November to begin a nine-month, 1000-mile inspection tour of the Siberian Railroad. She reported on the suffering of the masses of refugees trying to escape both the Red and White armies. As well, she was also able to provide American readers with graphic details of the execution of the Russian Imperial Romanov family (Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei), an event which had occurred in Yekaterinburg on July 17, 1918. Hull left Siberia in July 1919 and returned to the US.
In late December 1919 she received an offer of work in Shanghai from the short-lived Gazette's Trinidadian-born editor C.H. Lee.
On a stopover in Singapore, Hull met sea captain, Isle of Man-born John Taylor Kinley (left, 1888-), who would became her second husband. They married in Hong Kong on February 22, 1922, separated in 1925 and, after a campaign by Hull to change the law with regard to her citizen status, were divorced in Shanghai in 1932. In the meantime, in November 1930, Hull was supported by the managing editor of the New York Daily NewsHarvey Vail Deuell (right, 1890-1939), who was to become her third husband, when she applied to regain her American citizenship, lost under the Expatriation Act of 1907 when she'd become a British subject by marrying Kinley. At midnight on January 28, 1932, while Hull was back in Shanghai securing her divorce, Japanese aircraft bombed the Chinese city in the first major carrier action in East Asia. Peggy Hull was in exactly the right spot at the right time to report it, and had a story in the Chicago Tribune the very next day!
Hull and Deuell wed in 1933, but this third marriage was also to be brief. Deuell, a $64,000-a-year leading executive in the US newspaper industry, died from a heart attack while driving his car past the Teaneck Country Club in New Jersey, on his way to work, on October 29, 1939. Deuell was just 48. World War II had been declared less than seven weeks earlier and Hull had become a founding member of the Overseas Press Club. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Peggy Hull once again looked to gain accreditation as a war correspondent. In November 1943, through the North American Newspaper Alliance and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Hull, going on 54, received permission from Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson Jr, a commander general in the Central Pacific, to cover the war in his area. She reported from Hawaii, Guam, Tarawa in Kiripati and Saipan in the Northern Marianas until August 1945 and was awarded a Navy CommendationA GI wrote her in 1944, "You will never realise what those yarns of yours ... did to this gang ... You made them know they weren't forgotten." In 1953 Hull retired to Carmel Valley, California, where she died of breast cancer, aged 77, on June 19, 1967.


Joshua Beta said...

Did she meet V. Carranza? W o W :D
I thought our Mexican "revolution" (1910-1921) was an unknown fact for Americans! :D
She was awesome. And I like her photos of her with her typewriters. xD

shordzi said...

What a life! Thank you for your thorough research.