“Inconsequent…ill-poised, insecure” was how journalist Dorothy Thompson described Adolf Hitler after she interviewed him in 1931 for Cosmopolitan magazine. In a few years, Hitler would begin demonstrating exactly how consequential he could be. His interviewer had already demonstrated her influence: she was one of the most influential journalists of the 1930s and one of the most prominent American women in the world, second only to Eleanor Roosevelt.
Thompson began as a publicist for the New York Woman Suffrage Association. After passage of the 19th Amendment and the end of WWI, she travelled to Europe and began writing. By 1924, she was the Central European bureau chief for the Philadelphia Public Ledger and the New York Evening Post. Her expulsion from Nazi German in 1934 further enhanced her reputation as a serious journalist and political commentator. She used her radio show, lectures, and newspaper and magazine columns to advocate for US intervention in WWII and to oppose the growing threat of Nazism. She also became a crusader for refugees and was instrumental in convening the international conference on refugees at Evian-des-Bains in France in July 1938 (2).
After the war, Thompson shifted her attention to the Middle East and the developing state of Israel. Although she had supported the creation of a Jewish state since 1920(3), she supported the Arabs. Her advocacy conflicted with the Zionists, and eventually the American media and public believed she had lost her journalistic objectivity. Nevertheless, she continued to write until her death in 1961(2).
1: Lewis, Jone Johnson. “Dorothy Thompson Quotes.” About Women’s History.
2: Lunardini, Christine. “1931: Dorothy Thompson Interviews Hitler” in What Every American Should Know About Women’s History. Pp. 228-230. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation, 1997.
3: “Dorothy Thompson.” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.
To learn more:
Holtz, William (ed.) Dorothy Thompson & Rose Wilder Lane: Forty Years of Friendship, Letters, 1921-1960. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1991.
Whitt, Jan. Women in American Journalism: A New History. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2008.