Author talks 'Fierce Ambition: The Life and Legend of War Correspondent Maggie Higgins'

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Tuesday, November 7, 2023
'Fierce Ambition' biographies female war correspondent Maggie Higgins
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Sandy Kenyon has more on the life and legacy of Maggie Higgins.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It's been said Maggie Higgins lived life "at a full gallop" as a pioneering female war reporter, but she died at such a young age so long ago that her achievements are less well known today.

A new book aims to explain why her story is worth remembering.

One reviewer calls this book "mesmerizing," and I agree because the "fierce ambition" of Maggie Higgins kept me turning the pages because this true story is more compelling than most novels.

The woman at the center of the story is a character as flawed as she is fascinating.

Half a century has passed since she passed away, yet Maggie Higgins was so far ahead of her time, that she presents as a thoroughly modern woman.

"She was like a social media star today in the sense that she became famous so young, and at 24 she made the front pages of newspapers around

The world," said Jennet Conant, author.

Through sheer determination, Higgins became one of the very few female journalists to cover World War II. She was at Dachau on the day the concentration camp was liberated.

"She didn't care what she had to do to get there, and that fierce determination I think is fascinating and teaches us a lot about what women had to do to get ahead," Conant said.

The story author Conant tells in her biography is a tale of triumph over almost insurmountable odds. The military certainly didn't want her on the battlefield, nor did her male colleagues.

"She was brash. She behaved badly sometimes. She used the whole arsenal of feminine wiles to get ahead because it was not a level playing field and she thought, 'Why should I play fair?' So she would do anything to get a scoop, and she became notorious," Conant said.

Notorious because Higgins was not above-using sex to get a story.

"She was very straightforward. She was not the least abashed of talking about sex or her affairs of what she had to do," Conant said.

So her demure appearance on the game show "What's My Line" was a skillful illusion by a person who risked her life so often, that she paved the way for a legion of female war correspondents.

"She did really kick down the barriers and open the way for the next generation, but she wasn't always gracious and personable about it," Conant said.

Conant said those who knew Higgins either loved her or loathed her, but her legacy is undeniable.

She was the first woman ever to win the Pulitzer Prize as a foreign correspondent.

"Fierce Ambition" brings her to life as only the very best biographies can.

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