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Australian Woman War Reporters: Boer War to Vietnam

In today’s news world it is the considered norm for women to be reporting from war torn regions, in the thick of the fighting or amidst the devastation of an earthquake or other dramatic world event. The women in the front line are there to do a job, the fact that they are female has little to nothing to do with the quality of the reporting, or the events they are there to cover.

In today’s world the reporters, whether they be male or female are  in nearly all there on their own as modern technology is very transportable, consisting of a smart phone, a laptop and a good camera mounted with sound gear. This era in journalism is like none other: it is the era of the photojournalist; on the spot, highly mobile sending instant broadcasts to the world

But this was not always the case. For women to have been able to be considered equal in what was traditionally a male dominated workplace, there had to be the pioneering women; the women, who took themselves off to war to report in most instances, the ‘female perspective or the woman’s angle’ of war for the likes of the ‘Catholic Press’, the ‘Advertiser’ and the’ Adelaide Chronicle’ to name a few.

Between 1900 and 1975 more than thirty Australasian women reported from conflict areas; the first of these being Agnes Macready, who paid her own passage to South Africa at the time of the Boer War, as both a nurse with the New South Wales Army Nursing Service Reserve and reporter for the Catholic Times. Her first article was written on the eve of a battle which was a slightly reflective piece on being both an Australian and a woman in a war zone. She remained in South Africa until August 1901 and was considered as one of the final two reporters to leave the battlefields.

Edith Dickenson, following in her footstep’s, also went to the Boer War and was one of the very few to write about the appalling conditions in the ‘concentration camps’; a report which was to be considered significant in the historic events which followed. Louise Mack came next and is reportedly the only woman reporter to have been present at the German Invasion of Antwerp, at the commencement of World War I, in 1914.

Over the many years in-between women are now, and have been, present at all the major conflicts in world politics. They are treated with respect; do not have to garnish their stories with embellishments or report from a woman’s point of view, as they are there in the thick of the world news, the events which will be recorded in history. On returning to a life they left far behind, they suffer the reality of what they have seen, reported on and absorbed.

In telling the stories of so many women war reporters Jeannine Baker has created a wonderful tribute to the immensely  significant contribution these women have made, and are still making, not just to the Australian and New Zealand public for more than 100 years, but to world history.

Author Jeannine Baker
Publisher New South Publishers
ISBN 9781742234519
Released September 2015