Anne O’Hare McCormick was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1882. Both of her parents were American. Her father was a life insurance salesman, and her mother was a poet and journalist. Shortly after Anne’s birth, her parents moved the family back to the United States, settling in Columbus, Ohio.
Anne attended school and graduated from St. Mary’s College in 1898. She was inspired by her journalist mother to pursue a writing career and took a job editing the Catholic Universe Bulletin, a national magazine for Catholics.
In 1910, Anne married Francis J. McCormick. Francis was an engineer who imported large equipment. Francis regularly traveled to Europe for business, and Anne wanted to join him. She quit her job at the Bulletin, but continued to write as a freelancer. Her articles appeared in magazines like Catholic World, Reader Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and The Saturday Evening Post.
As Anne gained more experience, she hoped to find steadier work with a larger publication. In 1921, she wrote a letter to the managing editor of The New York Times and asked if she could send him news stories while living in Europe. He accepted her offer and was immediately impressed by her work. She was quickly assigned to write regular pieces describing life in Europe for an American audience.
Anne developed a reputation for thorough reporting and clear writing. Her colleagues often described her as intelligent and observant. Anne was one of the first reporters in the world to argue that Benito Mussolini would successfully rise to power in Italy. While others dismissed the Italian people’s commitment to fascism as temporary, Anne rightly believed that Mussolini’s charisma and public speaking skills ensured the oppressive system gained lasting support.
Anne was an expert networker with a welcoming personality. When she arrived in a new city, she prioritized establishing new contacts. In the years before World War II, she secured interviews with some of the most important leaders in Europe. Her interview list included Neville Chamberlain, Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Josef Stalin. Anne maintained her subjects’ trust by taking few notes and listening carefully to what they said. Her interviews were more like conversations than formal interviews. Her articles focused on describing the mood of the conversation and her subjects’ personalities. In this way she helped American readers understand the tone of what was happening at the highest levels of government.
Throughout the early 1930s, Anne wrote almost exclusively for The New York Times. In 1935, the Times’s lead publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, invited Anne to join the newspaper’s editorial board. Anne was the first woman to hold this high-profile position at the paper. Arthur assigned Anne to be the Times’s “freedom reporter” and encouraged her to travel the world—especially Europe—and write about places where she believed freedom was threatened.
Anne fulfilled these instructions by writing three world affairs columns for the Times each week. Anne investigated politics, leaders, business, and day-to-day happenings. She visited the highest levels of government and local communities. She wanted Americans to understand what life was like for Europeans of all levels of power and influence. Anne traveled extensively and studied current events so that she could be at the right place at the right time. She was often successful. She witnessed world leaders meeting, nations declaring independence, and armies invading new territories.
Anne’s won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1937 in recognition of her hard work and skillful reporting. Two years later, the National Federations of Business and Professional Women named her Woman of the Year.
All the rulers of Europe have shriveled or aged during the past few years. . . when they are alone, they are tired and baffled men who have paid a heavy price for power.
After the United States entered World War II, Anne continued to report from abroad and provide commentary on what she saw. Many Americans followed her columns and respected her views.
After the war ended, Anne served as a delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1946 and 1948. She also received honorary degrees from several colleges, including Columbia University, New York University, Ohio State University, Smith College, and Wellesley College.
Anne died in New York on May 29, 1954 at the age of 72.