The biography of renowned war correspondent Marguerite “Maggie” Higgins, written by journalist and best-selling author Jennet Conant, delves into the significant role that her appearance played in shaping her career and experiences. Higgins’ life story, covered in Conant’s biography, underscores how gender has profoundly influenced the world for women.
Born in 1920 in Hong Kong to a French mother and an Irish father, Higgins grew up in Oakland, California. Her unique heritage made her feel like an outsider in her middle-class community. At the University of California, Berkeley, she forsook sorority life for radical politics, journalism, and a more liberated lifestyle. Yet, when her romantic involvement with the college newspaper’s managing editor led to an abortion, Higgins confronted the harsh reality that the game she aspired to participate in was rigged against her.
This awareness did not deter her but instead, it freed her from concerns about professional ethics. She secured a place at Columbia’s journalism program and landed a job at The New York Herald Tribune, even exaggerating her credentials to secure the role.
Maggie Higgins worked relentlessly, often going to great lengths to succeed. As women were not invited to the exclusive “club” of journalism, she had to carve her path to success. This male-dominated field found men captivated by her beauty while being critical of her unapologetic methods.
The biography features insights from interviews with her fellow journalists, revealing the gendered bias she faced throughout her career.
While Higgins wrote with vigor and had an eye for unique angles, it is challenging to assess her real talents due to the cloud of gender-related issues that surround her. Despite her tumultuous personal and professional life, her gender always seemed to be a focal point, undermining her true potential.
Higgins’s biography presents a broader perspective on the rivalries and dynamics within the media industry during the mid-20th century, with gender playing a pivotal role in shaping her experiences. Although Higgins excelled as a war correspondent, the struggles she faced due to her gender remained a central theme throughout her extraordinary life.
Repurposed article originally published in New York Times