Dorothy Thompson

Thompson, Dorothy

Time Period

1910-1940

Notable Facts

First woman to head a foreign news bureau and first foreign correspondent to be expelled from Nazi Germany on the personal order of Adolf Hitler.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

07/09/1893

Date of Death

01/31/1961

Primary Residence

Barnard

Religion

Methodist

Ethnicity

German

Historical Significance

Dorothy Thompson was the first woman to head a foreign news bureau and first foreign correspondent to be expelled from Nazi Germany on the personal order of Adolf Hitler. She was a powerful force in the antifascist movement, the trusted advisor of presidents and prime ministers, and talented columnist, commentator and reporter. Thompson was often referred to as the First Lady of American Journalism.

Born in Lancaster, New York on July 9, 1893, Dorothy Thompson was the daughter of Peter Thompson, a newly ordained Methodist minister from England and Margaret Grierson, a Chicago resident of Anglo-Irish descent - the two met when Peter was in Chicago visiting relatives in 1890. Margaret and Peter soon headed back to England, with a honeymoon stop at Niagara Falls. There, a chance encounter led to a "charge" - as a Methodist parish is known - in Lancaster, New York, an industrial town near Buffalo.

Three months after Thompson's birth, the family moved to Clarence, New York, where her younger brother and sister, Peter Willard and Margaret, were born. After a short period of time, the family relocated to Tonawanda, New York and then subsequently transferred to Hamburg, New York in 1900. It was in the suburb of Buffalo that Thompson lived most of her childhood. The two-story Methodist parsonage on Union Street sat opposite the schoolhouse and across a wide lawn from Reverend Thompson's church. It boasted two parlors, one formal and cold "where portraits of John Wesley and Frances Willard hung on the walls and glared down at children, visiting dignitaries, and couples who came to be married. The other was comfortable, shabby and always inviting - a room where Thompson and her family gathered at different times to read, pray, stitch, darn, rest, play games, converse..."

When Thompson was eight, her mother died, but not before eliciting a promise from her eldest child to take care of her father and little sister. Shortly thereafter, Rev. Thompson's widowed sister, Elizabeth Hill, arrived to take charge of the house. It was during the next couple of years that Thompson became a voracious reader. She was allowed to read anything and everything and even punishment consisted of memorizing entire poems, whole chapters of the Bible, sonnets of Shakespeare and the entire Constitution of the United States.

In 1903, Thompson's father married Eliza Abbott. From the very beginning, Thompson had a very contentious relationship with her stepmother and in 1905, it was decided that she would be sent to live in Chicago with her father's sisters, Margaret and Hetty, one a widow and the other a spinster. Thompson would spend the next five years of her life in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. She received an Associate of Arts degree from Lewis Institute of Chicago in 1912 and a Bachelor's degree from Syracuse University in 1914. Thompson's first job was with the New York State Suffrage Association. She also began to sell articles to the Times, Tribune, and Sun, and to magazines - the Outlook and Leslie's Weekly.

Thompson married three times during her life: First, in 1923, to Josef Bard, an occasional correspondent for Reuters and the Associated Press; in 1928, to Sinclair Lewis, America's best-selling novelist of the 1920s and author of Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith and Elmer Gantry, and finally, in 1943, to artist Maxim Koph, "the man I should have married in the first place."

It was her marriage to Sinclair Lewis which connected Thompson to Vermont. Arriving in New York from London in August, 1928, the couple immediately began looking for rural real estate. In September they visited the Barnard summer home of E. F. Connett, their New York landlord, where they fell in love with the property, two farmhouses and panoramic mountain views. Lewis promptly purchased the property from Connett for $10,000. "Twin Farms" became a summer refuge - a haven where they both worked.

Organizations or Movements

  • New York State Suffrage Association

Occupations

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • Writer
  • Columnist
  • Commentator
  • Reporter

Education

  • College

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Duffy, John, eds. "Dorothy Thompson." In The Vermont Encyclopedia. University of New England Press, 2003.
  • Vermont's Historic Markers Link
  • Dorothy Thompson Link