Out on 27 May 2021

Going with the Boys

Judith Mackrell

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27 May 2021
448 pages

On the front lines of the Second World War, a contingent of female journalists were bravely waging their own battle. Barred from combat zones and faced with entrenched prejudice and bureaucratic restrictions, these women were forced to fight for the right to work on equal terms as men.

Going with the Boys follows six remarkable women as their lives and careers intertwined: Martha Gellhorn, who out-scooped her husband Ernest Hemingway on D-Day by traveling to Normandy as a stowaway on a hospital ship; Lee Miller, who went from being a Vogue cover model to the magazine’s official war correspondent; Sigrid Schultz, who hid her Jewish identity and risked her life by reporting on the Nazi regime; Virginia Cowles, a 'society girl columnist' turned combat reporter; Clare Hollingworth, the first journalist to report the outbreak of war; and Helen Kirkpatrick, the first woman to report from an Allied war zone with equal privileges to men.

This intricately layered account captures both the adversity and the vibrancy of the women’s lives as they chased down sources and narrowly dodged gunfire, as they mixed with artists and politicians like Picasso, Cocteau, and Churchill, and conducted their own tumultuous love affairs. In her gripping, intimate, and nuanced portrait, Judith Mackrell celebrates these courageous reporters who risked their lives for a story and who changed the rules of war reporting for ever.

The strength of Mackrell’s insightful book is the way she shows just how many obstacles this courageous sextet faced in getting to the front . . . Women reporting the news from dangerous places may be a common sight today but reading Judith Mackrell’s Going with the Boys is an important reminder that it was not always so.

Anne Sebba, author of Les Parisiennes and That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

It’s excellent — beautifully researched, deeply sympathetic, and particularly insightful about Martha Gellhorn and Clare Hollingworth. They and the other women who went to war were pioneers in a dangerous profession who overcame fear and discrimination with grace and skill. Judith shows us clearly why their example is so important to today’s journalism. I really enjoyed it.

John Simpson

These six remarkable women writers shared courage, intelligence, competitiveness and a determination not be sidelined into the woman's angle; more than that, they left a legacy for war reporting that has shaped all those who have followed in their steps.

Caroline Moorehead, Samuel Johnson Prize shortlisted author of Village of Secrets