Journalism and the world lost one of its greatest on Saturday, the “Dean of the White House Correspondents” Helen Thomas died at her home in Washington. She was 92.
She had a lot of “firsts” for women in journalism. She broke down the walls of the traditional “old boys’ clubs” of the Beltway:
Thomas was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, and the first female member of the Gridiron Club [..]
In 1962, Thomas convinced Kennedy to not attend the annual dinners held for the White House correspondents and photographers if they disallowed women from attending. Kennedy moved for the dinners to be combined into one event, with women allowed to attend. In 1970, UPI named Thomas their chief White House correspondent, making her the first woman to serve in the position. She was named the chief of UPI’s White House bureau in 1974.
Thomas was the only female print journalist to travel to China with President Richard Nixon during his 1972 visit to China. During the Watergate scandal, Martha Beall Mitchell, wife of United States Attorney General John N. Mitchell, frequently called Thomas to discuss how the Nixon administration was using Mitchell as a scapegoat.
She was the only member of the White House press corp to have her own seat, all the other seats are designated for the media outlets. She often reminded her colleagues, “We are not here to be their friends.”
She was remembered fondly by many this weekend.
She is a the roll model for all us who report the news,
We are the watch dogs
Thank you, Helen Thomas