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Lady Intrepid

Ruth Gruber has seen it all—from refugee camps to Virginia Woolf’s parlor

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Ruth Gruber
Ruth Gruber aboard the Henry Gibbins

Ruth Gruber first made headlines in 1932, when, at the age of 20, she was touted as the youngest person in the world to earn a Ph.D. (Her thesis was on Virginia Woolf.) Soon after, she got her first byline, in the The New York Times, and in 1935 she became an international correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune.

During and after World War II, Gruber documented efforts to bring Jewish refugees to safety. She accompanied 1,000 refugees from Italy to New York on the Army troop ship Henry Gibbins, and greeted the passengers of the blockade-runner Exodus 1947 when that ship limped into harbor in Haifa after being attacked by the British. Later, she would turn her attentions to the plight of those seeking safe passage out of North Africa, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere—always with notebook and camera in hand.

At 95, Gruber can still vivdly recount these episodes. She’s gathered some of them, along with 190 photographs, in her 19th book, Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells her Story, and recently shared some of her stories with Nextbook’s Sara Ivry.

Displaced Persons camp for children, Leipheim, Germany, 1946
Displaced Persons camp for children in Leipheim, Germany, 1946

Photo of displaced children by Ruth Gruber. 

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Lady Intrepid

Ruth Gruber has seen it all—from refugee camps to Virginia Woolf’s parlor

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