March is Women's History Month so this seems like an appropriate time to feature war correspondent Peggy Hull and her ties to Geary County.
Henrietta Eleanor Goodnough, later known as Peggy Hull, was born September 30, 1890 on a farm near Bennington Kansas to Ed. and Minnie Eliza (Flinn) Goodnough. At a young age her family moved to Marysville, Kansas. During her teenage years the family moved to Junction City, Kansas.
Peggy was 16 years old when she applied for a job at the Junction City Sentinel newspaper. Editor, A.D. Colby, told her he had already hired a reporter, but if she wasn’t worried about her fingernails and was willing to set type, she had a job. Peggy took the job as a typesetter and it wasn’t long before she had the opportunity to demonstrate her reporting skills.
There was a fire in Junction City and with no other reporters available Peggy got permission to cover the story. She proved herself to be a capable reporter and continued working for the Sentinel for two years as a reporter and typesetter.
From 1909 to 1916 she worked for newspapers in Colorado, California, Hawaii, and Minnesota. When World War I broke out Peggy knew she had to be there to cover the story. Her editor originally denied her request because she was a woman but later changed his mind, and in June 1917 she left for a US training camp in France.
There was professional conflict between her and the male correspondents. Many thought that a woman could not handle the pressure of reporting so close to the front. At that time the few women who did make it to the front were accompanied by an officer at all times so they did not get any closer to the action than what was believed necessary. This made their jobs even more difficult as it restricted where they could go and what they could report on. Her critics eventually succeeded in getting her recalled to the US under the pretense that she did not have the proper credentials to be in a war zone.
That did not stop her and in the summer of 1918 she traveled to Washington, D.C. to petition the War Department for permission to become an official war correspondent. The War Department was strongly against having female reporters in the field, but in October 1918 she was given her official war correspondent status, making her the first female war correspondent accredited by the United States Government.
Her career spanned 31 years and allowed her to travel all over the world. She once stated, “I'll never tire of doing this work, and as long as we have American boys in isolated parts of the world, I want to write their story for them." Her stories had a great impact on her audience and made her a popular writer. The stories had a very human aspect and focused on subjects such as the men, their families back home, the mess hall food, and other day to day things.
A soldier wrote to Peggy during the war: "You will never realize what those yarns of yours… did to this gang… You made them know they weren't forgotten."
In 1953 Peggy retired to Carmel Valley, California. She died of breast cancer in 1967.