Remembering Helen Thomas

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Tributes have started rolling in for Helen Thomas, one of the first women to break into Washington's notoriously (to this day) male-dominated press corpsHer death was announced on Saturday by the Gridiron Club. Thomas was 92 years old. 

The seasoned Washington reporter covered the White House for 49 years, spanning ten Presidents. Her first White House beat was covering the youthful idealism of the Kennedy presidency in 1960. Her career ended during a time of similar hope in the wake of the election of Barack Obama. Working for United Press International and Hearst Newspapers, she covered Nixon in China and the Reagan assassination attempt and, well, just about everything else that had to do with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and its occupants. 

But Thomas's career came to an abrupt end in 2010 when she was videotaped making unflattering remarks about Israel at a White House party. "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she said on the tape, while speaking with a rabbi. "Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land. It's not Germany, it's not Poland." The famously opinionated reporter quit her job as a Hearst columnist shortly after the scandal. 

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But Thomas will be remembered for breaking barriers for women trying to report in Washington throughout her lengthy career. This is a small, incomplete list of pioneering positions and distinctions Thomas held during her illustrious tenure as a reporter. Nevertheless, they are testament to her manifold achievements:

  • She was the first woman to be a White House bureau chief for a major wire service.
  • She was the first woman officer for the White House Correspondents' Association.
  • She was the first woman president of the White House Correspondents' Association.
  • She was also the first woman to join The Gridiron Club, a who's-who fraternity of Washington power-playing journalists. 

Journalist started sharing their best stories of the pugnacious Thomas as news of her passing spread on social media: 

But perhaps the best anecdote passed along was the image of an aging Thomas showing she still had plenty of spirit left:

That's Helen Thomas in a nutshell. She will be missed, both in the capital and throughout the nation.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.