Over her more than two decades as a foreign conflict correspondent, Anne Garrels has reported from some of the most dangerous places on earth. Known for reporting directly from the frontlines, Garrels’ tremendous skill in bringing the news of the world to our doorsteps from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, and most recently Baghdad, makes her one of the greatest journalists of her generation.
Anne Longworth Garrels was born July 2, 1951 in Springfield, Massachusetts to John C. and Valarie S. Garrels. Her mother died when Garrels was 25, and her father is a retired Chairman and Managing Director of Monsanto Ltd. in London. She was much younger than her two siblings and developed an independent, precocious spirit. At the age of 8, she moved to London with her family and attended boarding school. In 1968, she returned to the United States to attend Radcliffe College. She graduated in 1972 with a degree in Russian and a keen interest in events going on inside of what was then the Soviet Union.
Shortly after graduation, Garrels accepted a research position at ABC News, and soon found herself on assignment in Moscow, largely due to her fluency in Russian. She had never been on the air and suddenly found herself thrust into all aspects of production, from reporting to running the camera. Many Russians were afraid to speak to the press because of the totalitarian state in which they lived. However, over the course of her time in Moscow, Garrels built relationships and came to deeply understand the struggle of the Russian people to maintain human dignity. Her strong investigative reporting led to her promotion as Moscow Bureau Chief and, in 1982, to her expulsion from the Soviet Union.
Garrels was then assigned to Central America as ABC News Bureau Chief. Working in El Salvador and Nicaragua, she was able to talk to opposing factions to compile a more complete picture of the ongoing political conflicts. Returning to the U.S. in 1985, Garrels moved to Washington, D.C. to take a new position as State Department Correspondent at NBC News. While in Washington, she met her future husband and on June 14, 1986, she and James Vinton (Vint) Lawrence married.
In 1988, she joined National Public Radio (NPR) and opened its Moscow Bureau. In the 1990s, she also covered the wars in Bosnia and Chechnya, where she began to realize that the rules of war had changed. Far from being respected and protected, journalists, humanitarian aid workers, and UN officials became prime targets for militants because they were worth both money and propaganda points. During her more than two decades at NPR, Garrels covered the fall of the Soviet Union, events at Tiananmen Square in China, the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, both Gulf Wars, and the war in Afghanistan.
Perhaps best known for her coverage of the most recent Iraq War, Garrels was one of only two women among 16 American journalists who remained in Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel to report on the war before, during and after the American bombing campaign. The fear of being killed or taken hostage was never far from her mind. At one point, she was even the only broadcast journalist left as the city was being shelled by American tanks.
In 2003, Garrels published Naked in Baghdad, a memoirabout her time in Iraq. The title carries a double meaning. First, she had no protection as she reported the events going on around her. The second meaning is more poignant. While reporting from the Palestine Hotel, she frequently broadcast naked so that, if Iraqi security agents knocked on her door, she would be able to ask for time to get dressed and hide her satellite phone, her only link to the outside world and her only means to broadcast her coverage of the war.
Anne Garrels has lived her life bravely reporting on wars, though she never intended to become a journalist, and particularly not a war correspondent. In her words, “the wars found me.” She continued to cover conflicts around the world because she is interested in telling the stories of those most affected by the ravages of war. Preferring to report from the frontlines rather than from a pressroom, she took many risks and saw friends and colleagues killed or injured in the line of duty. Garrels met and interviewed many different kinds of people who challenged the status quo including murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, American military officers who challenged accepted wisdom in war and Russian artists and curators who questioned nationalism and the role of religion and faced prison for doing so. She has helped tell the stories of aid workers, doctors, teachers, diplomats and thoughtful lawyers and bankers in Iraq who refused to take sides. And she has done all of this with poise and grace, fulfilling her self-defined role as a “good witness.”
Garrels has won nearly every major broadcasting award including the George Polk Award for her work in Iraq, the 2004 Edward R. Murrow Award, the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, and the Los Angeles Press Club’s Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism. She continues to share her extraordinary life with the public, recently being the 2011 Commencement speaker at the University of Hartford. Garrels also contributes her time to Human Rights Watch, and is a member of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists and Oxfam International. In 2016 she published Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia. She currently lives on a farm in Norfolk, Conn., with her husband and three Labradors, and she continues to work as a freelance writer.
During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice
Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”
A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.
Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.
Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.
A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.
Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent. Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.
The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.
Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.