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Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent Kindle Edition
In this fascinating memoir, Ruth Gruber recalls her first twenty-five years, from her youth in Brooklyn to her astonishing academic accomplishments and groundbreaking journalistic career. She shares her experiences entering New York University at fifteen and just five years later becoming the world’s youngest person to earn a PhD. She recounts her time in Cologne, Germany, studying during Hitler’s rise to power, and her adventures in Europe and the Arctic as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune.
Spirited and compelling, Ahead of Time is a striking account of the early years of a woman at the center of the twentieth century’s turning points.
About the Author
Ruth Gruber (1911–2016) was an award-winning Jewish American journalist, photographer, and humanitarian. Born in Brooklyn in 1911, she was the author of nineteen books, including the National Jewish Book Award–winning biography Raquela (1978). She also wrote several memoirs documenting her astonishing experiences, among them Ahead of Time (1991), Inside of Time (2002), and Haven (1983), which documents her role in the rescue of one thousand refugees from Europe and their safe transport to America. Gruber passed away in 2016 at the age of 105.
- ASIN : B00BBPVX0E
- Publisher : Open Road Media (October 19, 2010)
- Publication date : October 19, 2010
- Language : English
- File size : 7389 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 336 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #615,698 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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It is said throughout most of history, women have had fewer legal rights and career opportunities than men. In 1920, women won the right to vote and to increase their job opportunities. Amid race discrimination and anti-Semitism, the only positions available for most minorities were housekeeping jobs. But Ruth Gruber, daughter of Russian, immigrant, Orthodox Jews, was one of the lucky ones.
Ms. Gruber was born in 1911, the fourth child of five. The family resided over their small business in Brooklyn, New York.
At age five, she appeared to be a precocious and curious child. While in labor, her pregnant mother, Gussie, ordered Ruth’s older siblings to visit their grandparents. She told Ruth to take a nap. Ruth’s father had rushed out to get the doctor.
Instead of obeying her mother, she crept out of bed and watched her mother singlehandedly give birth to her brother, atop the kitchen table.
A voracious reader, 10 years later, she enrolled at New York University at 15. One of her first jobs as a teen was editing a book for a Czechoslovakian Count. At his retreat in Greenwich Connecticut, she discovered Jews were not permitted to purchase property or homes there.
At 18, she won a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, to enhance her German studies. She boldly hitchhiked from Brooklyn, New York to Wisconsin.
While in Wisconsin, she received a fellowship for one-thousand dollars from the Institute of International Education, in Cologne, Germany.
A year later, in 1932, she became the youngest woman to receive her doctorate, in Cologne. She wrote her thesis on Virginia Woolf.
She was in Germany on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power. Alone, she attended a Nazi rally of Brownshirts to get a first-hand look at the paramilitary group. She left the meeting shocked and frightened at their vehement diatribe concerning Jews.
The Jewish host family she lived with ignored her fears. The father in the home had fought in World War I. Because of this, he believed his family would be pardoned.
Before leaving Germany, she visited her sister’s friend, an American attending an Austrian medical school. She indicated Jews were not accepted in American medical schools, hence her sister’s friend had to study abroad.
When Ruth and he visited the university’s campus that evening, the laboratory he shared with other Jewish students had been wrecked and their laboratory projects destroyed.
Before leaving for home, a friend stated his thesis had been stolen.
When she returned to New York, her parents wanted her to settle down and get married, but the unquenchable Ruth was a wanderlust.
She could not obtain a full time job. However, in 1935, she began working as a Foreign Correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. At the Tribune, she had no desk or office, and was considered part-time. Although not mentioned, I doubt she received equal wages during that time.
But she wanted to write about women under fascism and communism in the Soviet Union.
Representing the New York Herald Tribune, she flew to Europe.
Before traveling to Russia, she visited Germany and Poland. Hitler had seized control in Germany. Her former German beau had joined the Nazi party. He looked at the Nazis through rose-colored glasses.
When she reached Poland, she visited family members. However, suspicious Polish authorities curtailed her visit and demanded she leave.
Once in Russia, having an introduction letter, she made the right contacts there. However, her visits to certain areas were delayed for several weeks. She required an additional visa to travel.
When she arrived in the Soviet Arctic, the local director, of the former NKVD, now the KGB, refused her request to interview Trotskyites and other prisoners. He permitted her to have a brief interview with a professor of historical India, who served his sentence in the Soviet Artic.
Ruth became the first American woman to visit the Yakuts, an indigenous people living in Yakutsk, part of the Soviet Artic.
Before her departure, she met female Yakuts at a five-day women’s conference. They stated the 1916 Revolution had liberated women. They believed socialism made women equal with men and that their lives were fuller.
I enjoyed reading the audacious and resolute Ms. Gruber’s educational accomplishments and her travels to Germany and Eastern Europe.
Unyielding to family pressure, and what was expected of women during that era, she was a liberated woman before her time.
To most, Ms. Gruber’s writing might appear limited on her subjects. The reason could have been that war had begun to ferment, ultimately leading to Germany seizing Poland in 1939. In 1943 Russia defeated Germany at Stalingrad.
During Ms. Gruber’s visit to Russia, I believe the Soviets were genial and permitted her to visit anywhere she requested. However, they limited her resources, the interviewees and what information they provided. She had an interpreter, Tanya, whom I deemed her bossy, opinionated, sentry.
Ms. Gruber’s writing about Germany’s dreadful transformation would have been a more interesting survey of that period. However, on her return as a correspondent, before traveling east, she saw the fear in the eyes of German citizens being herded away by the Nazis. She was warned by a concerned citizen to leave before she became a victim. Therefore, it was far too dangerous that she stay.
When she left the Soviet Arctic, Ms. Gruber questioned what the experience had meant to her. Did it change her? She felt she still had all her limitations and faults. But she received new understanding and faith in herself.
Ms. Gruber is alive and 103 years old.
I found it fascinating. What I was not expecting to read was a first person account of a woman watching the "brewing" of WWII from within Europe, and subsequently Russia. And, it all came together by accident. Interesting to see the connections between seemingly unrelated events in seemingly unrelated places. Never mind what this woman accomplished before most women were in a position to accomplish anything close to what she acheived. After all, this was in the 1930s!
This is a remarkable story, and very well written. I intend to read her other books.