Segment 1

Working as a Reporter and Earning a PhD

The War Changed the World in Many Ways

Informing the Public

German POWs, French Pilots and Changing Roles of Women

Training as a WAC for a Few Days

Interviewing French Pilots


Hamilton gives a vivid description of growing up during the Great Depression. Times were tough but her family made it through. She attended collage at Birmingham-Southern University.The war broke out while she was in college. She and her father were sympathizers of Charles Lindbergh. However, after Pearl Harbor occurred, she and her family changed their views.She graduated college in fall of 1941. Her first job was for a small newspaper in Anniston, Alabama. Interestingly she replaced a man who went to war. She was soon asked to take a reporter position for a larger newspaper in Birmingham, Alabama. She was part of a trend. There were many openings for women in many newspapers because many of the male reporters went off to war. Hamilton also notes that women were now writing about hard news stories and not just the social columns.


Virginia Hamilton was not content with just working in Alabama. She soon moved up to Washington DC and found work as a dictation girl for the Associated Press. She did this job for six months and more openings presented themselves. She took a reporting job on Capitol Hill covering Louisiana and Mississippi. At the time there were very few women reporters on the Hill [Annotator's Note: Capitol Hill]. Later, she was assigned as the woman reporter for the White House. In this position, she would cover social events at the White House. Her coverage was very limited. She was on duty when news came out that President Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Franklin D. Roosevelt] had died. She recalled that when this news broke, the AP news flash was: "FDR is Dead!" Hamilton's assignment was to get comments from influential people in the Washington DC area. She recalled that Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who was famous for always being verbose, was speechless. When FDR's casket was carried down Pennsylvania Avenue she wrote a "colored story." She stood on the street and dictated what the crowds were like and their reaction to the event. After the war, she decided to return to Birmingham and get married. She later worked as an investigative reporter for the Birmingham News. She also worked as an investigative reporter for Birmingham-Southern College. While working as a reporter, she noticed that her male colleagues working as professors were working less hours. Therefore she decided to pursue a master's degree in journalism and later a PhD at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa while juggling work and raising a family. When she was working towards her PhD she noticed that there was a bit of sexism at her university because they only granted one other woman a PhD. She relates a story that they gave the previous PhD candidate the grade of A when they did not realize the student was a woman. However, they started to give her lower grades when they found out the student was a woman. Hamilton was given a hard time by the all male faculty. She did have one professor who encouraged her, but no one else. She eventually did earn her PhD but did not forget the harsh treatment that she received. After she graduated, she taught at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She witnessed the transformation of the University to include women professors, black students and the first black faculty member.


Virginia Hamilton discusses other notable interviews that she conducted during the war including Senator Bilbo from Mississippi, Senator Al Gore, Sr., and Percy Priest among many others. She mentions that these Senators and Representatives treated her like their daughter and not seriously but if they wanted something in the paper they would make it available to her. Another notable recollection was eating lunch with Senator Joseph McCarthy. Hamilton believes that the biggest change that the war brought to the United States was the creation of the GI Bill of Rights. She explains how this gave an opportunity to many veterans who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to obtain a college education. She noticed this firsthand at Birmingham-Southern University when a large number of veterans began to attend the university. She adds that the "racial revolution" and the women's movement began after the war as well. Hamilton believes that the war definitely changed the rest of the world in many different ways including the United States becoming the world's preeminent power.


While Virginia Hamilton was working as a reporter in Anniston, Birmingham, and Washington DC, she felt respected and treated well by the men she worked with. However, after the war was over, she and other women did feel the pressure to leave their current jobs and let the men have their jobs back. She added that most of the southern girls left their jobs, but many of the girls that came from the east, stayed, including her colleague Helen Thomas. When the war started, she wrote a column called the "Ration Diary" in the Birmingham News newspaper that informed its readers about the different coupons for items that were being offered that week. She talked highly of how rationing and the buying of war bonds allowed civilians to assist with the war effort. She later talks about her experiences in Miami that became her book Searching for Clarke Cable. During the war, while in Birmingham, she would take on different jobs that women assumed during the war for a few days. She recalls her experiences with the Womens' Army Corps. Also, she remembers that most of these women were from humble backgrounds who wanted to do something different.


Virginia Hamilton wanted to go visit some German POWs [Annotator's Note: prisoners of war] at a work camp. The POWs were put to work in the field. Her editor, however, thought otherwise because it might be dangerous and gave her an assignment to interview a group of French pilots that were training in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Hamilton enjoyed talking to the handsome young men. She asked all sorts of questions such as how they felt about the war and how their training was going. While in Washington DC, she and other girls went to the country for a weekend and noticed that there were a lot of German POWs working in the field. They wanted to talk to the men, but were forbidden to do so. At the end of the war, she left her job for teaching and raising a family. She started a PhD in her mid 40s. She states that the greatest change in her life was the change in the role of women in society.

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