Vietnam War journalist Anne Morrissy Merick, a pioneer in her field, has died at age 83 from dementia-based complications.
According to the Associated Press, Merick successfully combatted the sexism that prevented women from covering the Vietnam War. Sent overseas in 1967 by her employer, ABC, she protested Gen. William Westmoreland’s order that women had to return to base every night, rather than remaining out in the field with the troops. Staying in the field was necessary for any journalist who intended to cover a combat mission.
“An edict like Westmoreland’s would prohibit women from covering the war,” Morrisy Merick wrote in War Torn: Stories of War From the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam. She co-authored the book with eight colleagues in 2002. “It was a knockout blow to our careers. We had to fight.”
Together with Overseas Weekly editor Ann Bryan Mariano, Merick assembled roughly a half dozen women covering the Vietnam War to combat this order. Ultimately, the Department of Defense overturned Westmoreland’s dictate.
But it was not Vietnam where Morrisy Merick first caught the public eye. In 1954 she became the first female sports editor of The Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell University’s student newspaper.
Sports columnist Red Smith shook his head at this turn of events.
“This sports writing doll breached the last bastion of masculinity left standing this side of the shower room,” he lamented.
Upon graduating from Cornell, Morrisy Merick assumed another sports editor position—this time at the New York Herald Tribune’s international edition. She was hired by ABC in 1961, where she covered both the space program and the Civil Rights movement before spending nine months in Vietnam.
She died today in Naples, Florida. Her daughter, Katherine Anne Engleke, made the announcement.