After a trailblazing 40-year career in journalism, Anne Morrissy Merick ’55 died of complications from dementia in Naples, Fla. on May 2, according to her daughter Katherine Anne Engleke.
Morrissy Merick, whose career spanned from covering sports to covering the battlefield during the Vietnam War, was an active advocate for women’s rights in journalism.
As a Cornell undergraduate in 1954, she received national recognition when she became the first female sports editor of The Sun. Later that year, she became the first woman credentialed to sit in the press box at the Yale Bowl, Yale’s football stadium.
In an alumni blog, William F. Waters ’54 said that her position at The Sun was a “gender milestone” greeted with “snarky condescension” by the male dominated profession.
For example, New York Herald Tribune columnist Red Smith wrote in 1954 that she was a “slick little chick whose name probably will be linked in history with those of other crusading cupcakes.”
The Chicago Tribune also wrote the same year that “she can write a fashion review, giving a description of the costuming in Dartmouth green or Harvard Crimson, and what accessories the athletes carried.”
Despite gender criticism from other reporters, Morrissy Merick continued to break down professional barriers, becoming a sports editor of the international edition of the New York Herald Tribune after graduation.
She became an associate producer at ABC in 1961, where she covered the Civil Rights Movement and the space program, then worked for nine months in Vietnam, AP News said.
In 1967, when ABC assigned her to cover the Vietnam War, U.S. Commander General William Westmoreland ordered that female reporters could not spend the night in the field with the troops. This order would make it impossible for female reporters to go on combat missions, according to the AP.
She called Westmoreland’s order a “knockout blow” to female reporters in a book she co-authored in 2002, titled War Torn: Stories of War From the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam.
“In Vietnam it was impossible to determine just where the front lines were,” she wrote. “The war was everywhere. An edict like Westmoreland’s would prohibit women from covering the war.”
Morrissy Merick and Overseas Weekly editor Ann Bryan Mariano organized female war reporters to challenge Westmoreland’s order, and ultimately overrode his order after appealing to the Defense Department.
“We had to fight!” she added.
Correction: a previous photo used with this story misidentified an individual as Morrissy Merick.