Carol Starre-Kmiecik visited us to discuss Dorothy Fuldheim, the first lady of television news, while in character as Fuldheim.
Here are 10 things we learned from her talk:
- Fuldheim’s family was so poor that when her brother died of strep throat, they buried
him in an orange crate instead of a coffin.
- Fuldheim loved reading from a young age. Even as a child, she would read a book and two full newspapers each day.
- Despite her poverty, Fuldheim went to college and she paid for it by working at a department store.
- Fuldheim always loved big, ostentatious hats. And she blew her first $50 paycheck that she earned teaching on an especially nice lid.
- Jane Addams—the founder of Hull House and first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize—discovered Fuldheim when she was performing in regional theater. Addams loved Fuldheim’s voice and hired her to give lectures on social issues. From there, Scripps Howard hired her to write news.
- Fuldheim traveled Europe as a journalist and even interviewed Adolf Hitler. After hearing him speak, she told him that she disagreed with everything he said. (Fuldheim, however, thought it best not to tell him that she was Jewish.) The next day, local Munich papers claimed that Hitler had been harangued by a “hysterical American woman.”
- Fuldheim also interviewed Benito Mussolini during her tour of Europe. While in Italy, the US Embassy warned Fuldheim not to have any issues of Fortune magazine with her, because it had published something negative about the Fascist. Fuldheim destroyed an issue of the offending magazine by shredding and flushing it down the toilet. It clogged the plumbing in her hotel for two days.
- When Channel 5 in Cleveland first hired her to read the news on television, they did it on a temporary basis. They told her she would have the job for 13 weeks, until they could find a man to replace her. Instead, she stayed anchor for 37 years.
- During her career, she interviewed a slew of presidents (her favorite was Harry Truman); Joe Namath (whom she offended by not recognizing him); the Duke of Windsor; Helen Keller; Martin Luther King Jr.; and entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee (whom Fuldheim found to be warm and well-read.)
- Despite her success, Fuldheim knew tragedy. She outlived her daughter, Dorothy Jr., who died of a heart attack in 1980.