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People & Events
Annie Laurie


Annie Laurie
"I'm not a sob sister or special writer, I'm just a plain, practical,
all-around newspaper woman" -- Annie Laurie

From society murders to tidal waves, sex scandals to suffering orphans, the front pages of the William Randolph Hearst's newspapers sold sensation from coast to coast. And on front page after front page, story after story, the byline attached was that of Annie Laurie.

Born on October 14, 1863, in Chilton, Wisconsin, Martha Winifred Sweet began her professional life as an actress. On a trip West in 1889 she bluffed her way onto the staff of Hearst's "San Francisco Examiner," adopted the pen name Annie Laurie, and took her first assignment -- covering a flower show. But Annie Laurie would not settle for life on the society page.

Like Nellie Bly before her, Laurie discovered that shocking stories sold papers and brought acclaim. Disguised as an indigent patient, she exposed improper conduct by the staff of San Francisco's city hospital. She traveled to Utah to titillate readers with details of polygamous marriages among Mormons, and to Hawaii, where she penned firsthand accounts of life in the leper colony at Molokai. Laurie disavowed the appellation "sob sister," but her characteristically maudlin prose often detailed the deaths of unfortunate children, the lives of fallen women, and the travails of the down and out.

Annie Laurie covered some of the most important stories in the nation's history, including the murder trial of socialite Harry K. Thaw, the destruction of Galveston, Texas, by a hurricane, and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. She wrote well into her later years and developed a worldwide following. When she died in 1936, she lay in state at City Hall in San Francisco, where thousands came to mourn her passing.

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