People & Events
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.