Long before the advent of frequent flyer programs, journalist Alice Rogers Hager, Stanford, logged more than half a million air miles across six continents between 1930 and 1948. This Tri Delta trailblazer combined her skill in writing with her fascination with flying to specialize in aviation journalism and establish a career that saw her covering historic events around the world.
A Witness to History
Alice’s newspaper career began at 17 when she took a part-time position at the Los Angeles Herald. By 1929, her fascination with flying led her to specialize in aviation writing. She contributed to magazine and newspaper articles that focused on airplanes and the men and women who flew them, covering many critical events in aviation history.
Thanks to her longtime friendship with airport staff in Lakehurst, New Jersey, she was given a desk with a direct line to Washington while she waited for the arrival of the Hindenberg. Alice was eye witness to the airship’s tragic crash and able to report quickly to her paper on the events as they unfolded.
In 1939, Alice kept a night-long vigil with George Putnam, husband of Amelia Earhart, in a Coast Guard station off the California coast before learning the famous flier was lost. “We got three signals,” she recalled, “but we knew before the night was over that she was probably lost.”
Early Pan-American Flyer
Alice was interested in the international aspects of the aviation industry as it expanded. In 1939, she was one of 15 reporters and photographers on a press flight of Pan-American Airlines from New York to Paris, inauguring its commercial group flights.
From War Correspondent to Novelist
World War II brought new opportunities for international reporting. Alice worked for Skyways Magazine during the war, serving as its Washington editor and an accredited war correspondent in the China-Burma-India theater. After the war, she used her experiences to write “Wings for the Dragon,” a story of the air war in Asia. Life with her two daughters inspired her to put her writing to work on young adult fiction, writing several popular novels for young women.
Another First … In Public Information
Having served as chief of public information for the Civil Aeronautics Board, in 1948, Alice was assigned as a foreign affairs officer in Brussels, serving as an embassy attaché and chief of the U.S. Information Service. This post made her one of the first three women to serve the federal government as a public information officer in a foreign country. Before her retirement in 1957, Hager had served as U.S. Information Agency foreign affairs officer in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland.
Alice earned many awards during her long career, including the War Department Citation of Merit, the China-Burma-India Theater Ribbon, and the Avon Gold Medal for War Correspondence. In recognition of her books about Brazil, she was awarded the Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross and the Medal of Merit of Santos Dumont by the that nation’s air force.
Despite her travels, Alice called Washington, D.C., home for most of her life. She died there in 1969.