Start with a solid upbringing as the daughter of an artist father in late 19th-century Kansas; add a college education at a time when women were generally not college-bound; combine a heaping helping of five years in turn-of-the-century New York City with a dash of women’s rights. Then, fold in recovery in a Colorado sanitorium from tuberculosis, and experience in Rome during World War I as a bureau chief with a touch of intrigue as a suspected spy. Finally, spice it up with interviews with the likes of writer Ezra Pound, actress Sarah Bernhardt, and playwright Luigi Pirandello, and you have the recipe for the life of pioneering woman photojournalist Alice Rohe.
Primarily a newspaperwoman, Rohe (1876 – 1957) worked during a period when reporters took their own photographs to illustrate their stories. Starting as founding editor of the Kansas State University student paper, Rohe worked on papers in Lawrence and Kansas City, had her own page three column in New York’s Evening World, and worked as the first female overseas bureau chief for a major American press service in Rome.
Rohe’s access to Mussolini enabled her to predict his rise to power. While in Italy, Rohe wrote pieces on subjects as diverse as the tiny republic of San Marino and the culinary delights of Fettucini Alfredo. With a zest for life, Rohe struggled to overcome bouts of depression while still finding time to amass a significant collection of Etruscan art. Not a bad life at all for “The Girl from Kansas”!