Lewis was born into a Jewish family in Los Angeles. She attended University of California at Los Angeles graduating summa cum laude in 1941 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, receiving her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1942.
From 1945 to 1972, Lewis was married to New York Times, correspondent, editor, and publishing executive Sydney Gruson. She and Gruson had three children: Kerry (born in Ireland), Sheila (born in Israel), and Lindsey (born in Mexico).
The New York Times then had a rule against hiring wives of its correspondents, Lewis, however, contributed frequently to The New York Times Magazine and wrote for other publications.[ S
From 1956 to 1966 Lewis was a reporter for The Washington Post, where her work landed her on the master list of Nixon political opponents. In 1972 the New York Times appointed her foreign and diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times. She has the distinction of being the first woman to be given her own column on the New York Times op-ed page.
Flora Lewis wrote five books: Red Pawn: The Story of Noel Field, The Strange History of an American Caught Up in an International Communist Intrigue (NY: Doubleday, 1965) (published in England as: The Man Who Disappeared: The Strange History of Noel Field [London: Barker, 1966]); A Case History of Hope: The Story of Poland's Peaceful Revolutions (Garden City, NY, 1958); Europe: A Tapestry of Nations (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987); and One of Our H-bombs is Missing (NY: Bantam, 1987)
Seymour Brody likens Flora Lewis's life to "that of a juggler in trying to balance her role as a journalist, wife, and mother," concluding that her achievements in the male-dominated profession "opened the way for other women to enter and to succeed in the newspaper industry." Rupert Cornwall stated that "Lewis had formidable assets, starting with an access to those in power that often made her colleagues green with envy. More important, she possessed a mind that could cut to the essential of an issue with astonishing speed. To her writing she brought a clarity and analytical power that enabled her to explain complicated issues without ignoring all-important nuances".
Not everyone admired her work. Columnist Eric Alterman wrote that when Lewis was given her own column on the op-ed page of the New York Times, the first woman to be so honored, "she filed from Paris what was quite possibly the most boring regular column in the history of journalism", which "certainly contained no hint that the writer was a woman". The The New Republic's "World's Most Boring" headline competition was inspired by a Lewis column titled "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative".
She died of cancer in 2002.
Flora Lewis was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Edward Weintal Award (1978); the Cross of the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France's highest peacetime award (1981); the Matrix Award for Newspapers from New York Women in Communication (1985), and the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award in Arts and Letters from New York University (1987). She was also honored four times by the Overseas Press Club for best foreign-affairs reporting (1957), for best daily newspaper or wire interpretation of foreign affairs (1963 and 1977), and for best analysis of foreign affairs in Western Europe (1979).
- Pearson, Richard (June 3, 2002). Journalist, Author Flora Lewis Dies. Washington Post
- Whitney, Craig R.(June 2, 2002). Flora Lewis, Astute Observer of World Affairs for The Times and Others, Dies at 79New York Times
- Cornwall, Rupert (June 28, 2002).Flora Lewis Trailblazing US foreign correspondentThe Independent
- Ari L. Goldman. Flora Lewis 1922 – 2002Jewish Women's Archive
- Associated Press (June 3, 2002). Flora Lewis, 79; Foreign Correspondent, Expert on EuropeLos Angeles Times
- Brody, Seymour Flora LewisJewish Virtual Library