Frances FitzGerald (journalist)

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Frances FitzGerald

Frances FitzGerald (born October 21, 1940)[1] is an American journalist and historian, who is primarily known for Fire in the Lake (1972), an acclaimed account of the Vietnam War. It was a bestseller that won the Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft Prize, and National Book Award.

Early life[edit]

Frances FitzGerald was born in New York City, the only daughter of Desmond FitzGerald, an attorney on Wall Street, and socialite Marietta Peabody. Her grandmother was a prominent activist in the civil rights movement of the 1960's,[2] and from an early age, FitzGerald was introduced to a wide range of political figures.[3] Her parents divorced shortly after World War II. From 1950 to his death in 1967, her father was an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, becoming a deputy director.

As a teenager, FitzGerald wrote voluminous letters to Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, her mother's lover, [4] expressing her opinion on many subjects, a reflection of her deep interest in world affairs.[5] She graduated from Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia and magna cum laude from Radcliffe College, then a women's college associated with Harvard University.


FitzGerald became a journalist, particularly active at the time of the Vietnam War. Her debut book, Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (1972), was met with great acclaim when it was published, and is still considered one of the most notable books about the Vietnam War. For Fire in the Lake, she won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, the Bancroft Prize for history, and the U.S. National Book Award in Contemporary Affairs.[6][7]

FitzGerald has continued to write about history and culture: her published books include America Revised (1979), a highly critical review of history textbooks published in the United States; Cities on a Hill (1987), an analysis of United States urban history compared to ideals; Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War (2000), a Pulitzer Prize finalist;[8] and Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth (2002).

Her most recent book, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, was published on April 4, 2017 and is a definitive history of the evangelical movement, its central figures, and its long-reaching influence upon American history, politics, and culture.

FitzGerald has also written numerous articles, which have been published in The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Architectural Digest, and Rolling Stone. Her "Rewriting American history" was published in The Norton Reader. She serves on the editorial boards of The Nation and Foreign Policy magazines. She serves as vice-president of International PEN.

Personal life[edit]

FitzGerald is married to James P. Sterba, a former writer for The Wall Street Journal. They live in New York City and Maine. Sterba featured the latter in his 2003 book Frankie's Place: A Love Story.[9]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Frances FitzGerald, Magazine Writer, Married to James P. Sterba, Reporter". The New York Times. 1990-12-23. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-13. 
  3. ^ Applegate, Edd (1996-01-01). Literary Journalism: A Biographical Dictionary of Writers and Editors. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313299490. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Her letters are in the Adlai Stevenson Collection at Princeton University.
  6. ^ "General Nonfiction". Past winners and finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  7. ^ "National Book Awards – 1973" (web). National Book Awards. 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-03. .
    There was a "Contemporary" or "Current" award category from 1972 to 1980.
  8. ^ "History". Past winners and finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  9. ^ Jim Sterba, Frankie's Place A Love Story, Jim Sterba website (This is the home page 2012-03-17.)

External links[edit]