November 01, 2002

Aiding Siberia

In 1918, Florence Emilie Hoffman was a young journalist working for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. She wrote under the byline of Felicia Forrester, and many of her published writings were tongue-in-cheek spoofs--she was a master of light, frivolous or flippant pieces. Yet she also did investigative reporting, exposing such things as the squalid conditions that existed in Honolulu tenements. In reporting on a barnstormer working the islands, she became the first woman to fly in an airplane in Hawaii.

While she lived a life in relative luxury in Hawaii, Florence Hoffman longed for adventure and wanted to help those suffering in Siberia during Russia’s Civil War. So, when Hoffman’s editor, Riley Allen, prepared to lead a 14-member Red Cross unit to Siberia to help refugees there, she jumped at the chance to join him, setting sail for Vladivostok on November 15, 1918, aboard the Japanese ship Shinyo Maru.

What follows are a collection of the dispatches and letters that Hoffman wrote for the Star-Bulletin and for family, as well as photos she took while working in Siberia, many never before published. As one of America’s first female war correspondents, she offers a first-hand perspective on the history of this era that is as colorful as it is compelling.

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