In 1900, the young and beautiful Leonel Ross Campbell became the first female reporter to work for the Denver Post. As the journalist known as Polly Pry, she ruffled feathers when she worked to free a convicted cannibal and when she battled the powerful Telluride miners’ union. She was nearly murdered more than once. And a younger female colleague once said, “Polly Pry did not just report the news, she made it!”
If only that young reporter had known how true her words were. Polly Pry got her start not just writing the news but inventing it. In spite of herself, however, Campbell would become a respected journalist and activist later in her career. She would establish herself as a champion for rights of the under served in the early twentieth century, taking up the causes of women, children, laborers, victims and soldiers of war, and prisoners. And she wrote some of the most sensational stories that westerners had ever read, all while keeping the truth behind her success a secret from her colleagues and closest friends and family.
Julia Bricklin is the author of the only biography of female sharpshooter Lillian Frances Smith (University of Oklahoma Press: April 2017) and of trailblazing reporter Nell Campbell, aka "Polly Pry" (TwoDot Books: September 2018). She has authored a dozen articles in well-respected commercial and academic journals, such as Civil War Times, Financial History, Wild West, True West and California History.