Rebecca West (1892–1983) and Dorothy Thompson (1893–1961), both world-class journalists, were “new women” who sought not only to match the exploits of their male contemporaries, but to become, in the current argot, “brands.”

West turned her coverage of the Nuremberg trials into a profound inquiry into the nature of international justice, exposing the problematic and yet justifiable process of judging war criminals. The Allies, too, were guilty of atrocities, West pointed out—even as she provided the rationale for their sitting in judgment against their Nazi enemies. Her reports on the postwar treason trials put her on the cover of Time, adorned in a helmet-like hat that emphasized her militant pursuit of international events that she alone seemed able to absorb into her capacious and extraordinarily articulate sensibility.

Thompson, who befriended West in Germany as the...

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