Anne Morrissy Merick, who successfully took on one of America’s most powerful military leaders in a fight for equal treatment of female reporters during the Vietnam War, has died at the age of 83.
Morrissy Merick died May 2 of complications from dementia in Naples, Fla., her daughter Katherine Anne Engleke said.
ABC had assigned Morrissy Merick to cover the war in 1967 when U.S. commander Gen. William Westmoreland ordered that female reporters could not spend the night in the field with the troops. That made it impossible for the female reporters to go on most combat missions as there would be no way for them to return to the base at night.
Morrissy Merick and Overseas Weekly editor Ann Bryan Mariano organized the half-dozen female reporters covering the war to challenge Westmoreland’s order. They appealed to the Defense Department, which finally overrode Westmoreland.
“An edict like Westmoreland’s would prohibit women from covering the war. It was a knockout blow to our careers. We had to fight,” wrote Morrissy Merick in the book she co-authored in 2002 with eight colleagues, “War Torn: Stories of War From the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam.”
Morrissy Merick gained national attention in 1954 when she became the first female sports editor of Cornell University’s student newspaper. “This sports writing doll breached the last bastion of masculinity left standing this side of the shower room,” famed sports columnist Red Smith wrote.
After graduation, she became sports editor of the international edition of the New York Herald Tribune.
In 1961, she was hired as an associate producer at ABC, where she covered the civil rights movement and the space program. She worked for nine months for ABC in Vietnam. While there, she met her husband, U.S. News and World Report reporter Wendell “Bud” Merick. She stayed with him in Vietnam until 1973, when the magazine closed its bureau. He died in 1988.
She married Dr. Don R. Janicek and lived with him in Naples until his death in 2016. She is survived by her daughter, a sister and four granddaughters.