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Thomas established a number of firsts for women journalists in becoming one of Washington’s best known reporters. She was the first woman officer in the White House Correspondents Association in its 50-year history, becoming its first woman president. In 1975, she broke the 90-year all-male barrier at the Gridiron Club, an organization of leading Washington journalists, and became its first female president in 1993.
She also supported scores of women starting out in the news business.
Thomas became UPI White House bureau chief in 1974, the first woman to head a wire service bureau there. She stayed in that position until 2000 when she joined Hearst.
Thomas’s career began as a copy girl on the Washington Daily News and she joined what was then known as United Press in 1943.
Thomas first came to public notice during the Watergate era when she started receiving late-night phone calls from Martha Mitchell, the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, discussing the scandal.
“I have witnessed presidents in situations of great triumph and adulation, when they are riding the crest of personal fulfillment, and I have seen them fall off their pedestals through an abuse of power or what President Clinton called ‘a lapse of critical judgment,’” she wrote in the memoir “Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times.”
Thomas married a professional rival, Douglas Cornell of the Associated Press, in 1971. He died in 1982.