Biographical Information:
Dates: 1910-1994 Dates in Ridgefield: 1930-1994
fiction, nonfiction, journalism
reporter, first chairman of the Ridgefield Historic District Commission
“I didn’t invent the title ‘sob sister,’ but I’m the first gal reporter who ever used it,” Mildred Gilman Wohlforth told an interviewer in the 1980s. The term described Roaring 20s reporters who specialized in heart-rending stories of personal tragedies, and Mildred Gilman was one of the originals and one of the highest paid in New York. She defined “sob sister” as “a reporter who almost literally sobbed with the victim, the culprit, the families of both.” Her subjects ranged from sordid crimes to White House society, interviewing murderers and heads of state with equal expertise. She also wrote eight novels--one of them, Sob Sisters, was made into a movie--as well as countless articles for magazines such as Redbook, American Mercury, and Readers Digest. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin; after graduation she got a job as secretary to noted New York World columnist Heywood Broun. She frequented parties with the likes of Dorothy Parker, Alexander Wollcott, Robert Benchley, Harpo Marx, Bennett Cerf, Sinclair Lewis, Paul Robeson, and Harold Ross, all of whom, along with others, became known as the Algonquin Round Table (she wrote one of the first profiles--on Robeson--for Ross’s new New Yorker). While working for Hearst’s New York Evening Journal, she met Robert Wohlforth, a reporter for the competing Morning Telegraph. They were married in 1930, and bought a 1730 home on Rockwell Road. She continued to write throughout her life, and among the many celebrities she interviewed were Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Shirley Temple, Amelia Earhart, Gene Kelly, and Jimmy Durante. In the 1930s, she went to Germany as a reporter for the International News Service to interview Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering. She was supposed to interview Hitler, but the Gestapo, distressed at probing questions she had already asked Hermann Goering, threw her out of Germany. In Ridgefield, she was the first chairman of the Historic District Commission, promoted planning and zoning, and wrote scores of letters to The Ridgefield Press. Well into her 90s, she rode her bicycle three miles a day. She died in 1994 in Ridgefield at the age of 97.

Titles (partial):Fig Leaves, 1919Sob Sisters, 1931The Woman Angle (date unknown)Sobbed for Mr. Hearst (date unknown)Diary of Alice (date unknown)
--Sources: Notable Ridgefielders-Jack Sanders; New York Times obituary, January 6, 1994, www.diglib.princeton.edu