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Ruth Gruber's Travels 'Inside of Time'

Ruth Gruber at her home in New York City.
Ruth Gruber at her home in New York City.

For nearly a century, Ruth Gruber has traveled many roads and played many roles. She's been a journalist, a photographer and even a roving government bureaucrat.

Her 91-year journey has taken her from the Arctic to the White House to Jewish refugee camps and the founding of Israel. NPR's Steve Inskeep caught up with a remarkable woman who keeps on working -- and writing --

Born in 1911 in Philadelphia, Gruber was first an academic prodigy. Shortly after the university at Cologne, Germany, granted her a doctorate in 1932, The New York Times referred to her as the world's youngest Ph.D. She was all of 20.

Her career as a journalist began in the difficult years of the Great Depression. She started by chronicling her Brooklyn neighborhood, and then at the age of 23 became the first journalist -- male or female, Russian or Westerner -- to report from the Arctic, in what was then the Soviet Union.

In 1941 Gruber was appointed by Harold Ickes, President Franklin Roosevelt's interior secretary, to be Ickes' personal representative in Alaska. She traveled the state for the government, looking for places returning soldiers might settle.

In 1944 she played a key role in resettling nearly 1,000 European Jews at a refugee camp in Oswego, N.Y.

After the war, Gruber reported extensively on the difficulties of the Jewish refugees in postwar Europe, and their settlement in Palestine.

In that pursuit she met with many of the era's key figures, including President Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt and pioneering leaders of the future Israel such as Golda Meir and David Ben-Gurion.

She's written many books about the people and places she's seen in her extraordinary travels. Her latest is Inside of Time: My Journey From Alaska to Israel, covering the period from 1941-1952. It includes a selection of her photographs from those years.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.