Ann Hagedorn

Highlights of a Life

Ann Hagedorn was born in Dayton, Ohio. She grew up first in Dayton, then Kansas City, and Cleveland. Travel seemed always to be a part of her life—at various times, she has lived in Detroit, Chicago, Ann Arbor, San Francisco, Lawrence (Kansas), Brooklyn, and Greenwich Village. Ann now resides in Ripley, Ohio.

Hagedorn attended Denison University, graduating in 1971 with degrees in history and psychology. She received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University where she graduated with highest honors. She also attended the University of Michigan, receiving a M.L.S. in Information Science (again with highest honors). She attended the Goethe Institute focusing on German Language and Literature.

As a journalist, Ann covered state and federal courts in the East Bay region of San Francisco for the San Jose Mercury News for a year and then moved to the Wall Street Journal where she covered the retail industry, federal trials, legal issues, and finally investigative pieces. Numerous stories by Hagedorn found their way to the front page of the Journal, among them pieces on the Teamsters, the McMartin child molestation trial in Los Angeles, penny stock fraud, securities fraud, geriatric inmates in federal prisons, and Rudolph Giuliani. The trials she covered included those related to the fall of Ivan Boesky and the calamities of the millionaire sons of Texas mogul H.L. Hunt as well as the downfall of Drexel Burnham Lambert.

In 1993, after leaving the Wall Street Journal, Hagedorn moved to the New York Daily News as a Special Projects Editor. While there, she also wrote multi-part series on George Steinbrenner and his ill-fated American Shipbuilding Company (for which she won the Associated Press award for business writing), the death penalty, and lawyers who launder money for drug cartels. Ann then left the newspaper business in 1995 in order to devote time to writing books.

Wild Ride: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc. was published in 1994. A story of greed in the 1980s told through the saga of America’s premier horseracing dynasty, the investigative piece was inspired by two federal investigations—one resulting in three trials and for convictions. The book was optioned by Universal Pictures in 2003.

Ransom: The Untold Story of International Kidnapping was published in 1998. Hagedorn’s book takes the reader on an unprecedented journey through two years of global kidnappings, with a narrative focus on a 1995 incident in Kashmir involving a Spokane doctor and others kidnapped by terrorists trained in Afghanistan. An enduring theme of the text is that historically, a rise in kidnappings in any culture has occurred in times of deep social and economic transition and is a warning sign of serious problems. A precautionary tale that echoes in the events of 2004, Ransom suggests that people beyond our borders hate and fear Americans and calls for a realistic assessment of this issue in the light of world events. The book clearly shows that Islamic extremists use kidnappings to fill their coffers will millions of dollars in ransoms, and it includes an in-depth look at hostage negotiation at the FBI, Scotland Yard, and private firms such as Control Risks Group.

Hagedorn’s third work, Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad, for which she was named as a citation winner of the nonfiction category in the 2004 Ohioana Book Awards, emerged from her time in Ripley, Ohio. While researching another project, Hagedorn discovered information about Ripley, causing her to move from New York to Ripley to do further research. Hagedorn had incorporated information from old trial records, diaries, letters, newspapers and tombstones in order to tell the stories of the behind-the-scenes heroes of the Ripley “line” of the Underground Railroad.

Beyond the River resurrects the major players of the underground movement in the Ohio Valley where the war before the war was fought between abolitionists and slave catchers on each side of the river. The book abolishes myths surrounding the Underground Railroad—especially the one about slaves being passive victims. It hails unsung heroes—free blacks and whites, men and women—who were active in the underground and suggests that blacks and whites worked closely together in the underground movement along the Ohio River. The story shows the greatness of the American social movement, going beyond the tunnels and secret rooms to the lives of the participants and in doing so, peels back a window into the racial prejudice of our culture.

Notable historian and Ohio native Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. calls Beyond the River “as vivid in its narration as it is scrupulous in its scholarship,” and Smithsonian Magazine refers to the story as a “groundbreaking chronicle.” Beyond the River was selected as a 2004 Most Notable Book by the American Library Association.

When not writing, Ann spends some of her time teaching. Since 1993, she has lectured at Columbia University’s Graduate School of journalism. In 1999, she added narrative nonfiction writing to her roster. In 2002 she taught the same course at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. In addition, she has lectured and conducted writing workshops at several other schools, including Denison University.

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