Photographer, broadcaster, and filmmaker Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson (1905-2002), grandchild of Vice President John Cabell Breckinridge, was a photographer, broadcaster and filmmaker. Following graduation from Vassar College in 1928, Breckinridge worked for the Frontier Nursing Service (a group comprised mainly of women that provided medical services to remote areas in Appalachia), earned a pilot's license (the first woman in Maine to do so), and assisted in the office of the Democratic National Committee. In 1932 she traveled to Africa where she documented the peoples and places throughout the continent.
She enrolled in the Clarence White School of Photography in New York in 1933, taking trainings on photographic developing and printing. She then worked in the office of Democratic congresswoman, and distant relative, Isabella Selmes Greenway, but soon returned to the Clarence White School of Photography for a longer course of study. Following graduation, she began selling photographs and sometimes articles in several magazines, including LIFE, Harper's Bazar, and Town and Country. Her film credits include "She Goes to Vassar" (1931), a film that provides an overview of college life at Vassar, and "The Forgotten Frontier", a documentary about the activities of the Frontier Nursing Service, a group comprised mainly of women that provided medical services to remote areas in Appalachia.
Travelling to Europe in 1939 on photojournalism assignments, Breckinridge was in Switzerland when the Nazis invaded Poland, starting World War II. She traveled to London to photograph the evacuation of English children, one of only four American photographers in England for the first months of the war. Edward Murrow hired her as the first female news broadcaster for the CBS World News Roundup to report from Europe. As the only female member of "The Murrow Boys", an elite group of only eleven broadcasters handpicked by Murrow, she broadcasted 50 reports from seven countries.
While working in Berlin, she married Foreign Service Officer Jefferson Patterson. She resigned from CBS, hoping to resume her career in photojournalism, but State Department policies restricted her ability to publish. The couple was posted in Peru, Belgium, Egypt, the Balkans and Uruguay.