Margaret Moth as a young woman
  • Margaret Moth as a young woman

Journalist and camerawoman Margaret Moth is one of a kind.

No doubt. No argument. And definitely no tears.

Born Margaret Wilson, Moth changed her last name after asking herself what stopped her from having her own moniker rather than inheriting her father’s, or adopting a husband’s.

Her choice was inspired, she says, by a friend’s Tiger Moth plane, from which she frequently sky dived as a young woman.

Aside from the fact that she chose her own name, Moth was unique in other ways. She was, for example, the first female camerawoman in New Zealand (and Australia).

But the name change, and the first-in-her-field distinction are minor details in the landscape of Moth’s amazing life.

What really sets her apart are her devotion to her work, her complete and utter fearlessness, and the strength of her character -- even, maybe even ESPECIALLY, in the face of death. She doesn't consider herself a heroine. But many others do.

Legendary CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour says in a September 2009 CNN documentary that she felt quite intimidated by the “larger than life” Moth before she met her in Sarajevo in the early 1990s.

(Click here to watch CNN's three-part video tribute to Moth’s life)

Moth, says Amanpour, was extraordinary in how she looked, dressed and behaved in those early days. Describing how Moth, who wore black almost exclusively, behaved in the field, Amanpour says:

“You know what? She sleeps with her dark combats boots on…”

In the compelling three-part CNN documentary, one colleague after another describes Moth’s incredibly brave (some might say foolish), behaviour in the midst of conflict and war, where she did whatever it took to film what was happening ‘up close and personal,’ often with complete disregard for her own safety.

On July 23, 1993, Moth, who was with colleagues in the back seat of a vehicle, all of them on assignment, was hit in the face by sniper fire.

“I don’t remember the actual shot,” she says. “But I remember it must have knocked me over…. It felt like my face was falling off… I was trying to hold it on. I knew I had to keep calm, and that I had to stay conscious. If I go unconscious (I said to myself), I’ll stop breathing. I knew that.”

As it turned out, the bullet had ripped apart Moth’s lower jaw, a good portion of which was gone, along with the base of her tongue.

Amanpour paints a picture of what Moth looked like in hospital:

“She was completely enveloped in bandages, her face was unrecognizable, she was SO badly wounded. And the only thing I recognised was her hands. She had very distinctive, strong hands….” “I remember distinctly,” says Amanpour, “that it was while we were visiting her (in the hospital), that the assignment editor from the international desk called, and he said to me: ‘So Christiane, are you ready to go back to Sarejevo,?’ and I thought, apart from how insensitive can you be? I’m in this room with my colleague who’s been wounded beyond recognition, and then I said, yes….”

At this point, the war-steeled Amanpour stops to gather herself. It’s evident that she is overcome with emotion, and is fighting back tears.

“I said I’d go back, and I know to this day,” she says her voice cracking, “that if I had not said yes then, I probably never would have gone back and I probably never would have done this career, but I said yes because I couldn’t say no…”

Read into that statement what you will.

After more than a dozen surgeries to rebuild her jaw, Moth returned to the Sarajevo war zone in 1994, wearing – she tells her colleagues jokingly in the film – a bulletproof vest.

Two and a half years ago Margaret Moth was diagnosed with terminal cancer, a fast growing cancer of which she is not afraid. She underwent treatment, but it hasn't changed the outcome, about which she appears to be comfortable.

In September 2009, she went into hospice. There’s no doubt she continues to be fearless now, just as she has been her entire life: forging her own path in the crossfire, bravely, with humour, clad in black and with the utmost panache.

I’m absolutely certain she’s not crying as I write this. But I am.

Thank you Margaret Moth for a courageous, adventurous, brave life well-lived.

See the full blog post of this story here: And the three-part CNN documentary here:

Comment on this Post


Wow! Thank you for sharing this with the PulseWire community. Maragaret Moth is an inspiration to women around the world. I watched one the videos on CNN, it was incredible.It was so stunning to hear her speak, and to realize the power of this woman. I love the name she chose, moth. I appreciated this woman's life story. I would like to re-quote her, " I said yes because I couldn’t say no…” May we all find that passion and direction in life. A tug at our hearts and a bravery in our soul, that drives us into a mighty journey through life. This article brought tears to my eyes. Susan, thank you for your perspectives and your voice.

pensive, Jody

Thanks for sharing this story. Its women like her who open new avenues for women. They are such inspiring role models for wome all over the world.

Thanks once again and looking forward to read more such stories from u.


With best wishes,

Nusrat Ara 

WorldPulse Community Champion (Environment Group) 

Margaret Moth is a role model and inspiration to so many Kiwis in the field of journalism and her courage at this time is just a small part of what makes her so amazing. She has never allowed her injury and facial disfigurement to interrupt her life and that typical Kiwi attitude of "just do it" embodies her spirit and fortitude.

As she so eloquently stated: "Life is like a Tennis Game and that we can not control how the ball comes, but can control how we hit it back."

Margaret Moth epitomizes a life of amazing courage, relentless self discovery, and remarkable achievement. As Margaret stated, some people are heroes, some are cowards, and the rest fit somewhere in between. As with many baby boomers who has never faced a World War, a Depression, and have lived a middle class life most of our parents and grandparents would consider king like, I find the majority of my generation fits into the coward category. Having never faced the life and death scenarios of war, or worried about feeding my children with no jobs available, boomers in the western world have become shallow in character, fearful of risk, and narcissistic in nature. Margaret Moth is the antithesis of an older, braver, more selfless generation. Her belief in getting the real story out to the world with her images, no matter what the risk, gave me shivers. Reading between the lines, I sense that Margaret was unique in many ways. Quirky, not worried how others viewed her, and obsessively relentless in her in her quest for truth in her images. It appears she did not set boundaries for herself, and lived a full life with no regrets or concern for how others judged her. I'm certain the term "Political Correctness" never entered her mind.

The free world needs more heroes like Margaret Moth, and fewer "Politically Correct" cowards in positions of power and authority. In my work, I shake my head every day, for I deal with people in authoritative & influential positions over young people. A few of these individuals I admire, but sadly, I would categorize the majority as cowards. More Margaret Moths in positions of authority and influence would help create what the western world so sorely lacks: Heroes with beliefs, who fearlessly put their well being on the line everyday, and damn the consequences.

Reid Felske Victoria, B.C. Canada

The photojournalism world mourns a true role model whose professionalism and dedication will be sadly missed. To a woman who lived with no regrets, I say thank you for opening up the world for us.