There's a large iMac sitting on her desk and she writes everyday -- but Ruth Gruber still says, "I'm technologically illiterate."
Then she laughs, her eyes crinkling in amusement: "They're inventing the 21st century," she says. "I'm learning a new language: Twitter, Google, things like that. They could probably put together a whole dictionary just of 21st-century words."
The computer is still a tool that she's learning to use -- "At least I can make the type big enough so I can read it" -- the latest in a life that's lasted almost a century, and which is finally being given the kind of public acclaim it deserves in a documentary film.
Called Ahead of Time, the film (which opens in limited release Friday, 9/10/10) by director Bob Richman follows Gruber's remarkable career as a pioneering journalist and writer from the 1920s onward. She was a witness to history several times over, reporting everywhere from Siberia to Alaska, covering the journey of the Exodus to Palestine in 1947, working for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration and the New York Herald Tribune, meeting and befriending everyone from Virginia Woolf to Harry Truman to David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir.
The author of more than 20 books, she became the youngest woman ever awarded a Ph.D. at the age of 20 in 1932. And now, finally, Ahead of Time tells her story -- that of a woman who opened doors for other women simply by refusing to be told she couldn't.
"It never occurred to me that I was a trailblazer," she says, sitting in her Central Park West apartment. "I don't think what I did took courage. I just took every opportunity and never questioned the difficulty of what I was doing."
Gruber will be 99 at the end of September. When she talks, her voice is quiet and breathy, one of the indicators of her age -- but her memory is sharp and her answers are witty and articulate.
"I never stopped," she says simply. "When I won a lifetime achievement award from the Overseas Press Club, someone asked me what my secret was and I said, 'Four simple words: never, never, never retire.'"
Her age? "I'm aware of it everyday. I have help around the clock. I fell about three months ago and broke a vertebrae. It took time to heal. Every now and then I wake up and think, 'Another day.'"
The film, Ahead of Time," named after one of her books, was discussed for years.
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