Martha Gellhorn

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Martha Gellhorn
Martha Gellhorn

Martha Gellhorn (8 November 1908 - 15 February 1998) was an American novelist and journalist considered one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century. During her sixty-year career, she reported on virtually every major world conflict which took place during that period. Gellhorn was also the third wife of American novelist Ernest Hemingway, from 1940 to 1945.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gellhorn graduated from that city's John Burroughs School and enrolled in Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia. In 1927, she left before graduating to pursue a career as a journalist. Her first articles appeared in the The New Republic. In 1930, determined to become a foreign correspondent, she went to France for two years where she worked at the United Press bureau in Paris.

While in Europe she became active in the pacifist movement and wrote about her experiences in the book, What Mad Pursuit (1934).

Upon returning to the US, Gellhorn was hired by Harry Hopkins as an investigator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which sent her to report about the impact of the Depression on the United States. Her reports for that agency caught the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt, and the two women became lifelong friends. Her findings were the basis of a novella, The Trouble I've Seen (1936).

In 1937, Gellhorn was hired by Collier's Weekly to report the Spanish Civil War. While in Spain, she met Ernest Hemingway; the couple later married in 1940. Gellhorn subsequently travelled to Germany where she reported the rise of Adolf Hitler and in 1938 was in Czechoslovakia. After the outbreak of World War II, she wrote about these events in the novel, A Stricken Field (1940). She later reported from Finland, Hong Kong, Burma, Singapore and Britain. Lacking official press credentials, she impersonated a stretcher bearer in order to witness the D-Day landings. As Gellhorn later recalled, "I followed the war wherever I could reach it."

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Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway

After the war, Gellhorn worked for the Atlantic Monthly, covering the Vietnam War, the Six-Day War in the Middle East and the civil wars in Central America. Only when the Bosnian war broke out in the 1990s did she concede she was too old to go: "You need to be nimble."

Gellhorn published a large number of books including a collection of articles on war, The Face of War (1959), a novel about McCarthyism, The Lowest Tress Have Tops (1967), an account of her life with Ernest Hemingway, Travels With Myself and Another (1978) and a collection of her peacetime journalism, The View From the Ground (1988). Gellhorn died in London in 1998 at the age of 89.

Gellhorn resented her fame as Hemingway's third wife, remarking that she had no intention of being a footnote in someone else's life. As a condition for granting an interview, at times she insisted that Hemingway's name not be mentioned.

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