Martha Gellhorn

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Martha Gellhorn
Gellhorn Hemingway 1941.jpg
Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway with General Yu Hanmou, Chungking, China, 1941.
BornMartha Ellis Gellhorn
(1908-11-08)November 8, 1908
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
DiedFebruary 15, 1998(1998-02-15) (aged 89)
London, England
OccupationAuthor, war correspondent
NationalityAmerican
Period1934–1989
GenreWar, travel
SpouseErnest Hemingway (1940–1945; divorced)
T. S. Matthews (1954–1963; divorced)
 
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Martha Gellhorn
Gellhorn Hemingway 1941.jpg
Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway with General Yu Hanmou, Chungking, China, 1941.
BornMartha Ellis Gellhorn
(1908-11-08)November 8, 1908
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
DiedFebruary 15, 1998(1998-02-15) (aged 89)
London, England
OccupationAuthor, war correspondent
NationalityAmerican
Period1934–1989
GenreWar, travel
SpouseErnest Hemingway (1940–1945; divorced)
T. S. Matthews (1954–1963; divorced)

Martha Ellis Gellhorn[1] (November 8, 1908 – February 15, 1998) was an American novelist, travel writer, and journalist, considered by the London Daily Telegraph, among others, to be one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century.[2][3] She reported on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career. Gellhorn was also the third wife of American novelist Ernest Hemingway, from 1940 to 1945. At the age of 89, ill and almost completely blind, she committed suicide.[4] The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism is named after her.

Early life[edit]

She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Edna Fischel Gellhorn, a suffragist, and George Gellhorn, a German-born gynecologist.[5][6] Her father and maternal grandfather were of Jewish origin, and her maternal grandmother was from a Protestant family.[5] Her brother, Walter Gellhorn, became a noted law professor at Columbia University. Her younger brother, Alfred Gellhorn, an oncologist and former dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, died at 94 in 2008.[7]

Gellhorn graduated in 1926 from John Burroughs School in St. Louis 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 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).

After returning to the US, Gellhorn was hired by Harry Hopkins as a field investigator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, created by Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare war, in a sense, on the Great Depression. She traveled to report on the impact of the Depression on the United States. She first went to Gastonia, North Carolina, where she used her skills of observation and communication to report on how the people of that town were affected by the Great Depression. Later, she worked with Dorothea Lange, a photographer during the Great Depression, to document the everyday lives of the hungry and homeless. Their reports later became part of the government files for the Great Depression. They were able to investigate topics that were not usually open to women of the 1930s, which makes Gellhorn, as well as Lange, major contributors to history.[8] Gellhorn's reports for that agency caught the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt, and the two women became lifelong friends. Her findings were the basis of a collection of short stories, The Trouble I've Seen (1936).

War in Europe[edit]

Gellhorn first met Hemingway during a 1936 Christmas family trip to Key West. They agreed to travel in Spain together to cover the Spanish Civil War, where Gellhorn was hired to report for Collier's Weekly. The pair celebrated Christmas of 1937 together in Barcelona. Later, from Germany, she reported on the rise of Adolf Hitler and in 1938 was in Czechoslovakia. After the outbreak of World War II, she described these events in the novel A Stricken Field (1940). She later reported the war from Finland, Hong Kong, Burma, Singapore, and Britain. Lacking official press credentials to witness the Normandy landings, she impersonated a stretcher bearer and later recalled, "I followed the war wherever I could reach it." She was among the first journalists to report from Dachau concentration camp after it was liberated.

She and Hemingway lived together off and on for four years, before marrying in December 1940 (Hemingway also lived with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, until 1939). Increasingly resentful of Gellhorn's long absences during her reporting assignments, Hemingway wrote her when she left their Finca Vigía estate near Havana in 1943, to cover the Italian Front: "Are you a war correspondent, or wife in my bed?" Hemingway himself, however, would later go to the front just before the Normandy landings, and Gellhorn would soon follow, with Hemingway trying to block her travel. When she arrived by means of a dangerous ocean voyage in war-torn London, she told him she had had enough. After four contentious years of marriage, they divorced in 1945.

The 2012 film Hemingway & Gellhorn is based on these years. The 2011 documentary film No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII features Martha Gellhorn and how she changed war reporting.[9]

Later career[edit]

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. At age 81 she even travelled impromptu to Panama where she wrote on the U.S. invasion. Only when the Bosnian War broke out in the 1990s did she concede she was too old to go, saying, "You need to be nimble."

Gellhorn published numerous books, including a collection of articles on war, The Face of War (1959); a novel about McCarthyism, The Lowest Trees Have Tops (1967); an account of her travels (including one trip with Hemingway), Travels With Myself and Another (1978); and a collection of her peacetime journalism, The View From the Ground (1988).

Peripatetic by nature, Gellhorn reckoned that in a 40-year span of her life, she had created homes in 19 different locales.

Personal life[edit]

Gellhorn's first major affair was with the French economist Bertrand de Jouvenel. It started in 1930, when she was 22 years old, and lasted until 1934.[10]

She met Ernest Hemingway in Key West in 1936. They were married in 1940. Gellhorn resented her reflected 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 interviews, she was known to insist that Hemingway's name not be mentioned.[11]

While married to Hemingway, Gellhorn had an affair with US paratrooper Major General James M. Gavin, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. Gavin was the youngest divisional commander in the US army in World War II.

Between marriages, Gellhorn had romantic liaisons with "L" Laurance Rockefeller, an American businessman (1945); journalist William Walton (1947) (no relation to the British composer); and medical doctor David Gurewitsch (1950). In 1954, she married the former managing editor of Time Magazine, T. S. Matthews, and settled down in London, which was to be her home for the rest of her life. She and Matthews were divorced in 1963.[12]

In 1949, Gellhorn adopted a boy, Sandy, from an Italian orphanage. Although Gellhorn was briefly a devoted mother, she was not a maternal woman. She eventually left Sandy to the care of relatives in Englewood, New Jersey, for a long period of time. Sandy endured many absences from Gellhorn during her travels and eventually attended boarding school. He grew to disappoint her, and their relationship became embittered.[citation needed]

However, the legacy of Gellhorn's personal life remains shrouded in controversy. Supporters of Gellhorn say her unauthorized biographer, Carl Rollyson, is guilty of "sexual scandal-mongering and cod psychology." Several of her prominent close friends (among them Betsy Drake, the actress who was once married to Cary Grant; journalist John Pilger; writer James Fox; and Martha's younger brother, Alfred) have dismissed the characterizations of her as sexually manipulative and maternally deficient. Her supporters include her stepson, Sandy Matthews, who describes Gellhorn as "very conscientious" in her role as stepmother.[13]

In 1972 she wrote:

If I practised sex, out of moral conviction, that was one thing; but to enjoy it ... seemed a defeat. I accompanied men and was accompanied in action, in the extrovert part of life; I plunged into that ... but not sex; that seemed to be their delight and all I got was a pleasure of being wanted, I suppose, and the tenderness (not nearly enough) that a man gives when he is satisfied. I daresay I was the worst bed partner in five continents.[14]

Death and legacy[edit]

Gellhorn died in London in 1998, aged 89, committing suicide by drug overdose after a long battle with ovarian and liver cancer and near total blindness. The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism was established in her honor.

Gellhorn was one of five individuals – and the only woman – honored in the 2008 American Journalists stamp series.

Gellhorn published books of fiction, travel writing, and reportage. Her selected letters were published posthumously in 2006.

In popular culture[edit]

On October 5, 2007, the United States Postal Service announced that it would honor five 20th-century journalists with first-class rate postage stamps, to be issued on Tuesday, April 22, 2008: Martha Gellhorn; John Hersey; George Polk; Rubén Salazar; and Eric Sevareid. Postmaster General Jack Potter announced the stamp series at the Associated Press Managing Editors Meeting in Washington. Gellhorn covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War.[15]

In 2011, Gellhorn was the subject of an hour-long episode of the World Media Rights series Extraordinary Woman, which airs on the BBC and periodically in the United States on PBS stations.[16]

Bibliography[edit]

Books about Gellhorn[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ "Martha Ellis Gellhorn", Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ "Martha Gellhorn: War Reporter, D-Day Stowaway", American Forces Press Service. Retrieved 2 June 2011
  3. ^ "Iraqi journalist wins Martha Gellhorn prize", The Guardian, 11 April 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2011
  4. ^ Moorehead, 2003, New York edition, p. 424
  5. ^ a b Ware, Susan; Stacy Lorraine Braukman (2004). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century. Harvard University Press. p. 230. ISBN 0-674-01488-X. 
  6. ^ Review by Kirkus (UK) of Caroline Muirhead: Martha Gellhorn (2003)
  7. ^ Kee, Cynthia (22 April 2008). "Alfred Gellhorn". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Gourley, Catherine (2007). War, Women and the News: How Female Journalists Won the Battle to Cover World War II. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
  9. ^ Documentary No Job for a Woman website
  10. ^ Moorehead, 2003, p. 38, New York edition. She would have married de Jouvenel if his wife had consented to a divorce.
  11. ^ Kevin Kerrane, "Martha's quest" (Archive), Salon, 2000, accessed 19 Oct 2009
  12. ^ "I didn't like sex at all", Salon, August 12, 2006. Retrieved 23 February 2012
  13. ^ "The War for Martha's Memory", The Telegraph, 15 March 2001
  14. ^ Moorehead, 2003, p. 408, New York edition.
  15. ^ "Stamps honor distinguished journalists", USA Today
  16. ^ "Episode 7 : Martha Gellhorn", Extraordinary Women

Sources

External links[edit]