Martha Gellhorn Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Despite her privileged early life as the child of a prominent St. Louis family, her later life as a well-to-do socialite matron, and her subsequent marriage to Ernest Hemingway, one of the twentieth century’s literary titans, Martha Gellhorn made a name for herself as a foreign correspondent covering major armed conflicts for the international press and as a novelist and short-story writer with both talent and vision. The daughter of physician George Gellhorn, the writer owed her free spirit to her mother, Edna Fischel Gellhorn, a suffragist whose own social prominence and outspoken championing of women’s rights earned her the friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt. Gellhorn cultivated that connection to her advantage as a journalist and social activist during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s twelve-year tenure as president of the United States, from 1933 to 1945.

Gellhorn was educated at private schools in her native St. Louis and then attended Bryn Mawr (1926-1929), where she published poetry in the student literary magazine. Eager for a more active involvement in the world around her, Gellhorn quit Bryn Mawr before her senior year to take a job as cub reporter with the Albany Times Union. She wrote freelance pieces for The New Republic and was in Paris in 1930 covering women delegates to the League of Nations for the St. Louis Post Dispatch when she met her first husband, the French pacifist and internationalist Bertrand de Jouvenel. They were married in the summer of 1933.

In 1934, Gellhorn published her first novel, What Mad Pursuit, a fictional account of her own experiences as a young journalist. Reviewers castigated the pretensions of thinly veiled autobiography dressed up as serious literature. Gellhorn’s second book, The Trouble I’ve Seen, a collection of short stories based on her experiences as a field investigator exposing corruption...

(The entire section is 779 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bell, Pearl K. Review of The Novellas of Martha Gellhorn. The New Republic 209, no. 1 (July 5, 1993): 36. An illuminating discussion of Gellhorn’s life and career focusing on her novellas.

Kert, Bernice. The Hemingway Women. New York: W. W. Norton, 1983. In her account of Ernest Hemingway’s female relationships, Kert deals with Gellhorn’s affair and marriage with Hemingway during a very hectic and formative period in her own life.

Rollyson, Carl. Beautiful Exile: The Life of Martha Gellhorn. Rev. and updated ed. London: Aurum Press, 2001. Gellhorn is the subject of this very sympathetic biography. In addition to providing a detailed account of Gellhorn’s life, Rollyson provides précis of Gellhorn’s various book-length publications and discusses their critical reception; there is also a complete bibliography of Gellhorn’s work in magazines and newspapers.