MARTHA GELLHORN Biography - People in the News and Media


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Name: Martha Gellhorn                                                                 
Born: 8 November 1908 St. Louis, Missouri                                             
Died: 15 February 1998 London                                                         
Martha Gellhorn (8 November 1908 - 15 February 1998) was an American novelist,       
travel writer and journalist, considered to be one of the greatest war               
correspondents of the 20th century. 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 nearly completely blind, she ended her life by taking a poison pill.         
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gellhorn graduated in 1926 from John Burroughs           
School there 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).       
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).     
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 D-Day 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.                                                         
After living with Hemingway for four years, they married in 1940. Increasingly       
resentful of Gellhorn's long absences during her reporting assignments,               
Hemingway wrote her when she left their home in Havana in 1943 to cover the           
Italian Front: "Are you a war correspondent, or wife in my bed?" After four           
contentious years of marriage, they divorced in 1945.                                 
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.       
Aged 81, she 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 a large number of 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 Ernest 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 19 homes in different locales. During a long working life, Gellhorn       
reported widely from many international trouble-spots.                               
Gellhorn died in London in 1998, aged 89, taking her own life after a long           
battle with cancer and near total blindness. Since her death, The Martha             
Gellhorn Prize for Journalism has been established in her honour.                     
Gellhorn published books of fiction, travel writing and reportage. Her selected       
letters were published posthumously in 2006.                                         
On October 5, 2007, the United States Postal Service announced that it would         
honor five journalists of the 20th century times with first-class rate postage       
stamps, to be issued on Tuesday, April 22, 2008: Martha Gellhorn; John Hersey;       
George Polk; Ruben Salazar; and Eric Sevareid. Postmaster General Jack Potter         
announced the stamp series at the Associated Press Managing Editors Meeting in       
Washington. Martha covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam