Who was she?
Martha Gellhorn was an American journalist who changed the face of war reporting. She was one of the best American war reporters of her time. In her career, Gellhorn reported almost every major war that happened all over the world in over 60 years. She was very dedicated to her work as she has always served fearless articles on major conflicts of her era, such as World War II, Spanish Civil War, etc. These articles have characterized by the incisive observation of human nature and their real courage.
Gellhorn was the first female war correspondent ever. She was a fiction writer, and her fictional work has characterized by lucid prose. Also, she was one among five persons who got honored in the American Journalists stamp series of 2008.
Childhood & Adulthood
Martha Gellhorn was born in St. Louis on November 8, 1908, in St. Louis, Missouri. She belongs to Jewish origin. The father of Gellhorn was a gynecologist named George Gellhorn. Her mother was a suffragist (advocate for women’s right to vote), and her name was Edna Fischel Gellhorn. She had 2 siblings; both were boys, and their name was Walter Gellhorn (renowned law professor) and Alfred Gellhorn (Doctor).
She had gone to John Burroughs School in St. Louis for her necessary studies, and later, her parents sent her to Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia, in 1926 for higher studies. However, she left the graduation course in 1927 because her heart wanted to pursue journalism passionately as her career. At the starting of her journalism career, the American magazine ‘The New Republic’ featured her articles that she wrote as a crime reporter.
In 1936, Gellhorn met Ernest Hemingway in Florida around Christmas. After four years they both got married. Also, Martha was Hemingway’s third wife. However, lately, she divorced him in 1945, as Gellhorn has stated that she hated being a footnote in Hemingway’s life. Martha didn’t like the fame associated with being his wife. She wanted to get famous in people because of her work not as famous Hemingway’s wife.
Gellhorn married the T.S. Matthews in 1954. He was the former managing editor of Time Magazine. However, this marriage also ended in 1963. Martha has never been in a long time relationship or married. She was focused entirely on her career.
Her Milestone Career
In February of 1930, she traveled to Europe to write a brochure for the Holland American Line by paying for the boat trip across the ocean. In the same year, she moved to Paris, where she worked at the United Press Bureau. It was a period in which she became an active participant in the pacifist movement. In 1931, Gellhorn came back to St. Louis and she worked as a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, traveled the American Southwest and later, she had recorded her experiences of this period in her novel ‘What Mad Pursuit‘ (published in 1934) about a protagonist much like her.
Harry Hopkins hired her to the post of a field investigator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). To report on the effect of the “Great Depression,” she toured across the country. Martha Gellhorn documented the lives of sick and starving people in her investigation. This investigation also included the forbidden subjects, that form a pivotal contribution to American history.
In 1936, Gellhorn’s book of Depression-era writings “The Trouble I’ve Seen” was published. She also met Ernest Hemingway in Florida in the same year. She traveled to Spain to report the Spanish Civil War with him, and she was employed by Collier’s Weekly in that period. Gellhorn had also covered the German air attacks on London and the Soviet attack on Finland in 1939.
She had covered the Arab-Israeli War in 1967 by going to Israel while working for the Atlantic Monthly. In the 1980s, she went to El Salvador to cover the brutal war between the U.S.-backed military and Marxist rebels. After this, she became old, and because of a botched cataract operation, she lost her eyesight. Still, in 1989, she has tried to cover the United States’ invasion of Panama as she loved her work so much.
Awards & Achievements
She was the only woman who landed at Normandy on the D-Day June 6, 1944, as a stretcher carrier.
She had written several popular articles, some of which are- ‘The Face of War’ (1959) about an assortment of wartime writing and in 1988 ‘The View from the Ground,’ which was an assortment of peacetime essays.
In 1978 she published ‘The Weather in Africa Travels With Myself And Another‘ that has received critical acclaim and made her one of the most brilliant war correspondents of the 20th century.
Martha Gellhorn had homes in different locations from France and Italy to Cuba, Mexico, and Kenya, before settling in Great Britain in her later year. Gellhorn’s life, however, received a grim end. Martha Gellhorn lost her eyesight almost completely and suffered from ovarian and liver cancer. On February 15, 1998, in London, she committed suicide at the age of 89. She ended her life by taking a fatal dose of medicine.