A Woman to Know: Martha Gellhorn

Why should I be a footnote to somebody else's life? — Martha Gellhorn

Why should I be a footnote to somebody else's life? — Martha Gellhorn

(image via Library of Congress)

Martha covered 50 years of war. As a correspondent for The Atlantic, The New Republic and other legendary publications, she traveled around the world reporting from the Spanish War, Nazi Germany, Nicaraguan contras, the Vietnam War and more. In 1989, at age 81, she even filed from the U.S. invasion of Panama.

And yes, of course, she was married to Ernest Hemingway (the only wife of his to leave him, actually — rumor is he couldn’t stand her gall). We shan’t even make further mention of Hemingway in this edition, because Martha’s life was so much bigger than her literary husband.  

Before her romance even hit the literary scene, she was an accomplished writer in her own right. In addition to her war correspondence, she also wrote fiction. Her travels inspired characters in two shorty story collections, five novels and 14 novellas.

Martha married three times, but she ultimately adopted a child on her own and raised her son as a single mother. The two continued to travel throughout his childhood, making homes in Mexico, New York City and London. She continued writing and reporting until her death in 1997, at at the age of 89. “Journalism is education for me,” she once wrote. “Writing is payment for the chance to look and learn.”

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