• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Martha Gellhorn

Page history last edited by marcylynn 14 years, 7 months ago



 Martha Gellhorn



"Then somebody suggested I should write about the war, and I said I didn't know anything about the war. I did not understand anything about it. I didn't see how I could write it."


Martha Gellhorn headshot 


      Martha Gellhorn, one of the first women war correspondents of the 20th century, was noted for her detailed writing and frank demeanor. In 60 years of reporting, she covered every major war or conflict of the modern era, from the Spanish Civil War to the Vietnam War. She was also a prominent novelist as well as travel writer, and the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism is named after her.


Born November 8, 1908, in St. Louis, Missouri, Gellhorn was the daughter of Dr. George Gellhorn, a gynecologist and obstetrician, and Edna Gellhorn, an early suffragette. Martha was from a self-proclaimed “talking family” and while growing up, the Gellhorn’s four children were encouraged to ask questions, and respect all races. Gossip, hearsay and tall tales were strictly forbidden.


After high school, Gellhorn followed in her mother’s footsteps, attending Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia. After her second year, she grew bored, and by the end of her third, Gellhorn decided not to return.  She secured a summer job at The New Republic in New York, which led to a position at Albany Times Union in the fall. Gellhorn left the paper after six months, and after a short stint at home, convinced her parents to give her the money to travel to Europe. While in Paris, she wrote about ParMartha Gellhorn in Spain during the Spanish civil warisian fashion for Vogue and finished her first book of fiction. However, it was her return home that would turn Gellhorn into the notable war correspondent she is remembered as today.


Family friend and future husband Ernest Hemingway convinced Gellhorn to travel to Spain with him to cover the coming civil war. With a letter of introduction in hand from Collier's magazine, Gellhorn wrote home, “Me, I am going to Spain with the boys. I don’t know who the boys are, but I am going with them.” The only woman reporter in the bunch, Martha often wrote better and more detailed articles about the woes of war than “the boys” did, mostly focusing on the strength of Spanish women in those hard times. She believed that by writing, she could help defeat fascism and soon became enticed by the lifestyle of the correspondent.


While covering the war in Spain, Gellhorn became increasingly interested in European politics. As World War II approached, she warned of the evils of Hitler, not just through her writing, but also by word of mouth. By 1938, she was already writing articles about the brutality toward Jewish German, Czech and Austrian refugees forced to leaves their homes by the Nazis. Between 1939 and 1943, Gellhorn and Hemingway married; she was asked by Colliers to travel to and report on Hong Kong and spent some years back in the States while Hemingway promoted his new book, For Whom the Bell Tolls. By 1943, Gellhorn was ready to go back to Europe, back to war, and back to reporting.


She moved to London and reported on the bombings and the refugees that poured into the beleaguered city. Gellhorn reported from the frontlines in both France and Italy as well. Sneaking onto the beach of Normandy with American nurses, she wrote of the terrible conditions soldiers were in after D-Day: “Blood soaked bandages. Everyone watching in silence… Almost all complained very much of pain.” Gellhorn was also present in 1945 when Americans liberated the concentration camp Dachau. Her article, The Face of War, told the layout of a camp, the horrific medical experiments performed on prisoners, and the look of the prisoners when they were liberated, Being part Jewish, Gellhorn was appalled: “We didn’t look at each other. I do not know how to explain it, but aside from the terrible anger you feel, you are ashamed.You arMartha and fellow correspondents during WWIIe ashamed for mankind.” 


Gellhorn and Hemingway soon separated due to Gellhorns's frequent traveling, divorcing in 1945. Between the end of the World War II and the height of the Vietnam War, she continued to travel and write articles on world affairs and foreign policy.  She also wrote several novels. However, the longer the war in Vietnam lasted, the stronger she voiced her opinion against it. She felt that American correspondents were not telling the real truths of the war, so at 58-years-old, she paid her own expenses and went to Vietnam with an agreement to write for the Manchester Guardian


      Martha found the Americanization of the once beautiful city of Singapore, horrific. This war was different in that “successes were measured not in the battles won but in body counts.” Gellhorn felt shMartha in the years between WWII and the Vietnam Ware was on the wrong side of this war. Unlike other correspondents writing about war tactics and missions, she covered the effects on civilian life. There were large numbers of civilian casualties, with an increase in orphans, hunger and prostitution. She stayed just three weeks. That was enough for her.  “We cannot give back life to the dead Vietnamese children,” she wrote in Suffer the Little Children. “But we cannot fail to help the wounded children as we would help our own. More and more dead and wounded children will cry out to the conscience of the world unless we heal the children who survive the wounds." Gellhorn believed that her critical articles got her blacklisted from the war, since she was not allowed to return to Vietnam.



Gellhorn continued to cover wars until she was 81.  She covered both the Six-Day War in the Middle East and the UnitOlder Marthaed States invasion of Panama in 1989. She also continued to write. At 84-years-old, Gellhorn decided she was no longer spry enough to cover the coming Bosnian War. She found getting old irritating, and not as elegant as she had thought it would be. However, the next year she traveled to Brazil to cover the overlooked murders of street children by death squads.  Although some say this may have beenh Gellhorn's best manuscript, her editor from Granta refused to print it. He was nervous that it might become known as “Martha’s last piece”. “What do the violent deaths of a few thousand street children matter?” she wrote . “The poor are not quite people in Brazil.” She decided to stop writing.


     A constant smoker, Gellhorn was half blind and battling liver and ovarian cancer, which had spread. On Valentine's Day, 1998, she committed suicide. Friends and family gathered a week later in remembrance and her ashes were scattered at sea, as her will asked. Gellhorn will be remembered for her fearlessness and lifelong dedication to reporting.



Martha Gellhorn - on the Record from Peter Williams Television on Vimeo.


Books by Martha Gellhorn

  • What Mad Pursuit (1934) her time as a pacifist
  • The Trouble I've Seen (1936) Depression-era novella
  • A Stricken Field (1940) novel set in Czechoslovakia at outbreak of war
  • The Heart of Another, 1941
  • Liana, 1944
  • The Undefeated, (1945)
  • Love Goes to Press: A Comedy in Three Acts, 1947 (with Virginia Cowles)
  • The Wine of Astonishment (1948) WWII novel, republished in 1989 as Point of No Return
  • The Honeyed Peace: Stories, 1953
  • Two by Two, 1958
  • The Face of War (1959) collection of war journalism, updated in 1986
  • His Own Man, 1961
  • Pretty Tales for Tired People, 1965
  • Vietnam: A New Kind of War, 1966
  • The Lowest Trees Have Tops (1967) collection of travel writing
  • Travels With Myself and Another (1978)
  • The Weather in Africa (1984)
  • The View From the Ground (1988) collection of peacetime journalism
  • The Short Novels of Martha Gellhorn, 1991
  • The Novellas of Martha Gellhorn, 1993
  • Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn (2006), edited by Caroline Moorehead



Annotated Bibliography





Amidon, Stephen. "I didn't like sex at all" salon.com. 12 Aug. 2006. Web. 20 Oct. 2009. <http://www.salon.com/books/review/2006/08/12/gellhorn/index.html>.


  • This is a book review of Caroline Moorehead’s edited collection of Martha Gellhorn’s personal letters. It contains a short biography that describes Gellhorn’s private life beyond her reporting.



Gellhorn, Martha. "Dachau." 1945. Journalistas: 100 years of the Best Writing and Reporting by Women Journalists. Ed. Eleanor Mills and Kira Cochrane. New York: Carroll &Graf, 2005. 13-18.


  • This chapter from Gellhorn’s book “The Face of War,” recounts her experiences with American soldiers who liberated the first Nazi concentrations camp. She tells prisoners' stories and describes the camp's layout.



Gellhorn, Martha. "Suffer the Little Children." 1966. Women War Correspondents in the Vietnam War, 1961-1975. By Virginia Elwood-Akers. Metuchen, New Jersey & London: The Scarecrow, Inc, 1988. 81-90.


  • This detailed and emotionally charged article, originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, describes the effects of war on Vietnamese children. 



 Just, Ward. "The Lives They Lived: Martha Gellhorn; War: From Both Sides." nytimes.com. 3 Jan. 1999. Web. 20 Oct. 2009. <http://www.nytimes.com/1999/01/03/magazine/the-lives-they-lived-martha-gellhorn-war-from-both-sides.html>.


  • This brief biography focuses on Gellhorn’s early years as a correspondent.



 Knightly, Phillip. The First Casualty. First ed. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.


  • This book about the lifestyles and writing of war correspondents from the Crimea and to Vietnam, describes Gellhorns coverage of the Spanish American and Vietnam wars



Moorehead, Caroline. Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life. New York: Harry Holt and Company, LLC, 2003.


  • This is the approved biography written by Moorehead after she was given some of Gellhorn’s personal letters before and after her suicide. This is different then the book written by Moorehead that contains Gellhorn’s actual letter.



Stamburg, Susan. "Martha Gellhorn: 'A Twentieth Century Life'" npr.com. 6 Oct. 2003. Web. 20 Oct. 2009. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1452981>.


  • This is a brief biography discusses Gellhorn's life and accomplishments.


Comments (9)

Tiffany said

at 10:23 pm on Nov 5, 2009

I removed where you put in titles such as "print" and "web", but I see in Prof. Good's edits that he has left them in. I removed them because I did not use them in my entry, but I'm assuming if Prof. Good left them in that it's just a matter of style?

marcylynn said

at 1:45 pm on Nov 6, 2009

Yeah, it doesn't really matter. When I post my entry, keep your eye out for typeo's for me please. I always miss something.

rodri645@newpaltz.edu said

at 12:41 am on Nov 10, 2009

Great sources!!

rodri645@newpaltz.edu said

at 12:05 pm on Nov 11, 2009

In the description of the second to last source you put "This book IS about the lifestyles"

Howie Good said

at 2:34 pm on Nov 12, 2009

One "m" in Hemingway

marcylynn said

at 2:37 pm on Nov 12, 2009

Hahaha, thanks. Didn't our class have that discussion already? Sorry.

Tiffany said

at 11:59 pm on Nov 20, 2009

Marcy-I really like the design of your page and how the writing is coming along. I made a few teeny tiny changes-let me know what you think!

marcylynn said

at 10:42 am on Nov 23, 2009

Tiff, What happened???????? Where did my Annotated go?

marcylynn said

at 10:56 am on Nov 23, 2009

Okay Tiff, I fixed it. Don't change the layout again please, that was a nightmare to fix.

You don't have permission to comment on this page.