Literary Folk Figure. A shy, intelligent girl who made a really bad marital choice, she is remembered as the first wife of the legendary writer Ernest Hemingway. Born Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, she was raised by a well-off St. Louis family but following her father's 1903 suicide was left under the care of an over protective mother. Hadley graduated from the Mary Institute of St. Louis and for a time attended Pennsylvania's Bryn Mawr College but withdrew at her mother's insistence. She studied piano, giving up because she felt that she lacked talent, and nursed her mother thru her terminal illness, but in December of 1920, shortly after Mrs. Richardson's death, she joined her college friend Katie Smith, future wife of author John Dos Passos, on a trip to Chicago. While there she met Hemingway, then a young journalist struggling for success as a writer while sharing rooms with Katie's brother. A romance ensued and after exchanged letters and visits to each other's homes the pair, despite the age difference and in the face of profound opposition from Hadley's family, married on September 3, 1921, in Horton Bay, Michigan. Following their Michigan honeymoon the couple lived in Chicago; soon desiring to visit Europe, they switched their destination from Italy to Paris on the advice of novelist Sherwood Anderson. With Hemingway on the payroll of the "Toronto Star", the two established themselves within the American expatriate community of Paris, their lives made easier by Hadley's receipt of a second inheritance. They traveled around Europe and rubbed elbows with the likes of Sylvia Beach, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and others. There were rocks in the road as when Hadley triggered Papa's fury by losing a suitcase full of manuscripts at the train station, but upon finding that she was pregnant they relocated to Toronto. On October 10, 1923, Hadley gave birth to John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway (deceased 2000), called "Jack" in later years but in his early days known as "Bumby"; in January 1924 the family returned to Paris and Bumby was baptized in the Episcopal Church with Gertrude Stein serving as Godmother, but problems were developing. Hemingway had met Pauline Pfeiffer and was showing evidence of his lifelong poor concept of fidelity; as he worked on "The Sun Also Rises" the marriage collapsed, though there were moments of kindness as when he bought Joan Miro's painting "The Farm" as Hadley's birthday present. (In an unfortunate coda to that story, Hadley loaned Hemingway "The Farm" in the early 1930s but never got it back; today it resides in The National Gallery of Art.) By 1926 Hadley was aware of her husband's affair with Pauline and in the fall of that year separated from him, their January 1927 divorce followed shortly by Hemingway's marriage to Pauline. In the aftermath, Hadley got the royalties from "The Sun Also Rises" (as well as from the 1957 movie adaptation) and remained in Paris where she met journalist Paul Mowrer whom she married in London on July 3, 1933. Hadley later resided in Chicago and only met Papa once after the divorce, a chance encounter in Wyoming, though occasional correspondence hints at some residual feeling. She lived out her days in financial comfort and died of the effects of advanced age. Her story is told in each of the several Hemingway biographies, in Papa's "A Moveable Feast", written in Paris during the 1920s but not published until 1964, in Gioia Dilberto's 1992 "Hadley", and is fictionalized in Paula McLain's 2011 "The Paris Wife: A Novel".
Bio by: Bob Hufford
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