Literary Folk Figure. One of the most accomplished and respected journalists and war correspondents of the 20th century, she is remembered as the third of Ernest Hemingway's four wives. Born to a well-off family of mixed Jewish and Protestant origins, she was raised in St. Louis, graduated from the John Burroughs School, and attended Bryn Mawr College prior to dropping out and pursuing a career in journalism. After publishing two articles in "The New Republic", Martha set off for Paris where she had her first high profile romantic affair with married writer Bertrand de Jouvenel and got involved in the pacifist movement, authoring "What Mad Pursuit" (1934) as an account of her experiences. Returning home, she was hired by FDR's friend Harry Hopkins as an investigator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, toured the country documenting the Depression, and wrote of her travels in 1936's "The Trouble I've Seen". On a December 1936 vacation to Key West, she encountered Hemingway at the famous Sloppy Joe's Bar and Papa had finally met his match. Initially 'just friends', the pair began a sexual relationship while Hemingway was still living with his wife Pauline, though Martha was never one to simply bask in the great author's glory. The pair went off to cover the Spanish Civil War, with Martha working for "Collier's", then Martha moved on to report on Hitler's takeover of Czechoslovakia and on the fighting between Russia and Finland. In 1940 each published a novel based on the war in Spain, Martha's effort entitled "A Stricken Field" while Ernest produced a book-for-the-ages in "For Whom the Bell Tolls". The pair married in Sun Valley, Idaho, on November 21, 1940, Hemingway's divorce from Pauline having become final on November 4th, and Martha soon went on assignment to the Far East while Ernest remained in Cuba and chased German submarines with his yacht "Pilar", his activities to be fictionalized in the posthumously published "Islands in the Stream". For the first time, Ernest Hemingway had found a girl with no better concept of fidelity than his own; Martha had an affair with General James Gavin and continued reporting from the front lines despite laws of the day restricting ladies from such close access to combat. While living part time at Hemingway' Havana home, the Finca Vigia, and going wherever the war took her, Martha kept up a correspondence with a range of interesting personages including Adlai Stevenson and Eleanor Roosevelt; when Hemingway landed at Normandy shortly after D-Day, Martha soon followed, though Ernest had tried to block her, and went on to cover the liberation of Dachau. By 1945 both partners had had enough and Martha filed for divorce, the only Hemingway wife to do so. In the aftermath, Hemingway repeated his old pattern with a fairly quick remarriage to Mary Welsh while Martha continued her journalistic endeavors. She wrote for the "Atlantic Monthly", had romantic liaisons with a number of high profile men including Laurence Rockefeller, and in 1949 adopted a boy named Sandy from an Italian orphanage. By her own estimation not much of a wife, as a mother she was worse, neglecting her son, consigning him to boarding school, and verbally abusing him. In 1954, Martha married one-time "Time" managing editor Tom Matthews and moved to London where she remained for the rest of her days, though the union only lasted until 1963. Through all the personal drama she kept working, reporting on Viet Nam, the Six Day War of 1967, the various Central American internal conflicts, and the 1989 US invasion of Panama, while authoring a number of books both fiction and non-fiction including the 1965 "Pretty Tales for Tired People", 1967's "The Lowest Trees Have Tops" and "The Weather in Africa" (1984). Blind and terminally ill with cancer, Martha committed suicide via medication overdose. She was fictionalized in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (as Maria) and in "Islands in the Stream", was told about in each of the many Hemingway studies and in Bernice Kert's 1983 "The Hemingway Women", and has been the subject of about half a dozen biographies of her own, the most recent being Hardy Dorman's 2012 "Martha Gellhorn: Myth, Motif, and Remembrance". In 2008 she was the only female among five individuals honored on a series of US postage stamps entitled "American Journalists" and in 2012 she was brought to life by Nicole Kidman in HBO's "Hemingway & Gellhorn", with Clive Owen as Hemingway. Today, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism is awarded in her memory, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Islands in the Stream" are still and probably forever in print, the Finca Vigia has been more-or-less maintained by the Castro regime, and Sloppy Joe's remains in business.
Bio by: Bob Hufford
1899–1961 (m. 1940)