Martha Gellhorn

Martha Gellhorn photo by East News

Martha Gellhorn (November 8, 1908 – February 15, 1998) was best known as an American war correspondent, though she was a prolific author of fiction and memoir as well. She was the third wife of American icon Ernest Hemingway. She approved of the former claim to fame —she’s ranked among the top war journalists of the twentieth century — but she didn’t wish to be remembered as one of the several wives of “Papa” Hemingway.

She covered nearly every global conflict, from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam. She reported on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career.

Gellhorn was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father was Jewish, and her mother was half Jewish. Gellhorn may have been inspired to her activism by her mother, who was a suffragist. She attended Bryn Mawr college for only a year, leaving in 1927 to become a foreign correspondent in Europe.

When she returned, she worked for a Federal agency that reported on the ravages of the Depression on families and communities. She and Dorothea Lange, the noted photographer with whom she worked, were among the few women doing this kind of work.

World War II

In 1938, Gellhorn reported on the rise of Adolf Hitler, and continued to report on the war from Czechosolvakia, England, Burma, Finland, and Hong Kong.

Gellhorn had to use subterfuge to witness the landing at Normandy, because she didn’t have the proper press credentials. She hid in a hospital ship’s bathroom, and then, upon landing, disguised herself as a stretcher carrier. As it turned out, she was the only woman that landed at Normandy on D-Day in June of 1944. She was one of the first journalists to report from the concentration camp Dachau after liberation by Allied troops.

Gellhorn and Hemingway photo by Corbis

Photo of Gellhorn and Hemingway by Corbis

The Hemingway years

Gellhorn’s relationship with Hemingway overlapped with his marriage to his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. Gellhorn married Hemingway in 1940. Hemingway soon became resentful of his wife’s work, resenting her long journeys to cover the war. “Are you a war correspondent, or wife in my bed?” Apparently, she decided she was the former, especially after Hemingway tried to prevent her from going to Normandy.

Notoriously restless, critical, and controlling, Hemingway had apparently met his match in Gellhorn, and he didn’t like it. They divorced in 1945. 

Novels and nonfiction

In addition to her significant body of work in journalism, Gellhorn produced many books, including memoirs of the wars she covered and her travels, as well as full-length novels, novellas, and short stories. Her first novels included What Mad Pursuit  (1934) and The Trouble I’ve Seen (1936), both based on personal experience. Vietnam: A New Kind of War (1966) is representative of her brand of hard-hitting journalism in long form; and Travels with Myself and Another (1978) is 

Martha Gellhorn stamp

Death and Legacy

At age 89, Gellhorn was nearly blind and having had ovarian cancer, she ended her own life by taking a cyanide capsule.

The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism is in her honor. This prize aims to distinguish itself from the many journalism awards by honoring those whose work goes above and beyond. Its mission is as follows:

“The Gellhorn Prize is in honor of one of the 20th century’s greatest reporters. It is awarded to a journalist whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth – a truth validated by powerful facts that expose what Martha Gellhorn called ‘official drivel.’  She meant establishment propaganda.”

Major works

Gellhorn’s bibliography is far longer that this, which is a representative sampling. While none of her books stands out as a famous classic, taken as a whole, she produced a significant body of work.

Nonfiction and memoir

Novels and Short Stories


More Information

Articles, news, etc.


*This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through, The Literary Ladies Guide receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to The Literary Ladies Guide weekly newsletter

Celebrating women’s voices
with inspiration for readers and writers

  • Find your next great read
  • Get writing advice from authors you love
  • Enjoy fascinating facts and quotes
  • Discover women’s literary history

... and lots more (look for a bonus in your welcome letter!)
Email address
Secure and Spam free...