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Martha Gellhorn: 'A Twentieth Century Life'

<I>Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life</I>
Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life

From the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s through the Vietnam War, Martha Gellhorn covered the major conflicts of her day. Best known as the third wife of Ernest Hemingway, Gellhorn was also a pioneer in journalism, telling the story of war in a unique and personal way. NPR's Susan Stamberg reports on a new biography of the writer.

"Martha Gellhorn was blonde, leggy, smart, sassy, impassioned -- and one terrific writer," Stamberg says. "She had major moxie." At a time when men dominated the field of journalism, Gellhorn stowed away on a hospital ship so she could cover the D-Day invasion.

Caroline Moorehead, author of Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life, says Gellhorn remained undaunted for most of her 90 years. "I think she was fearless but she knew what it was like to be frightened," a toughness she got from her upbringing, Moorehead says.

Gellhorn covered wars in a different way than other journalists. "She didn't write about battles and she didn't know about military tactics," Moorehead says. "What she was really interested in was describing what war does to civilians, does to ordinary people."

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Nationally renowned broadcast journalist Susan Stamberg is a special correspondent for NPR.