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Martha Gellhorn, the U.S. war correspondent in Italy talks to Indian soldiers of the British Army on the 5th Army's Cassino front. (Agency reference 3068866)
Courtesy of © Keystone/ Getty Images (1944)
Martha Gellhorn, the U.S. war correspondent in Italy talks to Indian soldiers of the British Army on the 5th Army's Cassino front. (Agency reference 3068866)

Airs Friday, May 2, 2014 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

They seemed to have it all – glamour, power, wealth and adoration. Grace Kelly, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Indira Gandhi, Madame Chiang Kai-shek... they were worshiped, loved and sometimes even feared by millions the world over. These were the pioneers who showed that a woman could be the equal of any man. But behind the public success, there was so often private heartache and personal tragedy. Featuring archive, interviews and dramatic re-enactment, this series reveals the price these extraordinary women paid for their achievements. Yet in the end, they overcame all adversities to emerge as triumphant, inspirational icons of the 20th century.

Some Articles By Martha Gellhorn

High Explosive for Everyone by Martha Gellhorn (Madrid, July 1937)

The Arabs of Palestine by Martha Gellhorn (October 1961)

Eichmann and the Private Conscience by Martha Gellhorn (February 1962)

Is There a New Germany? by Martha Gellhorn (February 1964)

"The Smell of Lilies" by Martha Gellhorn (fiction) (August, 1956)

"Martha Gellhorn" - Martha Gellhorn became a war correspondent almost by accident when her lover, Ernest Hemingway, urged her to file a report from Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. She wrote about the innocent victims of the war: the civilians who lived in daily fear of being killed by bombs. It was the beginning of a remarkable career spanning some sixty years.


Until Martha entered the field, war-reporting was dominated by male journalists but, through her fearlessness and dedication, she earned a place at the top. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she was motivated to write – not about tactics and statistics - but about the devastating effects of war on the lives of civilians. It was a theme she carried from Spain throughout World War II, to Vietnam and, much later, to America’s wars in Guatemala and Panama.

But Martha’s success came at great cost to her personal life. Her relationships were disastrous and short-lived. Her first marriage, to the writer Ernest Hemingway, ended acrimoniously when it became clear that she could not put her husband before her job. She had several affairs with married men and a painful and difficult relationship with her adopted son.

Although American, Martha fell out with her government and spent her whole life looking for somewhere else to settle. She had homes in Mexico, Africa and Britain, ending her life in an apartment in London. She carried on reporting well into her eighties when, half-blind, she traveled alone to Brazil to report on the plight of street-children who were being murdered by death-squads. Martha Gellhorn was committed to reporting the truth and she worked hard for her reputation as one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

Distributed by BBC Worldwide

Extraordinary Women: Martha Gellhorn