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Josephine Herbst (1892–1969)

Author of The Starched Blue Sky of Spain: And Other Memoirs

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Josephine Herbst was born in Iowa and raised in near-poverty. She spent eight years attending college between working stints, finally graduating from the University of California-Berkeley in 1918. She moved to New York City, where she joined a circle of radical and creative people that included Max Eastman, Louise Bryant, and Dorothy Day. She wrote articles for the radical publication The Liberator, and published short stories under the pseudonym Carlotta Geet in American Mercury and Smart Set, then edited by H.L. Mencken. She also worked for Mencken as a publicity writer and editorial reader. In 1922, following an unhappy affair, Herbst went to Europe, traveling around before settling in Berlin. There she met and fell in love with John Herrmann, a writer eight years her junior. They returned to the USA to marry and live in a rural farmhouse in Connecticut, but Herrmann was an alcoholic and the marriage ended after a few years. Herbst moved to Pennsylvania, where she wrote several novels, including Nothing Is Sacred (1928), Money for Love (1929), and Pity Is not Enough (1933). She also contributed to radical magazines such as New Masses and The Nation. In 1935, she went to Nazi Germany as a special correspondent for the New York Post. In 1937, Herbst was one of the few women permitted to go to Spain to report on the Civil War there; she became a passionate advocate of the Spanish Republican cause. After returning to the USA, she published Satan's Sergeants (1941). After the start of World War II, Herbst got a job as a writer for the Office of the Coordinator of Information, a forerunner of the CIA, but was fired after a background check by the FBI found that she had written about voting for the American Communist Party. She died in obscurity but is now considered one of the great American writers of her era.
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