Mary Therese McCarthy was orphaned at the age of six, when her parents died in the worldwide flu pandemic. She received her early education in a convent and graduated from Vassar College in 1933. Her first husband was Harold Johnsrud, an actor who died tragically in a fire. In 1938, she married the critic Edmund Wilson, who encouraged her literary career; however, the marriage ended in divorce. In 1948, she married Bowden Bowater, from whom she also was divorced. Her fourth husband was James R. West, a diplomat. She was editor and theater critic for the Partisan Review (1937–1948) and wrote articles for The Nation, The New Republic, Harper's Magazine, and The New York Review of Books. Her famous novels included her debut work, The Company She Keeps (1942) and The Group (1962). Mary McCarthy also was a political activist -- she wrote a book denouncing the USA’s involvement in the Vietnam War, Vietnam and Hanoi (1968). She also conducted a well-publicized feud with author Lillian Hellman. Mary McCarthy's two-volume autobiography was called Memories of a Catholic Childhood (1957) and Cannibals and Missionaries (1979).