Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jane Marcus

Subject Categories

American Literature | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America | Women's Studies


documentary, fiction, journalism, photography, Spanish Civil War, struggle


Straight Record and the Paper Trail: From Depression Reporters to Foreign Correspondents engages with Martha Gellhorn's The Face of War (1959), Virginia Cowles' Looking for Trouble (1941) and Josephine Herbst's The Starched Blue Sky of Spain and Other Memoirs (1991) as documentaries of struggle. Documentary as a mode of writing and image making reveals dissonance, contradictions and varied perspectives which undermine the official historical record. The three writers, I argue, by republishing their Spanish Civil War (SCW) journalism in book form intended to set their record straight. This was motivated by their commitment to the 1930s struggle and the need to recover much that had been relegated to the margins as human interest stories (HIS), or woman's angle. This patronizing and denigrating label which was applied to their SCW articles dismissed the documentary value of, what I call, their human experience record (HER), as an affectation of uninformed and class biased women writers. Their documentary texts, much like those of Nancy Cunard, Muriel Rukeyser, Gerda Taro, Gamel Woolsey and Virginia Woolf, were not composed under auspices of dominant party lines as they eschewed formal membership in political as well as international organizations. In these, they recognized the very same patriarchal constraints and limitations which they sought to expose using the `masters' tools' they acquired by belonging, or at least being able to pass for "daughters of educated men" yet remained fully aware that being citizens with passports they were in position to help, but by no means to become the face of the cause(Woolf). The main criticism of The Face of War, Looking for Trouble and The Starched Blue Sky of Spain and Other Memoirs has been that Gellhorn, Cowles and Herbst did not tell the whole truth, that dates and names of key players are missing, and that they had no definite answers about the politics and propaganda in Spain. But these were not the objectives these women set for themselves when they went to Spain and later when they decided to republish their SCW journalism. What Gellhorn, Cowles and Herbst omitted from journalism and their subsequent accounts in book form -- moments of doubt, consternation, idleness -- remains in their archival repositories, the recovery project of which this dissertation aims to initiate.