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Josephine Herbst (Josephine Frey Herbst) Biography

(1897–1969), (Josephine Frey Herbst), Smart Set, The American Mercury, Nothing is Sacred, Money for Love

american novels depression story

American novelist, born in Sioux City, Iowa, educated at the University of California at Berkeley. Herbst worked in New York as an editorial reader for the influential literary magazines Smart Set and The American Mercury, and lived for three years in Europe. In 1925 she married the left-wing writer John Herrmann (they were divorced in 1940) and in the early years of the Depression she became an increasingly visible figure on the American literary left. Her first two published novels, Nothing is Sacred (1928) and Money for Love (1929), were influenced by her years of European expatriation. Her best-known work, the trilogy comprising Pity Is Not Enough (1933), The Executioner Waits (1934), and Rope of Gold (1939), traces the story of the Trexler family through eight decades of American history, beginning in 1868 and ending with the sit-down strikes of 1937. Much of the trilogy is concerned with the growth of union organizations and the emerging class antagonisms of the Depression years. Herbst was also a notable journalist: she was a special correspondent for the New York Post in Germany in 1935, went to Cuba in the same year, and covered the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Her other novels of note are Satan's Sergeants (1941) and Somewhere the Tempest Fell (1947); her non-fiction writings include The Unknown Americas (1939), a socio-economic study of Latin America, and New Green World (1954), a biography of the naturalist John Bartram. Elinor Langer's Josephine Herbst: The Story She Could Never Tell (1985) is an invaluable biography. See also Proletarian Literature in the USA.

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