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Mary Welsh Hemingway Gets Her Moment in the Spotlight
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Mary Welsh Hemingway was protective of her husband Ernest’s legacy following his death in Ketchum in 1961.
   
Sunday, November 20, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Mary Welsh Hemingway could never bring herself to sell the Hemingway House overlooking the Big Wood River, even though her husband Ernest shot himself there on a July day in 1961.

Ernest wouldn’t have wanted her to sell it when it gave me so much pleasure, she said recounting the surrounding beauty.

Timothy Christian has trained his lens on Hemingway’s fourth and final wife in his book “Hemingway’s Widow: The Life and Legacy of Mary Welsh Hemingway.” And he will discuss the book—and Mary—with Community Library Director Jenny Emery Davidson at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, over Zoom.

Those who wish to see the program hosted by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum can tune in at https://comlib.org. https://thecommunitylibrary.libcal.com/event/9445875. The URL is https://www.jfklibrary.org/events-and-awards/forums/11-21-hemingways-widow.

Mary Welsh Hemingway was born in 1908, the daughter of a Minnesota lumberman. She traded a career at the Chicago Daily News for a job at the London Daily Express, which took her to Paris in the years preceding World War II and led to her covering the press conferences of Winston Churchill during the war.

Like Hemingway’s third wife Martha Gellhorn, Mary Welsh was a celebrated journalist. She was covering the London Blitz and the liberation of Paris when she met Hemingway in May 1944. He was so infatuated with her he asked her to marry him upon their third meeting, even though both were married to others.

Eventually, she succumbed to his charms and married him in a Cuba in 1946. She skied with him in the Dolomites, attended bullfights in Pamplona and Madrid, went on safari in Kenya in the middle of the Mau Mau Rebellion and fished the Gulf Stream in Ernest’s boat Pilar.

She put up with Ernest’s cruelty and abuse, his philandering with a teenaged Italian countess, and she read and typed his work each day, making plot suggestions as she did.

Mary tried to avoid the stigma of suicide by claiming that her husband’s death was an accident. And she threw herself into his literary legacy upon his death, negotiating with Castro to reclaim Hemingway’s manuscripts from Cuba and publishing a third of his work posthumously.

She also supervised Carlos Baker’s biography of Ernest, sued A.E. Hotchner to try to prevent him from telling the story of Ernest’s mental decline and spent years writing her own memoir.

Christian’s book is the first in-depth look at Mary, whose marriage to Ernest lasted 15 years—longer than any of the author’s other marriages.

Christian, who lives on Vancouver Island, is a former law professor and dean at the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta. He became interested in Mary Welsh Hemingway after reading “A Moveable Feast” as a young man studying French in Provence. It was Mary who had that book published following her husband’s death.

Mary bequeathed the Hemingway House to The Nature Conservancy upon her death at age 74 in 1986. It is now overseen by The Community Library, which uses the home for its Hemingway Writer-in-Residence program.

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