Thursday, May 08, 2008

Emily Hahn

I recently came across a very interesting book at a used book sale. It's a collection of some writings by Emily Hahn, a 20th century adventurer who wrote extensively for The New Yorker and travelled widely. Born in 1905, she died in 1997 and was writing almost up to the end of her life. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in mining engineering when that was an unusual occupation for women, and worked briefly as an engineer.

However, she was a traveller at heart and wrote marvelously well about life in the Belgian Congo, in pre-World War II China (where she taught English and became an opium addict for a time,) and about surviving in occupied Hong Kong during the war with a small child. Her husband, who was a prisoner of war, was a British spy (how cool is that?)

The title of the book, which was re-issued in 2000 by Seal Press, is "No Hurry to Get Home." It's a treat, and proof that adventurous women writers are not a new thing on the face of the earth.

In fact, Emily Hahn's life bore a lot of similarities to the lives of my mother and my aunt. Her family, like theirs, moved from Missouri to Chicago in the 1920s. My aunt also graduated from the University of Wisconsin, but in journalism, and both she and my mother loved to travel and to write.