Publication Date: 22nd March 2016
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media
Emily Hahn first challenged traditional gender roles in 1922 when she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin’s all-male College of Engineering, wearing trousers, smoking cigars, and adopting the nickname “Mickey.” Her love of writing led her to Manhattan, where she sold her first story to theNew Yorker in 1929, launching a sixty-eight-year association with the magazine and a lifelong friendship with legendary editor Harold Ross. Imbued with an intense curiosity and zest for life, Hahn traveled to the Belgian Congo during the Great Depression, working for the Red Cross; set sail for Shanghai, becoming a Chinese poet’s concubine; had an illegitimate child with the head of the British Secret Service in Hong Kong, where she carried out underground relief work during World War II; and explored newly independent India in the 1950s. Back in the United States, Hahn built her literary career while also becoming a pioneer environmentalist and wildlife conservator.
This biography was thoroughly engaging and I read it constantly for three days. Emily ‘Mickey’ Hahn was a trailblazer: a world traveller, writer, and pioneer of sexual honesty in a world where women stayed home and had babies. And definitely didn’t talk about their boyfriends. She visited Belgian Congo at a time when white women didn’t travel alone in Africa, had a relationship with a Chinese man in 1930’s Shanghai, survived the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, had a child with a married man, and write copiously from the 1920’s until her death in the mid-nineties about her experiences, and her many interests, including apes, the early women’s movement in the U.S., biographies of the Soong sisters, among others, as well as fictionalised accounts of her time in China, depression era New York, and in Africa.
This book is a real find, and a fascinating story that needs to be more widely known, and the subject’s own writing better appreciated. This book is very well written, highly readable and as in-depth as you could want. I can’t commend it highly enough.