Emily Hahn

Emily Hahn

Emily Hahn (1905–1997) was the author of fifty-two books, as well as 181 articles and short stories for the New Yorker from 1929 to 1996. She was a staff writer for the magazine for forty-seven years. She wrote novels, short stories, personal essays, reportage, poetry, history and biography, natural history and zoology, cookbooks, humor, travel, children’s books, and four autobiographical narratives: China to Me (1944), a literary exploration of her trip to China; Hong Kong Holiday (1946); England to Me (1949); and Kissing Cousins (1958).   The fifth of six children, Hahn was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and later became the first woman to earn a degree in mining engineering at the University of Wisconsin. She did graduate work at both Columbia and Oxford before leaving for Shanghai. She lived in China for eight years. Her wartime affair with Charles Boxer, Britain’s chief spy in pre–World War II Hong Kong, evolved into a loving and unconventional marriage that lasted fifty-two years and produced two daughters. Hahn’s final piece in the New Yorker appeared in 1996, shortly before her death.   A revolutionary for her time, Hahn broke many of the rules of the 1920s, traveling the country dressed as a boy, working for the Red Cross in Belgium, becoming the concubine to a Shanghai poet, using opium, and having a child out of wedlock. She fought against the stereotype of female docility that characterized the Victorian era and was an advocate for the environment until her death.
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