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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Josephine Herbst Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1928-1997
Creator: Herbst, Josephine Frey (1897-1969)
Extent: .50 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0838
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Novelist and journalist. Revised printers copy of Somewhere the Tempest Fell (1947), correspondence, clippings, book jackets, and a photograph.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs and audio cassette tape in Box 1.

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: These papers were given to the University of Iowa Libraries by Ms. Herbst in 1948. Guide posted to Internet: February 2006.

Preferred Citation: Josephine Herbst Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Josephine Frey Herbst, born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1897, attended Morningside College, the University of Iowa, the University of Washington, and was graduated from the University of California in 1918. In 1920 she worked at a variety of jobs in New York -- everything from a department store employee to a charity organization case-worker to a publicity writer and editorial reader for H. L. Mencken. Her interest in writing started in childhood and her first story was published in The Smart Set in 1923. In 1925 she married a writer, John Herrman.

Throughout her life she was constantly engaged in observing and writing about areas of trouble and unrest, both in this country and abroad. She lived in Germany from 1922 until 1925 and returned to Europe in 1930, visiting Austria and the Soviet Union; in 1932 she was in Mexico, in Iowa during the farm strike, and in 1934 in the Midwest farming region again in the time of the drought. 1935 found her in Cuba during the General Strike and that same year in Germany to do a series of newspaper articles for the New York Post. She was in Flint, Michigan, at the time of the General Motors sit-down strike in 1937, then in Spain as a correspondent during the bombardment of Madrid. In 1939 she traveled to South America. During these years Josephine Herbst was concerned with the breakdown of capitalist society and the shift towards collectivism; she felt that the future would be closely bound up with the future of the farmer and the worker, and she must keep in touch with their world. She is known as the writer of the proletarian novel. Her trilogy, Pity is Not Enough, The Executioner Waits, and Rope of Gold has been called a "subtle blend of art and propaganda." In 1936 Josephine Herbst received a Guggenheim fellowship in the field of the novel.

Josephine Herbst died on January 28, in 1969, at the age of seventy-seven, and is buried in a family plot in Sioux City.

Bevilaqua, Wninfred Farrant. An Introduction to Josephine Herbst, Novelist

The Bieneke Library at Yale University has a collection of Herbst's papers.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Audio cassette tape. Elman, Richard. Review of biography of Josephine Herbst. NPR's "All Things Considered," August 19 - 1984
  • Nothing is Sacred book jacket
    negative image
  • Pity is Not Enough book jacket
    negative image
  • Clippings - 1931-1997
  • Correspondence
  • To Mr. Milkman, December 10 - 1928
  • To Cap, January 18 - 1939
  • To Cap, February 12 - 1939
  • To Cap, March 9 - 1939
  • To Cap, March 10 - 1939?
  • To Cap, May 15 - 1939
  • To Cap, June 6 - 1939
  • To Mr. Roberts, March 15 - 1945
  • Herbst, Josephine. "The Farmer Looks Ahead." The American Mercury, issue date unknown
  • Loose pages from The German Language
  • Magazine and Journal Articles
  • Bevilacqua, Winifred Farrant. "An Introduction to Josephine Herbst, Novelist." Books at Iowa. University of Iowa - 1976
  • Interview with Elinor Langer, biographer. Publisher's Weekly - 1984
  • Langer, Elinor. "Love Among the Literati." Ms. - 1984
  • Langer, Elinor. "If in Fact I Have Found a Heroine." Mother Jones - 1981
  • Manuscript
  • Somewhere the Tempest Fell
    Printer's typescript with revisions (3 folders)
  • Miscellaneous
  • Photograph, Josephine Herbst, undated
  • Sioux City Public Library Event Materials