Before the late 1960s, when Gloria Steinem invented repression, there were some women of superstar status, among them Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson, journalists-to-the-world and friends of long standing. They are paired now, after death, in Susan Hertog’s engrossing new book, Dangerous Ambition, in which Hertog (author of a biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh) plots their joint trek through the 20th century, in war and peace, marriage and misery, good times and bad.
Born Cicely Fairfield in 1892, the daughter of a brilliant polemicist, sometime thief, and full-time philanderer who deserted his family when she was eight, Rebecca changed her name to that of a heroine from an Ibsen play and descended on literary London at the age of 19 after an attempt at becoming an actress. She wrote for the suffragist journal Freewoman, devoted to female empowerment and social reform. One of the her first reviews was an attack on the H.G. Wells novel, Marriage, which led to an interview with the author, which led to an affair, during which she lived with Wells as a sort of mistress en titre and he divided his time between her and his legitimate family, his wife Jane and two sons.
About the Author
Noemie Emery is a columnist with the Washington Examiner and a frequent contributor to the Weekly Standard.