Herbst, Josephine (Frey)(1892–1969) writer; born in Sioux City, Iowa. From a poor family, she worked at odd jobs as she went from college to college, finally taking her B.A. from the University of California: Berkeley (1918). She moved to New York City and fell in with the literary set, had an affair with Maxwell Anderson, and then went off to Berlin and Paris to write. She returned to the U.S.A. in 1924 with the writer, John Hermann, whom she married and then settled with in a farmhouse in Erwinna, Pa. During the next several years she published a series of novels on which her reputation rests, including Pity is Not Enough (1933), the first volume of her trilogy based on her own family's history from the Civil War to the Great Depression. During the 1930s, the world's economic, political, and social problems led her to writing journalism and to identifying with radical views and circles; she went to Spain briefly in 1937 to report on the civil war there and she was on the fringes of the American Communist Party; in 1942 she was fired from a government job because of her leftist associations. In the postwar years, divorced from 1940, she at first became almost a recluse in her Erwinna home, but as she resumed her writing she gained a new circle of admirers.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.