Hadley Richardson Hemingway (Mowrer)
Dr. Hilary Justice (JFK Library). Updated 11/2023.
Ernest Hemingway immortalized his first wife, Hadley Richardson Hemingway (1891-1979), in one of his most popular works, the posthumously published A Moveable Feast. A Moveable Feast recounts the story of the young couple in 1920s Paris, where they spent most of their marriage. They moved briefly to Toronto for the birth of their son, John (Bumby; later, Jack), and traveled widely: to Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
For a young woman of Hadley’s cultural moment and demographics, a focus on marriage and family was considered normative and respectable. She was the only one of Hemingway’s wives never to have a career outside the home; in being Mrs. Ernest Hemingway and, later, mother to their son, she fulfilled her initial ambitions for her adult roles.
Hadley Hemingway: A Timeline
Courtship and Wedding
Through mutual friend Katy Smith (later, Katy Dos Passos), the couple met at a party in Chicago, when Hemingway was at loose ends, physically recovered from his war wounds but still carrying the emotional weight which would haunt him for his entire life. Hadley was several years older than Ernest, and she, too, was at loose ends after her mother's recent death. From this unlikely and rather murky beginning, they married at the Methodist Church in Horton Bay, near his family's summer home in Northern Michigan.
After a two-week honeymoon at Hemingway's parents' cottage on Walloon Lake, the couple moved to an apartment at 1239 North Dearborn Street in Chicago. At the advice of writer Sherwood Anderson (an early mentor of Hemingway’s), the newlyweds soon moved from Chicago to Paris’s Left Bank to join the artistic expatriate community.
October 29: Ernest reached out to the Toronto Star, asking for a position as a stringer in France or Italy. He was hired for their Paris office.
December 8: The Hemingways sailed for France.
December 22: The Hemingways arrived in Paris, staying at Hôtel Jacob et l'Angleterre. Lewis Galantière, a friend of Sherwood Anderson's, helped them find an apartment.
December 28: Ernest Hemingway met Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare & Company bookstore, an English language bookstore on the Left Bank that served as a hub for the literary and artistic expatriate Paris community.
January 9: The Hemingways move in to a two-room apartment at 74, rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, in a working-class neighborhood on the Left Bank.
For the next several months, they traveled extensively, visiting Switzerland, Italy, and Bavaria. With letters of introduction from Sherwood Anderson, they met and socialized with Gertrude Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, and Ezra Pound and his wife, Dorothy Shakespear.
November 21: Ernest left Paris for Lausanne, Switzerland, to cover the Greco-Turkish peace conference.
December 2: The Lost Manuscripts. Hadley left Paris to join Ernest in Lausanne, bringing with her a valise holding almost all of his creative work to date. The valise was stolen in the Gare de Lyon train station. This event shattered them both; Hemingway never forgot, immortalizing it in A Moveable Feast and, less literally, in The Garden of Eden (both published posthumously).
The Hemingways spent the first months of the year traveling in Switzerland and Italy.
January: The Hemingways were skiing in Chamby, Switzerland. Hadley became pregnant, although she did not realize this until (probably) March.
February: The Hemingways visited Ezra Pound in Rapallo, which would provide the setting for Ernest's short story "Cat in the Rain."
By March, Hadley and Ernest both knew she was expecting a child.
Early Summer: The Hemingways returned to Paris and spent time attending racing and boxing events.
July: The Hemingways traveled to Pamplona, Spain, for the Fiesta San Fermín. This was Hadley's first time in Pamplona (Ernest had attended the year before).
August 26: Wanting their baby born in North America, and both having ties to Toronto (Hadley was born there; Ernest was still working for The Star), the Hemingways sailed for Canada. (Read the full story of the Hemingways' time in Toronto.)
October 10: John Hadley Nicanor (Bumby; later, Jack) Hemingway was born.
December: Personally and professionally miserable in Toronto, the Hemingways decided to break their lease. Their friends quietly helped them move their possessions out of their apartment, which they would abandon just after the new year.
The Hemingways returned to Paris in January, renting an apartment at 113, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. Their new apartment was on the second (French: first) floor, directly over a working sawmill. Between the noise of the sawmill and the baby's cries, Ernest spends more time writing in cafés. According to A Moveable Feast, they sometimes left the baby under the watchful eye of their pet cat.
The Hemingway family resumed their traveling ways, spending the remainder of 1924 and the start of 1925 traveling to and from Pamplona, the Basque village of Burguete, and Schruns, Austria, where Hadley and Bumby stayed from late December, 1924, through March, 1925.
c. March 22: Back in Paris, the Hemingways met Pauline and Virginia (Ginny) Pfeiffer, two wealthy sisters from Piggott, Arkansas, new additions to the growing Paris expatriate community. Pauline had recently started working for Paris Vogue.
June 12: The Hemingways attended artist Juan Miró's (1893-1983) show at Gallerie Pierre, and Ernest in particular was enraptured by his painting of a Spanish farm, "La Ferme [the Farm]." At 3000 francs, the piece was very expensive for the Hemingways' budget, and it was already promised to Evan Shipman. Shipman, a bit of a gambler, agreed to throw dice with Ernest for the privilege of buying the painting, and Ernest won. Ernest would eventually have to rely on friends to help him raise the purchase price; Hadley was not pleased.
Summer: The Hemingways traveled to Pamplona; this summer's trip formed the creative springboard for The Sun Also Rises, which Hemingway started writing sometime in July. They also traveled to Valencia, Madrid, San Sebastian, and Hendaye before returning to Paris in August.
November 9: Ernest gave Hadley "The Farm" for her birthday. Despite the circumstances of its purchase, particularly the very public borrowing Ernest had had to do to be able to afford it, she was eventually able to enjoy it.
However, Ernest had by this time decided he wanted to break with his original New York publisher, Boni & Liveright, in order to sign with Scribners, F. Scott Fitzgerald's publisher. In order to be able to place The Sun Also Rises with Scribners, he wrote The Torrents of Spring, a thinly-veiled and harsh satirization of Sherwood Anderson's writing. In addition to being a friend, Anderson was one of Boni & Liveright's highest-profile authors; Ernest knew that Boni & Liveright would reject Torrents, which would release him from his contract.
December: The Hemingway family left Paris for three months in Schruns, Austria; Pauline Pfeiffer joined them for ten days at Christmas.
By January, Ernest was involved in an affair with Pauline; he found reasons to leave Hadley and Bumby in Schruns to join her in Paris.
By late April, Hadley was certain about the affair. Despite her certainty, the Hemingways continued to travel with Bumby and sometimes Pauline; staying with Gerald and Sara Murphy at Juan-les-Pins in the south of France and travelling together to Pamplona
By August, the Hemingways were starting to tell their friends that their marriage was probably over. They told the Murphys on August 2; on August 12, they took their last train ride together as a family, the train ride that inspired Hemingway's short story, "A Canary for One."
Hadley set Ernest and Pauline one condition for a divorce: that they stay apart for 100 days, without any communication. If, at the end of that 100 days, they still wanted to be together, Hadley would agree to a divorce.
September 24: Pauline sailed back to the United States, beginning the 100 days' separation period. Pauline and Ernest ignored Hadley's "no communication" restriction; letters flew between Paris and her family home in Piggott, Arkansas.
November 16: Hadley released Ernest and Pauline from the 100 days' no-contact condition and asked Ernest to initiate divorce proceedings.
December 8: The Hemingways filed for divorce.
December 30: Pauline sailed for France to rejoin Ernest.
The Hemingway's divorce was final on April 14. On May 10, Ernest and Pauline married in Paris.
Although their marriage ended in 1927, as parents, their relationship was lifelong.
Neither her life nor her adventures ended when their marriage did. After a courtship that began in 1927 in Paris, in 1933, she married another American expatriate, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Paul Mowrer (1887-1971). Through Mowrer, she met the artist Paul Child (1902-1994). All three would return to Paris after WWII, when Hadley met Paul Child's new wife, American gastronomist and author Julia Child (1912-2004).
Hadley's friendship with the Childs resulted in her getting a curtain call in American literature in Julia Child’s My Life in France: the couples were good friends and frequent travel companions, and Julia was matron-of-honor at Jack Hemingway’s Paris wedding.
Works Inspired by Hadley
Over the course of their marriage (1921-1927) and throughout the remainder of Hemingway's lifetime, Hadley inspired several individual and, later, composite characters in short fiction, novels, and most famously in his memoir, A Moveable Feast, which chronicles their Paris years.
Her influence on his fiction is most obvious in his early short fiction, particularly on the "marriage" or "fertility" tales, in which Hemingway fictionalizes moments of stress in romantic relationships. Manuscript analysis of these early stories confirms that they are crafted fiction, not merely recounting of fact with the names changed.
Hemingway's memories of their relationship also form one of the several emotional undercurrents in one of his last works, the unfinished and posthumously published The Garden of Eden.