Lillian Hellman displayed courage not only in her writing of powerful and controversial plays like The Children’s Hour, but in her public refusal to name colleagues to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Hellman worked for the Boni and Liveright publishing house before moving to Hollywood to become a writer for Sam Goldwyn. In 1934, her first play, The Children’s Hour, was met with both wild success and widespread criticism, banned in many cities for its discussion of homosexuality. Her plays have been praised for their naturalistic tones and the tension she creates from the tightly knit worlds of small towns and intimate families. She had a long-term relationship with mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, with whom she became involved in left-wing activism. Called to testify before HUAC in 1952, Hellman wrote an eloquent letter in which she refused to testify not out of fear for herself or unwillingness to stand by her beliefs, but because she refused to name friends and colleagues to the committee. Hellman was blacklisted for several years, but returned to writing plays and memoirs in the 1960s.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Lillian Hellman." (Viewed on May 18, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/hellman-lillian>.