Fannie Hurst

One of the highest-paid American writers of her time, Fannie Hurst explored the challenges facing Jews and other minorities. Hurst published her first short story, “Ain’t Life Wonderful,” in 1908 while studying at Washington University. After graduating in 1909 she moved to New York and supported herself with odd jobs from waitressing to acting until “Power and Horse Power” launched her writing career in 1912. She regularly wrote for the Saturday Evening Post, Century, and Cosmopolitan, and her novels were both popular in their own right and hot commodities for Hollywood adaptations—MGM reportedly paid her a million dollars for Great Laughter. While fans preferred her 1931 tearjerker Back Street, Hurst’s own favorite was Lummox, her 1923 novel about class and assimilation praised by both Lenin and Trotsky. Despite being a supporter of the Harlem Renaissance and a friend and employer of Zora Neale Hurston, Hurst was accused of perpetuating stereotypes: Her 1933 Imitation of Life featured both a subservient mammy and a doomed mixed race character. However, Hurst was also active in New Deal initiatives to create better opportunities for all as chair of the National Housing Commission from 1936‐1937 and the Committee on Workman’s Compensation in 1940, among others.


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Fannie Hurst on March 16, 1938.
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.
Date of Birth

Hamilton, OH
United States

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Fannie Hurst." (Viewed on October 25, 2020) <>.


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