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Hamblin, Dora Jane, 1920-1993



  • Existence: 1920 - 1993


Dora Jane Hamblin was born June 15, 1920 in Bedford, Iowa. Her father was the editor and publisher of the Bedford Times-Press and Dora--"Dodie" to her friends--was encouraged by her parents and her teachers at Bedford High School to write. She attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids where she became editor of the Coe College Cosmos and a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She graduated "magna cum laude" in 1941 and then attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she earned a master's degree from the university's Medill School of Journalism in 1942.

For the next two years she was employed as a reporter and photographer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. In June of 1944 she resigned from the paper, joined the American Red Cross and served in Australia, the Phillippines, the Southwest Pacific, Japan, and Europe. During this period she continued to contribute articles to the Cedar Rapids Gazette about her experiences with the United States troops and the native populations she came in contact with. She was eventually named overseas staff correspondent for the Red Cross official publication, The Red Cross Courier, and contributed extensively to that publication.

In mid-1948 Hamblin joined the staff of Life magazine in New York as a researcher. Within eighteen months she was named a correspondent in the Paris office. There followed two years as correspondent in London, two in Chicago, and four years, beginning in 1956, as chief of the Life bureau in Rome, Italy, where she directed Life's coverage of the death of Pope Pius XII, the election and coronation of Pope John XXIII, and the 1960 Olympic games.

In 1960 Hamblin was recalled to the New York office to serve as assistant editor, associate editor, and finally as staff writer, one of only three women ever to achieve that position on the magazine. From February 1967 until December 1969, she was stationed one-third of her time in Houston, Texas, to provide coverage of the space program and of the astronauts and their families for Life. She conducted interviews with all of the astronauts and did extensive research on technical details of this first manned moon flight. During this period she, along with Life's Gene Farmer, wrote First on the Moon (1970), an account of the first moon landing by Apollo 11. This work was officially approved by the three members of the crew, Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, and Michael Collins. It was also during this period of time that Hamblin was bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

In 1970 Hamblin resigned from the Life staff and retired to Trevignano, Italy, a lakeside resort near Rome, to live and work as a free lance writer. She continued to submit articles to Life until the magazine folded at the end of 1972. She also wrote on archaeological subjects for the Smithsonian as well as for Sports Illustrated and World. Several of her Life articles were reprinted in Readers Digest.

One of Hamblin's major interests was archaeology and she wrote several works on the subject: "Pots and Robbers" (1970), "Buried Cities and Ancient Treasures" (1973), and "The Appian Way, a Journey" (1974). She also wrote two volumes of the Time-Life Books series entitled "The Emergence of Man, namely The First Cities" (1973) and "The Etruscans" (1975), and wrote a section of the series' first volume, "Life Before Man" (1972).

During the years 1973 to 1975, Hamblin worked with stage and screen star Mary Martin and was, in effect, the "ghost-writer" of Martin's autobiography, My Heart Belongs, published in 1976. The year 1977 saw the publication of That Was the Life, Hamblin's collection of stories about the magazine she had worked for for twenty-three years.

Hamblin's active, far-ranging life came to an end August 17, 1993, when the writer and Iowa native died of a heart attack at her home in Trevignano, Italy. She was 73.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Dora Jane Hamblin papers

Identifier: IWA0087

Iowa native who wrote for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, LIFE magazine, and other periodicals.

Dates: 1937-1993