Fannie Hurst was an American novelist who was also very prominent in
philanthropic and civic affairs. Raised in St. Louis, she received her
B.A. from Washington University in 1909, and then went to New York to do
graduate work at Columbia University. Hurst began writing short stories
for popular magazines in 1914, and went on to produce many best-selling
novels, the best known of which are Back Street
(1931), and Imitation of Life
(1933). Many of her novels were made into films, and she herself
wrote 12 filmscripts, including “Humoresque” and “Symphony of Six
Million.” Hurst was also a frequent contributor to magazines and
regularly appeared on radio and television programs.
Hurst was an active philanthropist and leader in civic affairs. She
served on many boards and committees, particularly during Franklin D.
Roosevelt's presidency. She was chairman of the National Housing
Commission (1936-1937), a member of the National Committee to The Works
Progress Administration (1940-1941), and, later, a delegate to the World
Health Organization Assembly (1952). Upon Hurst's death a large part of
her estate came in a bequest to Washington University, a portion of
which was used to create the Hurst Professorship in the Department of
English for visiting writers.