Nora Waln was a best-selling author and journalist who traveled widely in Europe, Asia and the Americas, contributed articles to The Saturday Evening Post, The Atlantic Monthly and other magazines. She was one of the few American journalists who reported from Communist China and Mongolia.
She was Tokyo correspondent for The Saturday Evening Post from 1947 to 1951. Later she was correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly in Germany and Scandinavia. Her books included The Street of Precious Pearls, The House of Exile, Reaching for the Stars and Surrender the Heart.
Waln, a Quaker, was born in Grampian Hills, Pennsylvania, attended Swarthmore College where she was a member of the Beta Iota chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She was married to George Edward Osland?Hill, who died in 1958. They had one daughter.
Waln's Reaching for the Stars, published by Little, Brown on March 1, 1939, detailed her life in Germany from 1934 to 1938. The book was a best seller. Her House of Exile, an account of her life in a Chinese homestead, where she lived for a time in the early 1920s, also attracted favorable comment and sold well.
In Reaching for the Stars Waln expressed great faith in the German people and predicted that "such an educated populace, would not permit the National Socialism of Hitler to last." A New York Times reviewer termed the book "a heartfelt statement of faith and above all an affecting personal narrative." Waln was less optimistic after a return visit to Germany in 1945 as an Atlantic Monthly correspondent. Very few of her old anti-Nazi friends were left, she said, and of the rest "very few survived who did not in some way compromise with Nazism."
The first manuscript of Reaching for the Stars mysteriously disappeared while Waln was in Germany. After going to England, she rewrote the book from notes and soon after it was published sent a copy with an "insolent" inscription to Heinrich Himmler, Hitler's SS (Elite Guard) and police chief. His reaction was to seize seven children, friends of Waln's, whose names had been disguised in the book but whom he tracked down. Waln entered Germany secretly and in an interview with Himmler offered to serve as a hostage for the children. Himmler offered to release them, and as many other people as she could list on a large sheet of paper, if she would promise to write nothing further about Germany except romantic historical novels. Waln declined the offer because, she said, "if you make a bargain like that, God takes away the power to write. If you don't tell the truth you lose your talent."
During World War I Nora Waln served as publicity director for the Near East Relief Committee in New York. In 1941 she wrote and took part in a series of radio plays for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Another of her World War II activities was service as European administrator of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Fund for War Mothers and Children. Her work was also an inspiration for Kappa's Nora Waln Fund during and immediately after World War II to benefit Norwegian mothers and children. In 1946, Waln became one of the first members of KKG to receive the Alumnae Achievement Award, the fraternity's highest honor for personal and professional achievements. Waln passed away in 1964.
Much of this biography is taken from the New York Time's obituary for Waln, "Nora Waln Dies" published on September 28, 1964 (http://www.nytimes.com/1964/09/28/nora-waln-dies.html?_r=0).