Recalling the Life of Nina Gabrilowitsch

Nina Gabrilowitsch was the daughter of Clara Clemens, an American contralto concert singer and daughter of American writer Mark Twain. She was the only surviving grandchild of Mark Twain, given that her aunts died before giving birth to any children while her uncle died when he was an infant.

Nina Gabrilowitsch’s father, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, was the symphony orchestra director. He died in 1935.


It is unclear what Nina Gabrilowitsch did to earn a living, but she depended on the income from her grandfather’s estate to meet her daily financial needs. However, she had her grandfather’s writing skills, as seen in a diary written by her.

Personal Life

Nina struggled with her mental health issues, drug and substance addiction, and alcoholism in her adult life. Despite being the granddaughter of a great writer, so little was known about Nina until one time in 1935 when she was asked to dedicate a locomotive named Mark Twain Zephyr after her grandfather. At the time, she posed for pictures with several kids who wanted to take advantage of the moment.

Nina Gabrilowitsch was not married; she seems to have had an unhappy adulthood. She did not have any children.

Her Parents and How They Met

Clara Clemens and Ossip Gabrilowitsch met in 1899 and liked each other. They married ten years later, a Nina’s mother’s home in a drawing room. Before their wedding, they had planned for it six years before, but it was canceled because of unavoidable circumstances. Nina’s parents’ marriage was sudden, given her father had not recovered fully from a surgical operation he had gone through.

Her Mother

When her parents lived in Vienna, Nina’s mother trained herself to play the piano and prepared her voice for concerts. Those who had the privilege of hearing her sing said that she had an attractive and sweet voice. As a contralto singer, whatever proceeds she got from her performances, she used it for the betterment of society.

Upon Mark Twain’s death, he left his estate to Nina’s mother and her sister Jean, but she drowned in a bathtub after suffering a seizure. Clara became the estate owner, but it became Nina’s when she died in 1962.

In her later life, after the death of her first husband and father of her daughter Nina, Clara remarried Jacques Samossoud, who was 20 years younger than her. She also started writing books about the loved ones she had lost, including her father and husband. Nina’s mother wrote, My Father, Mark Twain, Awake to a Perfect Day, and My Husband, Gabrilowitsch.

Nina Gabrilowitsch’s mother died on November 20, 1962, aged 88.


Nina Gabrilowitsch died on January 18, 1966, at 55 years old, in a motel room. As per the coroner’s office report, she had possibly overdosed herself since she was found with several bottles of alcohol and pills beside her. Before her death, she had talked to a bartender and told him what she would have loved to happen at her burial.