Abstract

In June 1937, Juliet Poyntz left her boarding room at the American Woman’s Association Clubhouse in Manhattan and was never seen again. Poyntz’s story might have gone unnoticed if not for the fact that she was a U.S. citizen working for Soviet foreign intelligence. Her task was to recruit others with connections to Germany who would be willing to gather intelligence on the Nazi apparatus. After she disappeared, rumors circulated that she was abducted by the Soviet secret police and murdered or spirited back to the USSR and imprisoned. Anti-Stalinist radicals claimed that Poyntz was disillusioned with the Soviet Union and was murdered in retaliation. After World War II, Poyntz’s disappearance fueled the fears of Communists such as Whittaker Chambers who became key witnesses at hearings held by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Poyntz’s disappearance symbolized the danger of Iosif Stalin’s leadership in the 1930s, and after the war this evolved into fears of Communism itself as the main threat. What emerged from both anti-Stalinist radicals in the 1930s and postwar anti-Communists were highly gendered narratives that reveal the evolution of anti-Communist fears—fears that were reflected in Poyntz’s fate.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-3298
Print ISSN
1520-3972
Pages
pp. 31-59
Launched on MUSE
2016-03-13
Open Access
No
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