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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1017

Papers of Elizabeth Ann Swift, 1900-2019


Awards, correspondence, educational material, scrapbooks, photographs, audiovisual material, etc., of United States diplomat Elizabeth Ann Swift.


  • 1900-2019


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Elizabeth Ann Swift is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


12.34 linear feet ((23 file boxes, 2 folio+ boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 4 folio+ folders, 1 oversized folder, 16 photograph folders)

The Elizabeth Ann Swift Papers document the personal life and professional activities of Elizabeth Ann Swift Cronin. The collection highlights the challenges and accomplishments of women in the foreign service, provides details of Department of State policies in foreign affairs, and provides an historical overview and personal perspective of the Iranian Hostage Crisis (1979-1981). Included are awards, honors and certificates of appreciation representing Swift's long history of accomplishments; biographical statements and curriculum vita. The Swift Papers also provide insight into her family's history of gifts and donated items to non-profit organizations and federal agencies (#7.2). These donations include the papers of her maternal grandfather, Admiral Robert S. Griffin, which were donated to the Naval Memorial Museum; the papers of her father, Ernest J. Swift, donated to the Library of Congress; and books from Swift's library, designated as a special collection at the Ralph J. Bunche Library at the Department of State. These books contain handwritten notes and comments on Southeast Asia, Iran, and other aspects of her 32 year career. Swift also donated her porcelain collection to the Department of State where they are displayed in the diplomatic reception rooms. There is also substantial correspondence in the collection, including personal family letters and letters from the public at large written in response to the Iranian hostage crisis. Also included are diaries, journals, and personal writings; educational course work, grade reports, yearbooks, and diplomas. Some family papers that highlight her parents' social and professional life and Swift's life-long interests in sailing, horseback riding, and travel, are also included. The bulk retraces Swift's professional career, ranging from her initial assignment as a visa officer in the Philippines, to her final tour as a consulate officer in London. Spanning more than 30 years, the papers related to her career include professional correspondence, evaluations, memorandum, and travel vouchers. Swift's captivity in Iran is well documented in clippings, which are scattered throughout the collection, filed with the activities they describe. Swift's ordeal as a captive is also documented in articles, political cartoons, and weekly summaries of events in Iran, published by the Department of State. Memorabilia includes pins, bumper stickers and T-shirts. Scrapbooks, maintained by Swift, her mother, and family and friends, are also included.

Photographs in the collection cover the full span of Swift's life, ranging from infancy to a few years before her death in 2004. Oversized material consists of awards, honors, and certificates of appreciation; educational degrees; full page clippings, graphic drawings of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. With the exception of correspondence, most of the papers were received without an existing order. The archivist modified folder titles, consolidated material to avoid duplication, created the arrangement for all series, and sorted and interfiled all loose materials.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1900-2019, undated (#1.1-13.2, 24F+B.1v, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.3), includes address, appointment, and date books; awards, honors, and certificates of appreciation; alumni material; diplomatic passports and related travel items. Educational documents, which range from Swift's early education at the Potomac and Madeira Schools to her undergraduate years at Radcliffe College, include grades and evaluations; course material; yearbooks; and her senior honor thesis Land Reform on Taiwan: The Factors of Success (#8.1). (See Series II for additional graduate education and training under the auspices of the Department of State's Foreign Service Institute). This series also includes family papers consisting of genealogical research, papers related to her mother's education at Vassar and her father's career. Aspects of her parents' social life include invitations to the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some memorials and obituaries are also included. A series of scrapbooks, maintained by Swift, her mother, Helen Griffin Swift, and family and friends, include clippings, photographs, and other documents related to the Iranian hostage crisis. To facilitate research, the scrapbooks have been disassembled and refoldered in the order they were received. The bulk of this series consists of correspondence from family and friends. Family letters underscore Swift's close relationship with her mother, their love of travel, and rich details about the foreign service posts where Swift worked. Letters from family and friends sent to Swift during the Iranian hostage crisis, include details of national, local and family events, along with crossword puzzles, greeting cards, and prayers. Many of these family letters were received in their original envelopes with annotated comments in Farsi and occasionally in English. Other letters were marked with an "x" to indicate they had been reviewed by captors. In some cases, the covers of greeting cards featuring images or biblical references were torn off. Initial correspondence was organized by month and year, with later correspondence organized by year. This arrangement has been maintained. (See Series II for correspondence from the general public related to Iranian hostage crisis). Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the processor.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1959-2005, undated (#13.3-23.8, 25F+B.1-25F+B.6m, F+D.4, OD.1), includes administrative documents of the United States Department of State, including examinations, early work assignments, her work in the Washington embassy, in foreign service, and the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Also included are evaluations, memoranda, and other departmental forms. The bulk documents Swift's captivity during the Iranian hostage crisis (1979-1981), including articles and clippings; graphic drawings depicting various scenes of captivity; weekly summaries published by the Department of State; and correspondence from the public at large. Swift and Kathryn Koop also documented their captivity through personal writings. Papers related to the post-crisis period document a critical turning point. There are some papers which document her fellowship at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University (1981-1982). Swift's work responsibilities at the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at the Bureau of Consular Affairs are more fully documented, including a series of notebooks containing planning notes. Reports, policies, and charts related to her fellowship with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Immigration Project, and related seminars and speaking engagements, are also included. Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the processor.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1930-1997, undated (#PD.1-PD.16), contains formal portraits and group photographs of Ann Swift Cronin, her parents and grandparents, her husband Paul D. Cronin, and their stepsons, David and Peter. Also included are photographs of Swift in her infancy, early childhood, her teen years, and her introduction to Washington society as a debutante. There are some photographs that capture Swift's love of sports and several related to her professional career. Of special interests are celebratory photographs taken after her release from Iran. These photographs feature family and friends, White House officials, and foreign dignitaries at special events. Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the processor. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Elizabeth Ann Swift Cronin was a distinguished career diplomat who served in the Department of State from 1963-1995. Known as Ann Swift to her colleagues, and "Annsy," to family and friends, she was born in Washington, DC, on December 3, 1940; the only child of Ernest J. and Helen ("Griffie") Griffin Swift. Swift's father died while she was an infant and she was raised by her mother. She attended the Potomac School (1948-1955), a private school in McLean, Virginia, and the Madeira School (1955-1958), an all-girls private boarding school in Greenway, Virginia. Swift briefly attended Stanford University before transferring to Radcliffe College where she majored in Southeast Asian history and was active in the Young Democratic Club. She graduated magna cum laude in 1962.

Shortly before completing her studies at Radcliffe, Swift applied to the Department of State in hopes of being assigned to foreign service. Her decision was most likely influenced by her family's extensive involvement in international affairs. Swift's maternal grandfather, Rear Admiral Robert S. Griffin (1857-1933), served as an Engineer in Chief of the Navy and Chief of the Bureau of Engineering. His son, Swift's uncle, was Admiral Robert Melville Griffin (1890-1976), a recipient of the Navy Cross and other awards for his service during World War II. Swift's mother Helen, who died in 1989, was a strong role model and graduate of the Madeira School (1917) and Vassar College (1921). She established the library of the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency, and worked for the Department of State after the library was transferred there. A long-standing member of the Junior League of Washington, Mrs. Swift later served as the organization's placement director for fifteen years. A room in the organization's building was named in her honor. Ernest J. Swift (1883-1941) was widely recognized for his humanitarian work. He served as the Secretary General of the League of Red Cross Societies (1932-1936) and subsequently as Vice Chairman in Charge of Insular and Foreign Operations for the American Red Cross. Other contributing factors in Swift's decision was the idealism of the Kennedy era, coupled with the love of travel.

Swift's initial attempt to join the Foreign Service was unsuccessful. After passing only one of two qualifying exams, test administrators advised her that marrying a foreign service officer might be an easier way to reach her goal. On November 23, 1962, she began her career at the Department of State's Message Analysis and Dissemination Office. Determined to join the foreign service, she made a second successful attempt and on August 18, 1963, was assigned to the American Embassy in Manilla, Philippines. In addition to working as a Line Visa Officer handling a large influx of Vietnamese refugees, her early training included rotational duties in the Embassy's administrative, economic and political sections (1963-1965).

After the tour ended, Swift returned to Washington as a junior officer on the Benelux Desk (1966-1968), handling visiting dignitaries and other outlying issues in Belgium, the Netherlands Antilles, Luxembourg, and other countries. In the latter half of 1968, she completed Indonesian language studies and was assigned to the economic and political sections of the United States embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, during the anti-communist movement (1968-1971). After completing this assignment, she returned to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in Southeast Asian studies at Cornell University. In the years that followed, she held various positions within the Department of State, including at the Bureau of Cultural Affairs' international visitor programs (1972-1974); on the Philippine Desk as a Political Military Officer, which entailed selling war planes to the Marcos administration (1974-1976), and in the Office of Congressional Relations (currently the Bureau of Legislative Affairs) as a Congressional Liaison Officer to congressional staff, committee members, and officials (1976-1978). In 1978, Swift received a one year Pearson Fellowship that facilitated her work with Congressman Dante Fascell (Democrat-Florida).

In mid-August 1979, Swift returned to foreign service as Deputy Chief of the Political Section of the American embassy in Tehran, Iran. Growing unrest in the region caused by the authoritarian rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and growing public support of an Iranian revolution, advocated by the Ayotallah Khomeini and his followers, culminated in Iranian students storming the embassy on November 4, 1979. When the takeover occurred, several high ranking embassy officials were meeting at the Iranian Foreign Ministry leaving Swift, the senior official in the political section, in charge. Swift and one other woman, Kathryn Koob, were among the Americans taken hostage. Embassy officials at the Iranian Foreign Ministry were also taken hostage. Some embassy personnel hid in other Western embassies and eventually escaped using Canadian passports. In December, several hostages were released, but 52 captives, which included Swift and Kathryn Koob were held for 14 months. All hostages were released on January 20, 1981, the day of Ronald Reagan's presidential inauguration.

Following the hostage crisis, Swift sought ways to avoid being defined or limited by her experience. Instead, she shifted her focus toward consular affairs in an effort to better protect American citizens traveling abroad. After briefly serving as Management Analysis Officer, which included improving the Department's management system and adding security enhancement, in August of 1981, she received a fellowship from Harvard University's Center for International Affairs. After completing her studies she returned to the Bureau of Consular Affairs to serve as Deputy Director for the Citizens Consular Services, a unit of the Office of Overseas Citizen Services (1982-1984). She subsequently became Acting Director of the unit's emergency center. Swift was recognized by the Department of State for providing assistance to victims of the 1982 Malaga Air crash, the Grenada evacuation and repatriation in 1983, international adoptions, and other crises. After being assigned the role of Deputy Consul General Swift headed visa operations in Athens, Greece (1984-1986). She next served as Consul General in Kingston, Jamaica (1986-1989), where immigration requests were overshadowed by fraudulent activities, narcotic traffickers, and other challenging issues. In 1989, Swift returned to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services as Deputy Assistant Secretary and was later was promoted to Deputy Director (1989-1993). During this period she assisted victims of the 1988 Pan Am flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, by improving the Bureau's response to terrorism, and helped implement needed changes to its travel advisory program. Under her leadership, the Bureau also developed crisis management policies that included evacuation guidelines, disaster assistance handbooks, and organized effective task forces in response to crises in the Persian Gulf, Panama, Romania, and Kuwait.

In 1992 Swift received a one-year fellowship from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which enabled her to research, organize, and lead informative seminars on immigration issues for their Immigration Policy Project. Swift's last foreign service post was at the American Embassy in London where she served as United States Consul General to Great Britain (1993-1995). In 1994, she married Paul D. Cronin, Professor of Physical Education and Director of Riding at Sweet Briar College, Virginia. Swift retired from the Department of State in 1995 and the couple settled in Sweet Briar, Virginia. In 2001 they moved to a farm in Rectortown, Virginia, where they pursued shared interests in horseback riding, traveling, and community affairs, which led to the establishment of the Rectortown Historic District. Swift was also an active board member at the Madeira School, and an active member of the Orange County Hunt, and Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, Virginia. Recognized for her courage and leadership, Swift received numerous awards, including a presidential award for valor. Elizabeth Ann Swift died in a horseback riding accident near her home in 2004.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1900-2019, undated (#1.1-13.2, 24F+B.1v, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.3)
  2. Series II. Professional activities, 1959-2005, undated (#13.3-23.8, 25F+B.1-25F+B.6m, F+D.4, OD.1)
  3. Series III. Photographs, ca.1930-1997, undated (#PD.1-PD.16)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2007-M122, 2007-M217, 2008-M126, 2010-M195, 2015-M114, 2015-M159, 2016-M55, 2017-M166, 2018-M1, 2019-M145, 2020-M3, 2021-48.

The papers of Elizabeth Ann Swift were given to Schlesinger Library by Paul D. Cronin, widower of Elizabeth Ann Swift Cronin.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Library of Congress; see The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Kennedy, Charles Stuart, and Elizabeth Ann Swift. Interview with Elizabeth Ann Swift, 1992 and The ordeal of former hostages Elizabeth Ann Swift, Kathryn L.Koob, & Victor Tomseth, 1981. At Vanderbilt University; see NBC and CNN news coverage at Vanderbilt Televison News Archives, 1981.


Donors: Paul D. Cronin

Accession numbers: 2007-M122, 2007-M217, 2008-M126, 2010-M195, 2015-M114, 2015-M159, 2016-M55, 2017-M166, 2018-M1, 2019-M145, 2020-M3

Processed by: Emilyn L. Brown

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library Books and Printed Materials Division (pending review by the curator):

  1. Free: The Saga of 444 Days of Rage, Hope, and Heroism, New York: CBS Publications, 1981
  2. The Road to Madiun: The Indonesian Communist Uprising of 1948, by Ann Swift, Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, 1989

Processing Information

Processed: January 2021

By: Emilyn L. Brown

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

General processing procedures in place at the Library include the following:  books (when not heavily annotated) by and about the collection's creator and on subjects which fall within the Library's collecting area are removed and cataloged separately with information about their provenance; other books and serials are not retained.

Swift, Elizabeth Ann. Papers of Elizabeth Ann Swift, 1900-2019: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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