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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 454

Papers of Mary Bancroft, 1862-1997


Papers of Mary Bancroft, socialite, OSS spy, writer, and New York City political activist.


  • Creation: 1862-1997

Language of Materials

Materials in English, some correspondence and printed material in German.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted. Several letters removed from #40 are closed until January 1, 2037.

An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Bancroft 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.


20.1 linear feet ((46 file boxes, 1 folio box) plus 4 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 34 audiotapes, 10 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder.)

The papers of Mary Bancroft contain her correspondence, diaries, writings, photographs, audiotapes, etc. The material documents Bancroft's life in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, during which time she worked for the Office of Strategic Services as an information gatherer and informant. In addition, her involvement with New York City politics in the late 1950s and 1960s is represented by correspondence, fliers, campaign advertisements, maps, etc. Bancroft's personal correspondence evidences her deep relationships with Allen Dulles and Henry Luce, as well as her friendship with a number of artists and writers, including Woody Allen, Peggy Bacon, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, and Norman Mailer.

Mary Bancroft's papers were processed in 1998. They contained many looseleaf binders and notebooks which included writings, clippings, and interfiled letters. For preservation reasons, the contents of those binders were transferred to folders, detachable clippings were photocopied on to acid-free paper, and notebooks interleaved. The original order of materials within was maintained except that loose clippings and letters were removed to separate folders.

Materials received by the Schlesinger Library in 2006 were added to the collection in May 2014, and are represented in the inventory in folders #400-592 and audiotapes T-64.1 - T-64.11, T-64.14 - T-64.34. When the finding aid was updated, Series VI and VII were added and description of all photographs and audiocassettes were moved to those series. All other files remain in the same order. Cumulative headings were largely removed from the finding aid and the information that had been contained in them was incorporated into folder titles. Folders are listed in intellectual, not sequential order.

Series I, PERSONAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL, 1906-1997 (#3-36, 400-478), contains resumes and clippings about Mary Bancroft, an oral history interview by Peter Jessup (#7-9), and journals and diaries. The series also contains genealogical information about the Bancroft and Barron families, and Bancroft's separation agreements with her first husband Sherwin Badger. Bancroft transcribed her Swiss journals (dating roughly from 1936 to 1950) while writing Autobiography of a Spy. These typescript versions (#11-15) are included here, as well as the original diaries (#417, 419). Volumes described as "appointment books" consist only of brief notes. Bancroft's later journals, dating from after 1955, contain reflections about her health, both emotional and physical, social life, and political activities, and often include notes on her reading, clippings, and story ideas. Letters Bancroft wrote to Jean Rufenacht between 1957 and 1960 were also intended to serve as journals; these can be found in Series II (#124-128). Photographs that were previously part of this series (#1, 2) can now be found in Series VI.

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1907-1991 (#37-163, 479-547), contains Bancroft's incoming and outgoing mail. Mary Bancroft was an outstanding letter writer: Henry Luce called her letters some of the best copy that crossed his desk (#103). Much of the correspondence details Bancroft's and her correspondents' social and emotional life, but there is considerable discussion of United States politics and the New York City social and cultural scene. Bancroft's correspondents ranged widely; she moved in a circle of international aristocrats while living in Europe, and corresponded with a number of literary stars in New York and the United States: Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne, Max Eastman, Christopher Isherwood, poet and founder of New Directions Publishing James Laughlin, Norman Mailer, and Henry Miller. Her connections in Washington and active political involvement once she returned to the United States brought her into contact with numerous politicians, including John and Robert Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson.

Bancroft's Office of Strategic Services reports and other projects were written in the form of letters to Allen Dulles; these are included here (#61-69, 500). Bancroft also wrote personal letters to Dulles and his wife Clover. In addition to Bancroft's correspondence with Henry R. Luce, there is correspondence about him with his biographer, W.A. Swanberg (#135-137). Photocopies of Carl G. Jung's letters to Bancroft are in folder #90. Family correspondence includes letters to Jean Rufenacht after their divorce and Bancroft's return to the United States (#124-128), with the Badger, Bancroft, and Colt families, and with her daughter Mary Jane Taft and family. There is also a folder of correspondence between Jean Rufenacht and his grandmother Louise Perrenoud (#527). Several "letters" to and from Helen Howe Allen are on audiotape, originally numbered as #41at-42at, were renumbered as T-64.12 and T-64.13, and can be found in Series VII. The series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, followed by several folders of carbon copies of Bancroft's outgoing letters arranged chronologically.

Series III, SPEECHES AND WRITINGS, 1920-1991 (#164-297, 299-333, 548-577), contains Bancroft's published and unpublished works. Folders on Bancroft's talks and lectures include typescripts, postcards announcing talks, correspondence, etc. Talks include to the American Women's Club of Zurich, radio talks while living in Switzerland, and lectures given under the auspices of the Columbia Lecture Bureau in the United States. See also #358 for Bancroft's talk to a Democratic Women's Workshop. Bancroft translated and wrote articles for the Swiss press while she freelanced in Switzerland. Her translations were published in Atlas: The Magazine of the World Press; and her book reviews in Manhattan East newspaper, Psychological Perspectives, and other periodicals. Material on Bancroft's two published novels, Upside Down in the Magnolia Tree and The Inseparables includes drafts, correspondence, royalty statements from publishers, fan letters, and other reader responses. There are multiple drafts of Bancroft's Autobiography of a Spy, as well as letters from readers, clippings, and royalty statements. Also included are drafts of many unpublished novels, short stories, articles, a monograph on Mme. De Stael and her circle, scripts for plays, a proposed TV series on the C.I.A., as well as Bancroft's translation of a memoir by Second World War flying ace (and later fashion designer) Emilio Pucci (#281-284). The series is arranged with talks and lectures listed first, followed by published books, published articles, and then unpublished writings.

Series IV, ORGANIZATIONS, 1959-1988 (#334-354, 578-581), includes correspondence, by-laws and other founding documents, membership lists, and other material related to several groups with which Bancroft was involved. This series focuses mainly on Mary Bancroft's interest in psychology, and includes records and correspondence of the Analytical Psychology Club of New York; a talk Mary Bancroft gave to the club; correspondence with members of the C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology, as well as a skit and reviews for its journal Update. Also included is correspondence with the director of Psychological Perspectives (Bancroft served on the board of editors), Bancroft's reviews for the journal, and articles by others. There are also several Office of Strategic Services directories and correspondence concerning Mary Bancroft's membership in the Authors' League of America.

Series V, POLITICS, 1862-1924, 1949-1987 (#355-358, 360-399, 582-585) documents Mary Bancroft's involvement in New York City and national politics, and includes clippings and campaign material about Carmine De Sapio, the Tammany Hall Democratic leader, and campaign material, photographs, and interviews with campaign workers for Anthony B. Akers, unsuccessful Democratic candidate in the 17th Congressional District in 1956 and 1958. The notes, clippings, and correspondence about three Democratic clubs in the 8th and 9th Assembly districts--the Lexington Democratic, James F. Farley, and Lenox Hill (#371-377) document tensions and infighting in Democratic local politics between reformers and Tammany Hall (for Mary Bancroft's views on reformers see her letters (#366, 378). Mary Bancroft's 1960 unsuccessful primary campaign in the 8th Assembly district when she was nominated by the Farley Club (perceived to be affiliated with the Tammany Hall Boss system) and ran against Charles Lieber, the reform candidate, produced fliers, photographs, speech notes, financial records, and clippings (#x-y). There are also clippings relating to Judge James Leff (Mary Bancroft's campaign manager in 1960) and his correspondence with others (#368-370); records about the Civilian Review Board (#389), New York County Conservative Party (#391), and national political races; and Mary Bancroft's notebook of clippings and reflections on Watergate. The series is arranged roughly chronologically, with two folders with historic New York City prints and political printed material filed at the end.

Series VI, PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1870s-1993, n.d. (#1, 2, 298, 359, 586-592), includes photographs of Bancroft, her family, friends, and political mentors. Folders #1 and 2 were previously located in Series I; folder #298 was previously located in Series III; folder #359 was previously located in Series V - in 2014 they were relocated to this series to better provide description of all photographs in the collection.

Series VII, AUDIOTAPES, 1954-1983 (T-64.1 - T-64.34), includes audiocassettes and reel-to-reel tapes of Bancroft's lectures, talks, conversations, and interviews. T-64.12 and T-64.13 were previously listed as 41at and 42at. Arranged chronologically.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Mary Bancroft, author and intelligence officer for the Office of Strategic Services, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1903, the daughter of Mary Agnes Cogan and Hugh Bancroft, who published The Wall Street Journal. Her mother had studied at Radcliffe College and died shortly after Mary's birth. Mary Bancroft graduated from the Winsor School in Brookline in 1921, and attended Smith College for three months in 1922. She then married Sherwin Badger, Harvard College Class of 1923, and figure skating champion of the United States. After Badger's graduation from Harvard, he took a position with the United Fruit Company and the Bancrofts spent a year in Cuba. They had three children: a son George who died in infancy, Sherwin, Jr., and Mary Jane. They were divorced in 1932. Bancroft and Badger split custody of their children--Mary Jane lived with Bancroft, and Sherwin lived with his father when he wasn't at boarding school.

In 1935 Mary Bancroft married Jean Rufenacht, a Swiss businessman, and later that decade moved to Zurich, where she was analyzed by and studied with Carl G. Jung. This was a formative experience for Bancroft and psychology became a life-long interest. She was proficient in French and German and was hired to work for Allen Dulles in the Office of Strategic Services. For a time Bancroft and Dulles were lovers. As an agent, she analyzed speeches and writings of Nazi leaders, wrote reports on conversations with German contacts, and was assigned to help translate a book written by Hans Bernd Gisevius, one of the July 20th (1944) plotters against Hitler. She had frequent conversations with Gisevius and tried to elicit information from him to pass along to Allen Dulles, but he was in direct contact with Dulles and Bancroft had no role in the plot. Mary Bancroft divorced Jean Rufenacht in 1947 and returned permanently to the United States in 1953.

After her first divorce, being in need of income, Mary Bancroft worked as a translator and as a freelance journalist, writing articles for the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, and translating filmscripts and film documentaries. On her return from Europe she lectured professionally on international topics under the auspices of the Columbia Lecture Bureau. She published two novels, Upside Down in the Magnolia Tree (1952), and The Inseparables (1958) and drafted many more. Her translations appeared in Atlas: The Magazine of the World Press, 1962-1964, and her articles and book reviews were published in Manhattan East in the 1960s. Her memoir, Autobiography of a Spy, was published in 1983.

Mary Bancroft was a prolific letter writer. She corresponded with publisher Henry R. Luce for a number of years. She befriended and corresponded with a number of young literary and artistic personalities, including Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, and Woody Allen. Epistolary writing seemed to suit Bancroft--in the years following her divorce from Rufenacht, she wrote him lengthy letters about her daily life that mainly functioned as a journal; it is unclear whether these were ever mailed to him.

After settling in New York City, Mary Bancroft threw herself into local politics as a means of reconnecting to the United States after so many expatriate years. She worked for her friend Anthony J. Akers in his two unsuccessful campaigns to represent the 17th Congressional District. She ran in the Democratic primary for the 8th Assembly District in 1960 and as a delegate for the 1964 Democratic National Convention, both unsuccessfully. She was a member of the James F. Farley Democratic Club, the Lexington Democratic Club, and until she became disenchanted with New York "reform" politics, the Lenox Hill Club.

She kept up her interest in psychology through correspondence and membership in the Analytical Psychology Club of New York City and the C.G. Jung Foundation. She served on the editorial board of Psychological Perspectives, and was a consultant and book reviewer for it.

Mary Bancroft died on January 10, 1997.


The collection is arranged in seven series:

  1. Series I. Personal and biographical, 1906-1997 (#3-36, 400-478)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1907-1991 (#37-163, 479-547)
  3. Series III. Speeches and writings, 1920-1991 (#164-297, 299-333, 548-577)
  4. Series IV. Organizations, 1959-1988 (#334-354, 578-581)
  5. Series V. Politics, 1862-1924, 1949-1987 (#355-358, 360-399, 582-585)
  6. Series VI. Photographs, ca.1870s-1993, n.d. (#1, 2, 298, 359, 586-592)
  7. Series VII. Audiotapes, 1954-1983 (T-64.1 - T-64.34)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 77-M163, 77-M185, 79-M47, 81-M141, 97-M60, 2006-M148, 2006-M171

The papers of Mary Bancroft were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Bancroft in October and November 1977, in May 1981; by her estate in May 1997; and by her grandson Hugh Taft-Morales in 2006. Master copies of two audiotapes were purchased from Harvard Audiovisual Services in March 1979.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see The Reminiscences of Mary Bancroft (OH-64).


  1. Box 1: 3-13
  2. Box 2: 14-26
  3. Box 3: 27-38
  4. Box 4: 39-40, 43-61
  5. Box 5: 62-71
  6. Box 6: 72-87
  7. Box 7: 88-105
  8. Box 8: 106-115
  9. Box 9: 116-133
  10. Box 10: 134-150
  11. Box 11: 151-167
  12. Box 12: 168-180
  13. Box 13: 181-193
  14. Box 14: 194-202
  15. Box 15: 203-210
  16. Box 16: 211-219
  17. Box 17: 220-229
  18. Box 18: 230-246
  19. Box 19: 247-258
  20. Box 20: 259-269
  21. Box 21: 270-277
  22. Box 22: 278-285
  23. Box 23: 286-297a
  24. Box 24: 297b, 299-313
  25. Box 25: 314-322
  26. Box 26: 323v-331
  27. Box 27: 334-343
  28. Box 28: 344-353
  29. Box 29: 354-358, 360-368
  30. Box 30: 369-375, 377-379
  31. Box 31: 380-390
  32. Box 32: 391-402
  33. Box 33: 404v-405, 407, 409-414
  34. Box 34: 415-422
  35. Box 35: 424-433
  36. Box 36: 434-446
  37. Box 37: 447-460
  38. Box 38: 461-467
  39. Box 39: 468-476
  40. Box 40: 477-482, 484-495
  41. Box 41: 496-517
  42. Box 42: 518-531
  43. Box 43: 532-554
  44. Box 44: 555-566, 568-570
  45. Box 45: 571-580
  46. Box 46: 581-583, 585
  47. Box 47: 106af, 330af, 333f, 358af, 408fv, 551f, 567f, 584f

Processing Information

Processed: December 1998

By: Jane S. Knowles

Updated: June 2014

By: Jenny Gotwals

Bancroft, Mary. Papers of Mary Bancroft, 1862-1997: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Esther Margaret Ridder Preservation Fund, the Class of 1950 Fund, the Jeannette Ward Fund, and the Mary Maples Dunn Fund.

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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