HERspectives: Eleanor Lansing Dulles

Photo of Eleanor Lansing Dulles credit to Getty Images.


The following post was contributed by Madlyn Kaufman, the Senior Cultural Programs Associate at Meridian. It is part of the HERspectives series honoring women in diplomacy during Women’s History Month.

Eleanor Lansing Dulles, also known as “the Mother of Berlin” was born in Watertown, New York in 1895. Eleanor comes from generations of diplomats which include her grandfather, John Watson Foster, who served as Secretary of State under President Harrison; her oldest brother, John Foster Dulles, who was Secretary of State under President Wilson; and another brother, Allen Welsh Dulles, who served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Eisenhower. After graduating in 1917 from Byrn Mawr College with a degree in social sciences and spending time in France to work with refugee relief organizations, Eleanor found herself entering into a 26 year-long career in international government affairs.

Her first position in government was at the Social Security Board in 1936. There, she familiarized herself with the social security system and how it influenced economics. This then led to her to a position with the Board of Economic Warfare in 1942 and her extended career with the Department of State as an economist. She pioneered the World War II post-war economic efforts by determining the U.S. position on international financial cooperation, and she helped establish the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Following her time spent in Austria, Eleanor transferred to the German Desk in 1949. After quickly making an impact in the reconstruction of German economics and culture, she was offered the Berlin Desk in 1952 where she helped reduce West German unemployment, increased production, and reestablished relations.

After a decades-long career, Eleanor left the State Department in 1962. She began teaching at Duke University and later at Georgetown University. She authored several books on U.S. foreign policy and continued to serve as a U.S. government representative abroad.