Mary Bancroft, the Journalist

In the State Department, in private practice of international law, in the wartime OSS, and the postwar CIA, Allen Dulles devoted his life to “the craft of intelligence,” including bold and aggressive pursuit of covert actions to further what he perceived as America’s political interests abroad.

Although Dulles had been a spy in 1917,WWI, he renewed his activities in the thirties from Switzerland. He quickly met Mary Bancroft who was thirty-eight years old at the time and in her second unhappy marriage. They quickly became lovers.

Mary was no Swiss Fräulein. She was a former debutante from Boston, reared on Beacon Hill, mostly by her stepgrandfather, Clarence W. Barron, financial publishing impresario. She was a hearty product of the Roaring Twenties, as women first began to feel gender independence and freedom. She was a handsome woman of the world, purposeful and profoundly intelligent.

She had lived in Switzerland since 1934 with her school-age daughter, Mary Jane, and her second husband, an international bank accountant named Jean Rufenacht, who was constantly on the road with business clients, including those within German occupation.

Never one to accept boredom, Mary spent her days writing a novel, then entered upon serious self and academic study with the bold and challenging Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. Until meeting Jung, she reminisced, “I had never regarded men more than ten years older than myself as sex objects.” (Jung was almost thirty years her senior)

Mary was an immediate asset to Dulles, with her literary style and curiosity, her ease in French and German, and her natural sophistication in a man’s world. She was put to work analyzing the German press, even bringing her Jungian insights to the speeches of Hitler, Goring, and Goebbels.

Pounding out political analyses day and night on a beat-up old typewriter, cigarette rakishly dangling from her lips, she felt an escape from marriage and purpose and excitement coming back into her life.

I write about Mary Bancroft in my book:  Observer: The Ronnie Lee and Jackie Bancroft Spencer Morgan Story, a tale of people, greed, envy, manipulation — even crime.

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