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Gunther, Frances Fineman. Papers, 1915-1963: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America


Radcliffe College
September 1991

© 1991 Radcliffe College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: 87-M176--88-M130
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: Frances (Fineman) Gunther, 1897-1964
Title: Papers, 1915-1963
Quantity: 12 cartons, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 oversize folder
Abstract: Book manuscripts, journals, correspondence, etc., of Frances Fineman Gunther, journalist.

Processing Information:

Preliminary inventory: September 1991
By: Elizabeth Sandager

Acquisition Information:

Accession numbers: 87-M176, 87-M183, 88-M130
The papers of Frances (Fineman) Gunther were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Ann Sanders von Euler, a friend and classmate of FFG's son John, in November 1987.


Access. Unrestricted.

Use Restrictions:

Copyright. The donor transfers her copyright in the papers to Radcliffe College for the Schlesinger Library, except that during her lifetime Radcliffe will not authorize publication of quotations from the papers without her prior written permission.
Copying. Unrestricted.

Preferred citation for publication:

Frances Fineman Gunther Papers, 1915-1963; item description, dates. 87-M176--88-M130, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Frances (Fineman) Gunther, journalist and writer, was born in 1897 in New York, the younger of two children of Sonia (Paul) and Dennis Fineman, both Russian Jews. FFG maintained a friendship with her brother, Bernard, into adulthood. FFG attended Barnard College, with a year (1919 1920) at Radcliffe, and was graduated in 1921. She began psychoanalysis in New York in 1923, continuing in Vienna and other places where she lived over the next four decades. During the 1920s, she went to the Soviet Union, and studied Russian theatre.
FFG met John Gunther in 1925, and they were married in 1927. JG became well known for a series of books, including Inside Europe (1936) and Inside Asia (1939). They had two children, both of whom died in childhood: Judy in 1929, before her first birthday, and John, Jr. (Johnny) at 17, in 1947. Johnny's fifteen month struggle with a brain tumor was the subject of JG's Death Be Not Proud, of which FFG wrote the last chapter.
The Gunthers lived in Europe (London, Paris, Rome, Vienna) from 1925 to 1936. As foreign correspondent for the London News Chronicle, FFG covered the establishment of a fascist regime in Austria in 1934. She worked in association with JG for many years, in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and for the News Chronicle and the Chicago Daily News. Her contribution to JG's writings are suggested by annotated drafts of Death Be Not Proud, and a 1934 letter of recommendation in which he stated that "she does most of my work even when I am here [in Vienna]."
In 1937 1938, the Gunthers travelled in the Middle East and Asia, meeting Chaim Weizmann, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar lal Nehru, the Chiang Kai sheks, and T.V. Soong; this trip resulted in a continuing friendship between FFG and Nehru. FFG and JG were divorced in 1944, but maintained some contact.
During World War II, FFG wrote articles and made speeches critical of British imperialism and advocating independence for India. Among other organizations, she spoke before the Washington Press Club, the Quaker Institute of International Relations, and the Post War Council in New York. Her speeches were collected in a book, Revolution in India (1944).
After her wide and varied experiences as a journalist, FFG continued to observe major world events, and, absorbed with the idea of world peace, tried to understand and to propose solutions to global conflicts and tensions. Look ing for explanations of political behavior through introspection, she continued to seek enlightenment through relevant courses and lectures. In 1943 1944 she attended the Graduate School of International Relations at Yale to learn more about foreign policy. As a result, she began a study, never completed, entitled "Empire: Notes for a Study of the Theory and Practice of Empires." In 1948 1949 she attended lectures by Karen Horney and others at the New School in New York City, and herself spoke, on "Psychoanalysis and the News World," before the Asso ciation for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. In 1960 1961 she returned to New York from Israel to take courses on religion, linguistics, and sociology at Columbia University.
Increasingly conscious of her Jewishness and resent ful of its suppression, in late 1949 she joined other Zionists in settling the newly established state of Israel. She took Hebrew lessons and, inspired by Martin Buber and other provocative thinkers whom she met there, began a long range study of Arab Israeli relations. Her interest in the connections between religion and politics culminated in an unpublished work entitled "A Study of Theo Politics."
Her travels continued; in 1950 she visited India as guest of the Nehru family, and the following year met JG in Egypt on his "Inside Africa" trip. She was living in Jerusalem at the time of her death in 1964.
For additional biographical information, see the Frances P. Fineman file in RGXXI, Series 1 (Radcliffe College student files, 1890-1985).


The book manuscripts, diaries, correspondence, notes, photographs, and clippings in this collection document the personal and intellectual development of a modern Jewish woman and her impact on others. Her influence, for exam ple, on Nehru's thinking is evident in their correspondence, which covers more than a decade (1938 1950).
Thousands of handwritten notes, which she generally labelled "dream notes" or "diary notes," reveal her thoughtfulness and insight. In addition, the papers contain considerable documentation about family relationships mother and son, wife and husband, sister and brother and FFG's intimate relationship with Nehru.
The papers have been arranged in five series:
Series I, Personal and biographical (#1 38), begins with a folder of resumes, membership cards, and other biographical papers. It also includes diaries, calendars, and address books, which provide a chronology of FFG's life and travels. The diaries, as FFG referred to them, contain intermittent entries that comment on major world events and political leaders; she also recorded her feel ings about John, Jr., and other family members. Examples include a diary describing Johnny's development during his first eight years, and a 1937 entry that recounts her earlier trip to the USSR, during which an aunt enlightened her about her parents' relationship.
There are major gaps in the diaries during the 1920s and '40s, but correspondence fills some of these gaps.
Series II, Family papers (#39 69), includes photo graphs, most of FFG and her daughter Judy; correspondence, some addressed to both Gunthers; John, Jr.'s journals; and letters to him from both parents. These letters document the Gunthers' travel and work. Letters from FFG's brother, Bernard, concern her writing and marriage, but he also writes about the death of their mother in 1958. Although concentrated in this series, personal correspondence can be found throughout the collection. John, Jr.'s school papers from Deerfield Academy have been sent to the archives of that school.
Series III, Education (#70 98). FFG took courses throughout her life, generally to support her research. Included here are class notes and papers from Barnard, Radcliffe, the New School, and Columbia University, as well as notebooks from Hebrew lessons in Jerusalem. Yale papers are in #216 218 in Series V.
Series IV, Writings (#99 141), contains FFG's fiction and journalistic writings, including drafts of poems, plays, short stories, and newspaper articles, and a speech. Subjects include adolescent sexuality, female/male relations, Israel, and women she knew, such as Dorothy Thompson (journalist) and Sophie Udine (Haganah fighter). Much of FFG's fiction appears to be autobiographical.
Most of her works were never published, but a few of FFG's poems and short stories appeared in Progressive, Story, and other periodicals. A play entitled "Fog" was produced by the Writers' Club, Hollywood, in 1931. See also Series V for other drafts of poems and plays, including the play "Sons of Abraham."
This series also contains FFG's newspaper articles about the rise of fascism in Austria, including the assassination of Chancellor Dollfuss in 1934, a few articles about FFG, and her speech: "Psychoanalysis and the News World."
Series V, Research files (#142 511), the largest series, consists mainly of materials pertaining to her two major unpublished studies, "Empire" and "Theo Politics," and her published writings and speeches on India; several drafts of articles, plays, and speeches are scattered throughout the files. (In many cases, it is unclear whether a work was ever published.) This series also includes personal correspondence documenting FFG's rela tionship with JG and his second wife, Jane (see #170 176) as well as correspondence with Nehru and condolence letters about John, Jr. (#309 319).
FFG's original filing system (including her folder numbers) has been maintained, except for #406 439, which had her headings but no numbers. These folders seem to relate to various materials scattered throughout the "Theo politics" section. After #362, she began a second numerical sequence, which she numbered 1 121, apparently to contain current drafts and research material. A final sequence of folders (#488 508), originally found in 22 envelopes, contains notes and clippings outlining FFG's approach and the organization of her study. The last folder consists of a typed draft entitled "A Study of Theo Politics and its Application to Jewish Life and Problems" (1965). This draft was completed after FFG's death, perhaps by an assistant.
"Empire": #253 contains a typed draft of "Empire," FFG's study of the methods and techniques of imperial power. The introduction to this work lays out her views on the differences between females and males, as do many of the earlier versions of "Empire" (found in the folders after #253, along with outlines and bibliographies). Also included are drafts of a critique of Admiral Mahan's books, which FFG appears to have included as a chapter on empire as sea power.
Research for this study included courses taken at Yale University in 1943 1944. Class notes, bibliographies, and a research paper are in folders titled "Monroe Doctrine." Other folders (#188 218 and #244 259) contain extensive typed research notes, handwritten notes, and clippings.
"Asian travels, 1937 1938": This section includes FFG's book Revolution in India, reviews of it, and typed drafts of speeches on India that she gave to such groups as the Women's League, Quakers, and the Washington Press Club. Her published articles and book reviews, most from the New Republic or Common Sense, are in #226 227. There are also interview notes and letters to Madame Chiang Kai shek; travel notes include a description of FFG's visit with Chou En lai (#221 222).
"Theo Politics": While taking courses at Columbia in 1960 1961, FFG began drafting a book on theo politics, which she defined as "the study on the influence of theological concepts of 'God' upon the political institutions of the church and state." A proposal to the Ford Foundation outlines the research methods she intended to use; the way this study actually evolved is, however, most evident in the research files (#177 187, 273 306, 320 357, 363 508).
Research files typically contain typed research notes, reflecting her wide reading in the fields of his tory, archaeology, and comparative mythology and religion; handwritten notes, often referring to attached clippings from contemporary newspapers and journals, mainly the Jerusalem Post and the British and U.S. press. Some folders also contain interview notes and correspondence with individuals in the Israeli government, the U.N., or various professions, as well as religious leaders and university professors. A major correspondent is Wadji Tabari, a lawyer who translated Death Be Not Proud into Arabic. There are also extensive notes from Martin Buber lectures and from U.N. debates on Israel held in 1949, as well as correspondence, newsletters, reports and other printed material from organizations in which she was active, such as the American Friends of the Middle East.
Folders in Series V are listed in the order in which they were numbered by FFG. Materials that had not been integrated into FFG's filing scheme are in Series I IV. Most folder headings are FFG's; dates or text supplied by the processor are in brackets. FFG referred to herself as "FG."



Additional catalog entries

American Friends of the Middle East
Gunther, John, 1901 1970
Gunther, John, 1929 1947
Nehru, Jawaharlal, 1889 1964
Austria--Politics and government--20th century
India--Politics and government--1919 1947
Israel--Politics and government--20th century
Jewish Arab relations
Jews--United States
Journalism--Political aspects
Judaism and politics
Mothers and sons
Women and psychoanalysis
Women, Jewish
Youth and death