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Medical Mission to Moscow: Women’s Work, Day Care, and Early Cold War Politics in Twentieth-Century America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2011

Ian Dowbiggin*
University of Prince Edward Island


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Copyright © Donald Critchlow and Cambridge University Press 2011

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1. Davies, Joseph E., Mission to Moscow (New York, 1941)Google Scholar. In 1943, Davies’s book was made into a major motion picture of the same name. For Hastings and Shimkin’s 1944 visit, see Hastings, A. Baird and Shimkin, Michael B., “Medical Research Mission to the Soviet Union,” Science 103 (1946): 605–8CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed. For more on the 1944 visit, see Krementsov, Nikolai, The Cure: A Story of Cancer and Politics from the Annals of the Cold War (Chicago, 2002), 62–63Google Scholar. The 1946 “Medical Mission to Moscow” is also to be distinguished from a similar, 1961 visit of the same name to the Soviet Union. Swift, LeRoy R., “Medical Mission to Moscow,” Journal of the National Medical Association 53 (July 1961): 346–51Google ScholarPubMed.

2. The FBI targeted Robert Leslie of the ASMS as a suspected Soviet spy, but concluded that though a member of the CPUSA and a member of the executive board of the communist publication New Masses, he was not guilty of espionage. J. P. Coyne to D. M. Ladd, 28 November 1947, “FBI Office Memorandum Re: Dr. Robert Lincoln Leslie,” American-Soviet Medical Society Records, 1942–87, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Md., Box 1, folder 2 (hereafter cited as NLM).

3. Petigny, Alan, The Permissive Society: America, 1941–1965 (Cambridge, 2009)Google Scholar. In describing the “permissive turn” American culture and society took in the post-1945 period, Petigny defines “permissive” as meaning “free from moral baggage … the sense of loosening traditional constraints” (17).

4. The only account of the ASMS is Walter Lear’s “Hot War Creation, Cold War Casualty,” in Making Medical History: The Life and Times of Henry Sigerist, ed. Fee, Elizabeth and Brown, Theodore M. (Baltimore, 1997), 259–87Google Scholar. Although Lear concedes that recent research has shown that by 1947 the Kremlin had decided to scale back the Soviet scientific community’s contacts with foreign scientists, he tends to blame the death of the ASMS on the “the cold war offensive against the USSR and everything tainted or alleged to be tainted by communism” (279).

5. For Emily Mudd’s version of events surrounding the Medical Mission to Moscow, see Emily Hartshorne Mudd interview with James Reed, 21 May–3 August 1974, Schlesinger–Rockefeller Family Planning Oral History Project, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, 140–50 (hereafter cited as Mudd, “Interview”). I wish to thank the Schlesinger Library for permission to quote from this document and James Reed for his thoughts on Mudd and the history of the birth control movement. See also Emily Hartshorne Mudd Papers, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University (hereafter cited as EHM).

6. Sigerist, Henry E., Socialized Medicine in the Soviet Union (New York, 1937), 308Google Scholar.

7. Hutchinson, John F., “Dancing with Commissars: Sigerist and Soviet Medicine,” in Making Medical History, ed. Fee, and Brown, , 229–58, 239Google Scholar.

8. This was certainly Sigerist’s view. He wrote: “The Russian Revolution liberated women, according them equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social, and political life. If the Revolution had achieved nothing else, this alone would be enough to make it an event of great historical significance.” Sigerist, Socialized Medicine in the Soviet Union, 238.

9. Weigand, Kate, Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women’s Liberation (Baltimore, 2001), 9, 10Google Scholar.

10. Krementsov, Nikolai, “In the Shadow of the Bomb: U.S.-Soviet Biomedical Relations in the Early Cold War, 1944–1948,” Journal of Cold War Studies 9 (2007): 41–67, 44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar Krementsov’s analysis of Soviet-U.S. exchanges of biomedical information during the early Cold War provides an invaluable and incisive glimpse into the ways in which the Soviets used “science as a propaganda tool” (67). He also argues provocatively that “science played a much more direct and important role in the actual formulation of certain Cold War policies” than historians have imagined (43).

11. His accomplishments with plasma were credited with saving the lives of thousands of servicemen during World War II.

12. Reed, James, From Private Vice to Public Virtue: The Birth Control Movement and American Society Since 1830 (New York, 1978), 127Google Scholar. Mudd’s Marriage Counsel changed its name to the Marriage Council of Philadelphia in 1946.

13. By the early twenty-first century, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy represented some 23,000 therapists in the United States, Canada, and abroad. The mandate of some present-day marriage and family counselors has broadened to include education and therapy for nontraditional unions and partnerships, in the process challenging long-standing gender and social norms. See Celello, Kristin, Making Marriage Work: Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States (Chapel Hill, 2009), 58–59, 89–90, 98–99, 157Google Scholar. See also Davis, Rebecca L., More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss (Cambridge, Mass., 2010), 156–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14. For accounts of Paul Popenoe’s career, see Kline, Wendy, Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2001), 141–56Google Scholar; Ladd-Taylor, Molly, “Eugenics, Sterilization, and Modern Marriage in the U.S.A.: The Strange Career of Paul Popenoe,” Gender and History 3 (2001): 298–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Stern, Alexandra Minna, Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2005), 150–81Google Scholar.

15. Mudd, Emily H., The Practice of Marriage Counseling (New York, 1951)Google Scholar; Mudd, Emily H., Stone, Abraham, Karpf, Maurice J., and Nelson, Janet Fowler, eds., Marriage Counseling: A Case-Book (New York, 1958)Google Scholar.

16. Emily Hartshorne Mudd,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 144 (March 2000): 99–104, 103Google Scholar.

17. In The Feminine Mystique (1963)Google Scholar, Friedan referred to “the dull routine of housework” and argued that women’s self-realization was achieved outside the home and family. “Work,” she maintained, “can now be seen as the key to the problem that has no name.” Friedan, Betty, The Feminine Mystique (New York, 1963)Google Scholar. Cited in Petigny, The Permissive Society,166Google Scholar. Petigny has argued convincingly that the standard historiographic characterization of the 1950s “as a time when the stay-at-home wife was the cultural ideal and gender roles stood firm” does not fit the facts (134). See also Hennessee, Judith, Betty Friedan: Her Life (New York, 1999)Google Scholar; Horowitz, Daniel, Betty Friedan and the Making of the “Feminine Mystique”: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism (Boston, 1998)Google Scholar. Both Mudd and Friedan had radical pasts, which they later downplayed. See Horowitz, Daniel, “Rethinking Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique: Labor Union Radicalism and Feminism in Cold War America,” American Quarterly 48 (1996): 1–42, 29CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18. Mudd, “Interview,” 11.

19. Ibid., 22, 146.

20. Krementsov, “In the Shadow of the Bomb,” 44.

21. The celebrations included a Madison Square Garden rally highlighted by a speech by Vice President Wallace, Henry A.. Melish, Joanne, “American Soviet Friendship,” in Encyclopedia of the American Left, ed. Buhle, Mari Jo, Buhle, Paul, and Georgakas, Dan (New York, 1990), 29–32Google Scholar.

22. Nemzer, Louis, “The Soviet Friendship Societies,” Public Opinion Quarterly 13 (1949): 265–84, 278, 279, 284CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Melish, “American Soviet Friendship,” 31. The propensity to defend the Soviet Union indiscriminately could lead to embarrassing situations when the topic at hand was experimental science. For example, in 1949, the NCASF castigated the U.S. geneticist Hermann J. Muller for attacking the theories of Soviet biologists Ivan Michurin and Trofim Lysenko. The NCASF tacitly endorsed the official Soviet viewpoint that Muller, in opposing Lysenko’s support for the theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics to explain evolution, was by default a backer of Nazi race doctrines. “American-Soviet Facts: The Controversy over Soviet Genetic Theories,” NCASF News-Letter, 7 January 1949, Abraham Stone Papers, Box 14, folder 11, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard University. See also Krementsov, Nikolai, Stalinist Science (Princeton, 1997), esp. 158–83Google Scholar.

23. See the Guide to the National Council of Soviet-American Friendship Records, the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York, N.Y.

24. Duffin, Jacalyn, “The Guru and the Godfather: Henry Sigerist, Hugh MacLean, and the Politics of Health Care Reform in 1940s Canada,” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 9 (1992): 191–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Duffin, Jacalyn and Falk, Leslie A., “Sigerist in Saskatchewan: The Quest for Balance in Social and Technical Medicine,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 70 (1996): 658–83CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed. See also Worthington, Janet Farrar, “Flawed Apostle,” Hopkins Medical News (Winter 1999). Scholar.

25. Sigerist, Henry, “Editorial on American-Soviet Relations,” American Review of Soviet Medicine, January 1948Google Scholar, Editorial on American-Soviet Relations Folder, Box 5, NLM. The ASMS had been preceded by a year by the founding of the Anglo-Soviet Medical Committee.

26. Sigerist was a member of the American-Russian Institute’s board of directors.

27. Krementsov, , Stalinist Science, 116CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lear, “Hot War Creation, Cold War Casualty,” 270.

28. Harry Truman to the American-Soviet Medical Society, 14 December 1945, EHM, Carton 4, folder 177.

29. Fishbein quoted in Howard Rushmore, “Red ‘Front’ in Drive to Socialize U.S. Medicine,” New York Journal-American, 12 August 1945Google Scholar. Fishbein was not the only authority who had a low estimation of the Soviet scientific literature the ASMS wished to publish. Jonathan Rhoads, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Surgical Research, when asked by Stuart Mudd to assess a paper by one Soviet scientist, called it “second rate” if it had been written by a U.S. researcher. Jonathan Rhoads to Stuart Mudd, 4 June 1945, University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine: Medical Microbiology/UPC 2.9 88, Stuart Mudd Papers, Box 7 (hereafter cited as SM). The problem only grew worse for the ASMS when in 1947 the Soviet government warned its scientists of severe punishments if they disclosed advances in science, medicine, technology, or economics. See Robert S. Morison to Stuart Mudd, 16 June 1947, Box 7, SM.

30. Medical Exchange with Russia Ends,” New York Times, 19 November 1948, 19Google Scholar.

31. See Alfred Newton Richards, 1910–66, Papers, University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania.

32. Emily Mudd to George Brodbeck, 11 June 1946, EHM, Carton 4, folder 177.

33. Rose Maurer was married to Columbia University sociologist John Somerville. They lived in the USSR from 1935 to 1937. See John Somerville, 1905–1994,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 67 (1994): 52–53Google Scholar.

34. Emily Mudd was not the only advocate of marriage counseling within the ASMS. Abraham Stone, who with his wife, Hannah, authored Marriage Manual: A Practical Guide to Sex and Marriage (1935), one of the first books on the topic, was ASMS secretary during its entire existence. The Stones were close friends with the Mudds: Emily once called Hannah “the Madonna” of the Margaret Sanger Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, which Stone headed until her death in 1941. Given their common participation in the birth control and marriage counseling movements and the mutual respect between the two couples, there is good reason to conclude that the Stones endorsed the Mudds’ motives for undertaking the Medical Mission to Moscow. The Stones too saw the trip as a means of importing to America Soviet policies and theories about marriage and the family. See “Hannah Stone: The Madonna of the Clinic,” Margaret Sanger Papers Project, no. 9 (Winter 1994–95). Scholar.

35. Mudd, Stuart and Mudd, Emily H., “Recent Observations on Programs for Medicine and National Health in the USSR,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 91 (1947): 181–88Google ScholarPubMed; Programs for Medicine and National Health in the USSR,” Science 105 (1947): 269–73, 306–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mudd, Stuart and Mudd, Emily, “Medical Mission to Moscow,” General Magazine and Historical Chronicle 49 (1947): 205–18Google Scholar.

36. Krementsov, “In the Shadow of the Bomb,” 60.

37. Maurer to Emily Mudd, 4 August 1946, EHM, Carton 4, folder 177.

38. Mudd, “Interview,” 145–46. See also Mudd and Mudd, “Medical Mission to Moscow,” 205–218.

39. Starr, Paul, The Social Transformation of American Medicine (New York, 1982), 266–89, 283Google Scholar. See also Numbers, Ronald L., “The Third Party: Health Insurance in America,” in The Therapeutic Revolution: Essays in the Social History of American Medicine, ed. Vogel, Morris J. and Rosenberg, Charles E. (Philadelphia, 1979), 177–200, 184Google Scholar. For Sigerist’s involvement in the debate over “socialized medicine,” see Fee, Elizabeth, “The Pleasures and Perils of Prophetic Advocacy: Socialized Medicine and the Politics of American Medical Reform,” in Making Medical History, ed. Fee, and Brown, , 197–228Google Scholar.

40. Weigand, , Red Feminism, 46Google Scholar.

41. Rose, Elizabeth, Mother’s Job: The History of Day Care, 1890–1960 (New York, 1999), 153–54, 171CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

42. Ibid., 155, 156.

43. Ibid., 162.

44. Ibid., 166, 167.

45. Tuttle, William M. Jr., “Rosie the Riveter and Her Latchkey Children: What Americans Can Learn About Child Day Care from the Second World War,” in A History of Child Welfare, ed. Smith, Eve P. and Merkel, Lisa A. (New Brunswick, N.J., 1995), 83–106, 99Google Scholar.

46. Rose, Mother’s Job, 182, 186–87.

47. Weigand, , Red Feminism, 46–67Google Scholar.

48. Swerdlow, Amy, “The Congress of American Women: Left-Feminist Peace Politics in the Cold War,” in United States History as Women’s History: New Feminist Essays, ed. Kerber, Linda K., Kessler-Harris, Alice, and Sklar, Kathryn Kish (Chapel Hill, 1995), 296–312Google Scholar. For the close contacts between the CAW and NCASF, see United States, Congress, House Committee on Un-American Activities, “Report on the Congress of American Women,” 81st Cong., 2nd sess., House Report no. 1953, 23 October 1949, 26 (hereafter cited as HUAC, “Report”).

49. Congress of American Women, “Resolution on the Family,” Box 5, CAW folder, NLM.

50. Bromley, Dorothy Dunbar, “Visitor Found Russian People Want No War but Would Fight,” New York Herald Tribune, 17 November 1946Google Scholar.

51. “HUAC, “Report,” 105–7.

52. Mudd and Mudd, “Medical Mission to Moscow,” 205–18.

53. Emily Mudd and Stuart Mudd, “Outline for Proposed Articles: Recent Observations of Men, Women, and Children in the USSR,” EHM, Carton 4, folder 185.

54. Mudd, “Interview,” 146.

55. Atkinson, Orianna, Women’s Home Companion, November 1946, 144Google Scholar; Denny, Ludwell, Washington Daily News, 28 April 1947, 27Google Scholar; Kuhn, Ferdinand Jr., Washington Post, 14 May 1947, 1Google Scholar; Davis, Harold, Washington Times-Herald, 2 May 1947, 7Google Scholar. Quoted in HUAC, “Report,” 19–20.

56. Hutchinson, “Dancing with Commissars,” 252.

57. Sigerist, Henry E., Medicine and Health in the Soviet Union (New York, 1947), 96Google Scholar. Cited in Mudd, Emily H., “The Family in the Soviet Union,” Marriage and Family Living 10 (1948): 7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

58. Thanks to the intervention of Viacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s former Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Parin was discharged in October 1953 from the notorious Vladimir Prison, where he was serving a twenty-five-year sentence under maximum security. Krementsov, , The Cure, 201–2Google Scholar.

59. Lear, “Hot War Creation, Cold War Casualty,” 277.

60. The Baldwin Hourglass, 23 January 1947, EHM, Carton 4, folder 187.

61. Emily Mudd to Mrs. Frederick W. Mueller, 19 May 1947, EHM, Carton 4, folder 190.

62. Stuart Mudd to Alfred Newton Richards, 5 December 1947; Stuart Mudd to Elizabeth Frazier, 8 December 1947; Emily Mudd to the NCASF, 9 December 1947, EHM, Carton 4, folder 192.

63. Kinsey often visited the Mudds at home and on at least one occasion he interviewed the Mudd children about their sexual history, including their three-year-old son. Mudd, “Interview,” 161.

64. The FBI claimed that among Leslie’s luggage was a typewritten memo stating that he and the Mudds were “all good comrades and fellow Marxists,” but I have found no evidence beyond their membership in the NCASF that they were either Marxists or members of the CPUSA. FBI Report, 22 October 1946, Box 1, folder 1, NLM.

65. Mudd, “Interview,” 146.

66. Krementsov, “In the Shadow of the Bomb,” 62.