She was born in Picerno, Basilicata, Kingdom of Italy in 1904 and baptized Maria Assunta Isabella. In 1917, she entered Evander Childs High School. Four years later, after winning a state scholarship, she attended Hunter College, where she developed an interest in social issues and drifted into agnosticism. Later, she graduated from the School of Law at New York University. A schoolteacher and lawyer by profession, Dodd was an organizer for the CPUSA from 1932–1948, and from 1944 to '48 sat on the CPUSA's National Council. She also served as head of the New York State Teachers Union. She was expelled from the CPUSA in 1949. Ostensibly, she was expelled for representing a landlord in a legal dispute with a renter, which was a violation of Party bylaws against recognition or defense of the right to private property. However, Dodd's expulsion from the Party was part of a larger purge following the ouster of Earl Browder as the CPUSA's General Secretary.
In 1952, Dodd was received back into the Roman Catholic Church by Bishop Fulton Sheen. In 1953, she testified before the US Senate about widespread Party infiltration of labor unions and other institutions. On March 11, 1953, The New York Times ran a front page article entitled "Bella Dodd Asserts Reds Got Presidential Advisory Posts." The article reported that Dodd "swore before the Senate Internal Security subcommittee today that Communists had got into many legislative offices of Congress and into a number of groups advising the President of the United States." The New York Times reported on March 8, 1954 that Bella Dodd "...warned yesterday that the 'materialistic philosophy,' [i.e., dialectical materialism ] which she said was now guiding public education, would eventually demoralize the nation."
In 1954, her book School of Darkness was published, wherein she opined that the Communist Party's structure "was in reality a device to control the 'common man'".
In 1968, Dodd made an unsuccessful attempt to become a member of the US Congress as a candidate of the New York Conservative Party; she lost by a significant margin. She came in last place with 3% of the vote, against Democratic incumbent Leonard Farbstein (easily reelected with 53%), Donald Weeden (Republican, Ralph Denat (Liberal, and David McReynolds (Peace and Freedom).
- Dodd, Bella. School of Darkness, Chapter 1
- Obituaries, The Pittsburgh Press (archived at Google), 30 April 1969: "Dr. Bella V. Dodd...died in New York yesterday..."
- Dodd, Bella. School of Darkness, Chapter 3
- Starobin, Joseph Robert (1975). American Communism in Crisis, 1943-1957. University of California Press. ISBN 0520027965[page needed]
- Morgan, Ted (2003). Reds: McCarthyism in 20th Century America. New York: Random House, p. 172. ISBN 0-679-44399-1
- Dodd, Bella. School of Darkness, Chapter 17
- "Bella Dodd Asserts Reds Got Presidential Advisory Posts", The New York Times, 11 March 1953 (subscription required)
- "Bella Dodd Assails Materialism In U.S.", The New York Times, 8 March 1954 (subscription required)
- Dodd, Bella. School of Darkness, Chapter 16
- Milestones: May 9, 1969, Time, 9 May 1969.
- "Dr. Bella V. Dodd Dies at 64; Expelled by Communists in '49; Lawyer Was Also Leader in Teachers Union; Ran for House as a Conservative", The New York Times, 30 April 1969 (subscription required)
- Zullo, Joseph. "Catholic Rites to be Held for Dr. Bella Dodd", Chicago Tribune (archived at Google), 2 May 1969.