Juliet Stuart Poyntz

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Juliet Stuart Poyntz
Poyntz-Juliet-1918.jpg
Juliet Stuart Poyntz circa 1918
Born Juliet Stuart Points
November 25, 1886
Omaha, Nebraska
Disappeared June 1937
New York City
Status Unresolved
Died June 1937? (age 50)
Education MA Columbia University, BA Barnard College
Alma mater Barnard College
Occupation suffragist, feminist, trade unionist, socialist, communist, political activist, spy
Years active 190–1937
Employer various including Barnard College and CPUSA
Agent GRU
Known for unexplained disappearance
Political party
Socialist Party of America, Communist Party USA
Spouse(s) Friedrich Franz Ludwig Glaser
Relatives Eulalie Poyntz McClelland (sister)

Juliet Stuart Poyntz (1886–1937) was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and a founding member of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). After resigning from active work with the party, she disappeared in 1937. She is believed by several sources to have been abducted and murdered by a Soviet NKVD assassination squad.

Biography[edit]

Poyntz was born on November 25, 1886 in Omaha, Nebraska. Her family moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, not long before she entered Barnard College.[1]

Education[edit]

She moved to New York City as a young adult, where she earned degrees at Barnard College in 1907.[1]

She was class treasurer as a freshman, class president as a sophomore, secretary of the Barnard Union, and finally president of the Undergraduate Association and chairman of the student council as a senior. She was editor-in-chief of Mortarboard. She was a member of: Kappa Kappa Gamma fraternity, the Philosophy Club, the Classical Club, the Athletic Association, the Christian Association, and the Sophomore Dance Committee. In 1904, she acted "Casting the Boomerang," at the Brinckerhoff Theatre (now Minor Latham Playhouse). In 1905, Poyntz took part in Barnard's third annual Greek Games, where she recited the "Invocation to the Gods" and tied first place in wrestling. She partook in the Interclass Debate (class of 1906 versus class of 1907). In her senior year, she was voted most popular both in the college and for 1907. She was valedictorian of her class and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. By graduation in June 1907, her interests had expanded from suffragism and feminism to trade unionism, labor rights, and socialism.[1]

Political career[edit]

From 1907 to 1909, Poyntz was "Special Agent for the U.S. Immigration Commission," working in Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Utica (New York), Lawrence (Massachusetts), and other cities. She joined the Socialist Party of America in 1909. She taught at Barnard College for the 1909-10 academic year, when she was an assistant to history professor James T. Shotwell, well known for liberal and pacifist views.[1]

She received her A.M. degree from Columbia University.[1] In 1912, she wrote Barnard's Class Book, "I am still a woman's suffragist or worse still a Feminist and also a Socialist (also of the worst brand)." She began working in the labor reform movement in 1913. She was instrumental in labor-Left reform organizations such as U.S Immigration Commission, The American Association for Labor Legislation, and the Rand School of Social Science.[1] She became director of the Worker's University of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). She continued to work within the Socialist-oriented ILGWU after siding with the fledgling CPUSA. During the 1920s, Poyntz was on the staff of the Friends of the Soviet Union and International Labor Defense.

In November 1926, she ran for New York State Comptroller and in November 1928 for New York State Attorney General, both times on the Workers Party ticket.[2]

She later quit her outside work in favor of intelligence activities for the Soviet OGPU during the "Third Period".

According to a book by Benjamin Gitlow, a founding member of the CPUSA, Poyntz was a delegate to several consecutive American Communist Party conventions, and was a member of the Party’s Central Executive Committee, besides being on New York’s District Executive Committee. She had even gone to China on a Comintern (Communist International) mission, and had dropped out of the CPUSA in 1934 in order to work for the OGPU (Soviet military secret police) in gathering scientific information for the Soviet Union. In 1936, Poyntz secretely traveled to Moscow to receive further instructions from Soviet authorities, and was seen there in the company of George Mink (alias Minkoff), an American later implicated in the disappearance of several Trotkskyists during the Spanish Civil War.[3][4] While there, Poyntz witnessed the purges instigated by Stalin, in which people she had known and worked with were killed. She returned to the U.S. disillusioned and unwilling to continue spying for the OGPU (later the NKVD).

Disappearance[edit]

Poyntz disappeared after leaving the Women's Club in New York City on the evening of June 3, 1937.[5] A police investigation turned up no clues to her fate, and her belongings, all of her clothing, and hand luggage in her room appeared to be untouched.[6]

In early 1938 Carlo Tresca, a leading Italian-American anarchist, publicly accused the Soviets of kidnapping Poyntz in order to prevent her defection. He said that before she disappeared, she had come to him to talk over her disgust at what she had seen in Moscow in 1936 in the early stages of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge.

Testimony by former Soviet agent Whittaker Chambers tied Poyntz' disappearance to the shadowy Soviet Comintern agent Josef Peters.[7] As an inside member of the Soviet Comintern and OGPU espionage network, Peters is believed to have participated in the planning of the kidnapping and alleged murder of fellow CPUSA member Juliet Poyntz by a Soviet assassination squad.[8]

Chambers later stated that he heard Poyntz had been killed for attempted desertion, and this rumor contributed to his caution when he defected in 1938. Elizabeth Bentley stated she was told by Jacob Golos in the late 1930s, and later by KGB officer Anatoli Gromov in 1945 that Poyntz had been a traitor and was now dead. Both Chambers's and Bentley's defection were probably in part motivated by fear of the example set in the Juliet Poyntz case.

It is known that Poyntz told some acquaintances about plans to write a book in which she would expose the Communist movement. Author Benjamin Gitlow wrote that Poyntz was disillusioned by Stalin's purges and was unwilling to continue as an espionage agent for the USSR. Gitlow relates that the OGPU/NKVD used Poyntz's former lover, a man named Shachno Epstein, the associate editor of the Communist Yiddish daily Morgen Freiheit (and an OGPU/NKVD agent himself), to lure Poyntz out for a walk in Central Park. "They met at Columbus Circle and proceeded to walk through Central Park...Shachno took her by the arm and led her up a side path, where a large black limousine hugged the edge of the walk... Two men jumped out, grabbed Miss Poyntz, shoved her into the car and sped away." Gitlow relates that the assassins took Poyntz to the woods near the Roosevelt estate in Dutchess County, and killed and buried her there. "The body was covered with lime and dirt. On top were placed dead leaves and branches which the three killers trampled down with their feet."[6]

Before his own mysterious death, the GRU defector Walter Krivitsky suggested another motive for the NKVD kidnapping of Poyntz. During one of her sojourns to Moscow, Juliet had become a mistress and lover of Red Army Corps Commander Vitovt Putna. In August 1936 the NKVD arrested Putna and accused him of maintaining contacts with Leon Trotsky, from whom he had allegedly received "terrorist directives." Under torture, Putna testified to the existence of a "nation-wide" center of Trotskyists, and to his involvement in a "parallel" military organization. On June 11, 1937 a military tribunal, in camera, condemned Putna and other high-ranking officers to death in the judicial frame-up known as the Moscow Trial of the Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization. The NKVD, according to Krivitsky, may have abducted Poytnz one week before the trial out of fear that she would defect once the execution of Putna became known, or simply because she was a known friend of the "enemy" Putna.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Marriage[edit]

In 1913, Poyntz married Dr. Friedrich Franz Ludwig Glaser, a Communist and attache at the German consulate in New York. (She kept her maiden name though changed the spelling from "Points" to "Poyntz").[1]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Vodonos, Irina (after 2002). "Juliet Stuart Poyntz, 1907: Suffragist, Feminist, Spy". Barnard College. Retrieved 5 May 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ "Red Ticket Goes on Ballot in NY State," Daily Worker, vol. 5, no. 241 (Oct. 11, 1928), pg. 3.
  3. ^ The Mink, Time Magazine, 2 May 1938
  4. ^ Pernicone, Nunzio, Carlo Tresca: Portrait of a Rebel, New York: Palgrave MacMillan 2005; pg. 232
  5. ^ Kern, Gary, A Death in Washington, p. 163
  6. ^ a b Gitlow, Benjamin, The Whole of Their Lives; Communism in America--a Personal History and Intimate Portrayal of its Leaders, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons (1948)
  7. ^ Whittaker Chambers Testimony before HUAC 3 August 1948
  8. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. Random House. pp. 36, 47, 204, 439. ISBN 0-89526-571-0. 
  9. ^ Walter Krivitsky FBI FOIA File 100-11146-84

Further reading[edit]

  • Elizabeth McKillen, "The Culture of Resistance: Female Institution Building in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, 1905-1925," Michigan Occasional Papers in Women's Studies, vol. 21 (Winter 1982).
  • Nancy Maclean, "Juliet Stuart Poyntz," Encyclopedia of the American Left. Paul Buhle, Mari Jo Buhle, and Dan Georgakas, eds. 2nd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 631–632.
  • Kathryn S. Olmsted, Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley. Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Robert J. Schaefer, "Educational Activities of the Garment Unions, 1890-1948: A Study in Workers' Education in the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in New York City. PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 1951.
  • Richard C.S. Trahair and Robert Miller, Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations. New York: Enigma Books, 2008.
  • Carlo Tresca, "Where is Juliet Stuart Poyntz?" Modern Monthly, Vol. 10 (March 1938).
  • Allen Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss–Chambers Case. New York: Random House, 1997.
  • Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—The Stalin Era. New York: Modern Library, 1999