Early life and career
Gardiner was born on November 23, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. The daughter of Edward Morris, president of the Morris & Company meat-packing business, and Helen Swift, a member of the family which owned Swift & Company, another meat-packing firm, she was born into a family of wealth and privilege. During her childhood she became aware of the plight of the poor and disenfranchised and subsequently developed a lifelong commitment to social and political reform.
After graduating from Wellesley College in 1922 she traveled to Europe where she lived until the outbreak of World War II. She attended the University of Oxford and then, in 1926, went to Vienna, hoping to study psycho-analysis and be analyzed by Sigmund Freud.
She received a degree in medicine from the University of Vienna and married Joseph Buttinger, leader of the Austrian Revolutionary Socialists. In 1934, she became involved in anti-Fascist activities. Using the code name Mary, she smuggled passports and money and offered her home as a safe house for anti-Fascist dissidents, activities which she described in her memoir Code Name Mary: Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground (1983). At the outbreak of World War II in Autumn 1939, the couple and their daughter moved to the United States.
Gardiner edited The Wolf-Man by the Wolf-Man, documents in the case history of a wealthy young Russian who went to Vienna in 1910 to be analyzed by Freud and who became the subject of Freud's History of an Infantile Neurosis. Gardiner met Freud only once, but she knew the Wolf-Man in Vienna, and Code Name Mary carries a foreword by Freud's daughter, Anna Freud.
In 1976, she authored a study of teenage violence called The Deadly Innocents.
Between 1965 and 1984, Gardiner gave a total of 585 acres (2.37 km2) to the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, including Brookdale Farm and two other properties.
She died of cancer on February 6, 1985 in Princeton, New Jersey.
In 1983, Gardiner became involved in the controversy between Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman, when she claimed that she was the character called Julia in Hellman's memoirs, Pentimento (1973), and in the movie Julia based on a chapter of that book. Hellman, who never met Gardiner, claimed that her "Julia" was somebody else.
Gardiner wrote that, while she never met Hellman, she had often heard about her from her friend Wolf Schwabacher, who was Hellman's lawyer. In Gardiner's account, Schwabacher had visited Gardiner in Vienna and, after Muriel Gardiner and Joseph Buttinger moved into their house at Brookdale Farm in Pennington, New Jersey, in 1940, the house was divided in two with the Gardiner-Buttingers living in one half and Wolf and Ethel Schwabacher in the other for more than ten years.
Many people believe that Hellmann based her story on Gardiner's life. Gardiner's editor cited the unlikelihood that there were two millionaire American women who were medical students in Vienna in the late 1930s.
- New York Times: Joseph Berger, "Muriel Gardiner, who Helped Hundreds Escape Nazis, Dies," February 7, 1985, accessed December 16, 2011
- Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, accessed December 16, 2011
- McDowell, Edwin (April 29, 1983). "New Memoir Stirs 'Julia' Controversy". New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
- Muriel Gardiner, Code Name "Mary": Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground (Yale University Press, 1983), xv-xvi
- Sheila Isenberg, Muriel's War: An American Heiress In The Austrian Resistance, Palgrave, 2010,