Obituary: Eleanor Dulles

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The Independent Online
Eleanor Lansing Dulles was the granddaughter, the niece and the sister of US Secretaries of State. She was also a talented woman of strong character in her own right.

Her career moved with distinction from the study of economics into diplomacy. She served as the head of the State Department's Berlin desk during the days of the Berlin Airlift and the Cold War, and in later life wrote more than a dozen books, among them a memoir of her brother, John Foster Dulles, and an autobiography, Chances of a Lifetime (1980).

Her grandfather, John Watson Foster, was a Civil War general turned international lawyer who served as Secretary of State in the Administration of President Benjamin Harrison. Her mother married Allen Macy Dulles, pastor of the First Presbyterian church in Watertown, in western New York State.

Eleanor, like her two brothers, the future Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and Allen, who became Director of Central Intelligence after a legendary carer as America's most successful spy and spymaster, was "borrowed" for two months a year by her grandfather, one of the richest and most successful lawyers in Washington.

She went to Bryn Mawr, a small, highly academic women's college in the suburbs of Phil-adelphia, and by 1918 had wangled her way to France, where she worked in a civilian relief agency. On Armistice Day she annoyed her brother Allen, a delegate to the Peace Conference, by turning up unannounced to take a hot bath in his suite at the Hotel Crillon.

By this stage her uncle, Robert W. Lansing, a Democrat, had become President Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State. Eleanor qualified as an economist, and worked on inter-national banking and finance; her first published book was a study of the Bank for International Settlements in Basle.

At the end of the Second World War she went to Austria as economic adviser to the Allied military government there, and then moved into the State Department. Her most important job was as head of the Berlin desk in the 1950s. She was extremely annoyed when the Russian and East German intelligence authorities discovered a tunnel dug by the CIA to tap into Communist communications cabling. "It's all Allen's fault," she said in her frustration at having to sweep up the diplomatic consequences of her brother's coup.

She and Allen had irritated each other since childhood, and were never close. In the 1950s, however, she built a bungalow for herself near McLean, Virginia, just down the road from the site where her brother would build the CIA's permanent home at Langley. Occasionally middle-ranking diplomats invited to lunch would be startled to find the Secretary of State and the Director of Central Intelligence, in baggy shorts and Hawaiian shirts, sipping drinks by the pool. These high-level contacts would of course be faithfully reported to their respective chanceries.

Eleanor Lansing Dulles, diplomat and writer: born Watertown, New York 1 June 1895; married 1932 David Blondheim (died 1934; one son, one daughter); died Washington DC 30 October 1996.