Elizabeth Bentley

Bentley, Elizabeth. Out of Bondage: The Story of Elizabeth Bentley. New York: Devin-Adair, 1951. "Afterword" by Hayden Peake. New York: Ivy Books, 1988.

According to Richelson, A Century of Spies, p. 225, in November 1945 "Elizabeth Terrill Bentley, who had served as courier for major Soviet espionage rings, began to tell the FBI about those rings.... Her information led the FBI to seriously investigate charges made in 1939 by Whittaker Chambers concerning Soviet intelligence penetration of the U.S. government."

Chambers sees "some tradecraft insights" in the book. Constantinides suggests that there may be a "need for further works on Bentley's life as a Soviet agent." Petersen notes that the 1988 edition is a reprint of the 1951 book, "with analysis by Peake. He demonstrates that Bentley's testimony holds up well in light of subsequent revelations." See also, Peake, "OSS and the Venona Decrypts," I&NS 12.3 (Jul. 1997): 14-34.

Kessler, Lauren. Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era. New York: Harper Collins, 2003.

Peake, Studies 48.1, says the author "tells the Bentley story with an easy reading style adding many well-documented personal details about her life that had escaped public attention." For Wilson, I&NS 19.4 (Winter 2004), this work was "clearly written with non-academic readers in mind." The author's "writing style is energetic and vivid, even sensationalistic in places." Kessler "frequently indulges in sheer speculation about Bentley's thoughts and emotions." In addition, "Clever Girl is frustratingly documented" and overreliant on Bentley's Out of Bondage. The reviewer recommends Olmsted's Red Spy Queen as the better book.

Olmsted, Kathryn S. "Blond Queens, Red Spiders and Neurotic Old Maids: Gender and Espionage in the Early Cold War." Intelligence and National Security 19, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 78-94.

Elizabeth Bentley, Judith Coplon, Priscilla Hiss, and Ethel Rosenberg "received the most media coverage of any female Communist spies, and their cases best illustrate the gender constructions used to interpret them."

Olmsted, Kathryn S. Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2002.

Bath, NIPQ 19.1/2, says that the author "is generally successful in giving ... a more accurate picture" of Bentley than earlier depictions. Olmsted recognizes Bentley's "importance in the post-war U.S. government's battle against the communist infiltration and Soviet intelligence penetration that had taken place in the 1940s."

For Sibley, I&NS 18.1, the author's portrayal of Bentley is "thorough and balanced.... Olmsted also makes clear that Bentley cannot be defined merely by her character flaws and mental weaknesses. Her role in history outweighs these personal defects.... The book is comprehensively researched and reads like a good detective novel." Similarly, Scully, H-Women, H-Net Reviews, Apr. 2003, sees this as "a well-researched, coherent, and fast-paced biography." The author "is evenhanded and careful in her discussion of Bentley's later accusations against especially prominent individuals."

Peake, Intelligencer 13.2, concludes that the author's "powerful well written characterization ... adds much that is new about [Bentley's] life. Whether one see[s] her as a heroine or traitor, it is a valuable contribution to the literature." To Warner, Studies 47.2 (2003), the author's "weaving of public, legal, and declassified sources has given us a nearly definitive life of Elizabeth Bentley." However, "Olmsted could have done better at explaining the Bentley case in the context of the larger American effort against the Soviets."

Wilson, Veronica A. "Elizabeth Bentley and Cold War Representation: Some Masks Not Dropped." Intelligence and National Security 14, no. 2 (Summer 1999): 49-69.

From Abstract: "Some commentators, offended by Bentley's failure to fulfil traditional gender prescriptions, ridiculed her and shed doubts upon her story, which received less serious consideration than Whittaker Chambers' similar tale. This article explores these criticisms, Bentley's attempts to counter them with her own public performances of traditional feminity, and, implicitly, gender's role in American Cold War politics."

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