The Loyalty Investigations of Mary Dublin
Keyserling and Leon Keyserling
In June 1940, the Dies Committee researcher Benjamin Mandel sent a cryptic postcard to the anticommunist journalist Benjamin Stolberg: “You should look into Consumers’ League: NY local now headed by Mary Dublin (CP).”1 Mandel did not have his facts quite right. Mary Dublin headed the National Consumers’ League, not its New York branch, and she was not a member of the Communist Party. She was, however, an officer of the New York chapter of the League of Women Shoppers, which the Dies Committee claimed was a Communist front group. A few months after Mandel wrote Stolberg about her, Dublin married Leon Keyserling, who as Senator Robert Wagner’s legislative aide was the chief draftsman of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the U.S. Housing Act of 1937. As people associated with the progressive consumer and labor movements, the Keyserlings aptly represent both prongs of the movement to raise “mass purchasing power” that so antagonized American conservatives. During the 1940s, the Keyserlings held increasingly important government jobs. Mary became an international economist in the Department of Commerce. Leon drafted the 1946 Employment Act that created the Council of Economic Advisers, to which he was appointed, and in 1950 he became its chairman.
For decades after Mandel sent that postcard in 1940, the Keyserlings were prime targets of the anticommunist right. They underwent protracted loyalty investigations that took place behind closed doors until 1952, when leaks to the press briefly generated headlines. At the time and throughout their long subsequent careers, the Keyserlings publicly dismissed their experiences as fleeting manifestations of Red scare hysteria. In fact, they endured recurring, elaborate investigations that were rigged against them by a combination of forces with diverse interests.
The commitment to social change that attracted loyalty investigators’ attention to Mary Dublin Keyserling was manifested long before she entered government service. Born in 1910 in New York City to Russian Jewish immigrants, she was profoundly influenced by the example of