Sylvia Crane's interest in Czechoslovakia was provoked by her personal anguish over its sell-out at Munich. She was a politically alive senior majoring in history at Brooklyn College, where she and her colleagues seethed in outrage at the betrayal. Devotion to democratic liberties and social justice were cardinal values for her depression- ridden New Deal oriented class.
She learned more about European history during her graduate studies at Columbia University, where she took courses conducted by many of the celebrated scholars of the time, such as professors James T. Shotwell, that great internationalist; Harry J. Carman, in American history; Carleton J. H. Hayes, in German history; Shepard B. Clough, in French and Italian history; Renè Albrecht Carriè, in international relations; and Geroid Robinson, in Russian history. She later returned for more of this scholarly enterprise when she came under the tutelage of professors Henry Steele Commager, Richard B. Morris, Dumas Malone, the great Jeffersonian, Allan Nevins and others. The latter had started his career as a journalist in Chicago for the short-lived newspaper The Day, which had been underwritten by Charles R. Crane.
John O. Crane and Sylvia Engel met socially in New York in 1942 soon after his return from a long expatriation in Europe. They were promptly drawn together by magnetic attraction, fortified by their interest in history and their shared views on politics. She was employed professionally in political public relations. Inspired by a strong desire to contribute to the war effort, she had relinquished her cherished goal of a career teaching history to promote favorable public attitudes toward the war.