Grant, Frances R.

Hide Profile

Human rights activist, cultural ambassador, curator and journalist; born Frances Ruth Grant in 1896 in Abiquiu, New Mexico Territory, a pueblo at which her father, a German-Jewish immigrant, ran a general store and where she learned both Spanish and English at an early age; commuted between New Mexico and New York City while she was growing up; was graduated from Barnard College and from the Columbia University School of Journalism; also studied music privately; served as associate editor of Musical America from 1918 to 1921 and also worked as a writer for several other publications, an occupation that she would resume for a time in the 1940s when she edited several trade magazines; beginning in 1921, and continuing through 1937, held various responsibilities at three cultural organizations in New York City sponsored by the artist and philosopher Nicholas Roerich, including the Roerich Museum which she served as vice-president and trustee; founded, in 1931, and served, for more than 50 years (always as its president), the Pan-American Women's Association (originally the Pan-American Women's Society of the Roerich Museum), a volunteer, non-political educational and cultural organization which was a reflection of the Pan-American movement and which focused over the years on sponsoring cultural exchanges (especially educational events in the United States by Latin American cultural figures and, later, democratic leaders), establishing ties between the women of the Americas, promoting human rights in the western hemisphere and pursuing a variety of self-help efforts in Latin America; in the 1940s (and to a lesser extent through the 1970s), participated in activities of the International League for the Rights of Man (later the International League for Human Rights), including service as its secretary, vice-president and head of the Latin American Committee; in 1945 attempted unsuccessfully to found a cultural magazine for a Latin American audience that would encapsulate North American life and thought; served for over three decades as secretary-general of the Inter-American Association for Democracy and Freedom (organized in 1950) which sought, in part, to fight totalitarianism in the Americas, to support progressive reforms effected by constitutional methods, to expose and protest violations of civil and political liberties and to assist democratic political prisoners and exiles; continued to travel and write after the 1985 loss of inexpensive office space in New York City (at Freedom House's 40th Street building) effectively brought an end to the Pan-American Women's Association and the Inter-American Association for Democracy and Freedom; died in 1993.

From the description of Frances Grant collection, 1897-1986 (bulk 1917-1986). (Rutgers University). WorldCat record id: 70265028

Frances Ruth Grant (1896-1993), pioneer in U.S.-Latin American relations, was born in Abiquiu, a remote pueblo in the foothills of the Valle Grande mountains in what is today New Mexico on November 18, 1896. Her father was Henry Grant, a German-Jewish immigrant, who owned the general store in Abiquiu. Her mother, Sarah Spiro, was a remarkable woman who vaccinated the entire population of Abiquiu for smallpox with a serum she had sent from Johns Hopkins Hospital. (1) Frances was one of four children: Hylda (1893-1964), Joseph (1898-1976), and David E.(1889-1964). Growing up in Abiquiu, Grant absorbed Hispanic culture: "my first language was Spanish-- a felicitous circumstance which has afforded me one medium of intimate relationship with the Latin Americans." (2) During her early years, however, Grant commuted between Abiquiu and New York City; she was educated at Hunter College High School, and graduated from Barnard College and from Columbia University School of Journalism in 1918. Grant also studied music with Albert von Doenhoff, Ernest Bloch, and others. Following graduation, she became a music critic and associate editor for Musical America, as well as a contributor and correspondent for several other magazines and newspapers.

NOTES:

(1) Frances R. Grant, Pilgrimage of the Spirit (Beata Grant, 1997), p. 16.

(2) Frances R. Grant, "Some Biographical Notes Regarding my Latin American Interests," Box 17, Folder 13.

(3) Frances R. Grant Manuscript History of Roerich Museum p. 2, Box 14, Folder 74.

(4) Jacqueline Decter, Nicholas Roerich: The Life and Art of a Russian Master (London, 1989), p. 120-121.

(5) See George N. Roerich, Trails to Inmost Asia: Five Years of Exploration with the Roerich Central Asian Expedition (New Haven, 1931).

(6) Frances R. Grant, Trip to Latin America, 1929--Report Box 14, Folder 62.

(7) The Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace, (New York, 1947), Box 15, Folder 8.

(8) Decter, p. 129.

(9) Frances R. Grant to Henry Wallace (April 8, 1927), Box 15, Folder 8.

(10) Edward L. and Frederick H. Schapsmeier, Henry Wallace of Iowa: Agrarian Years, 1910-1940. (Ames, Iowa, 1968), p. 274.

(11) Decter, p. 177.

(12) H.A. Wallace to F.R. Grant (April 15, 1929), Box 15, Folder 31.

(13) Decter, p. 178.

(14) Samuel Walker, Henry A. Wallace and American Foreign Policy (Westport, Ct., 1976), p. 57-58.

(15) Telegram, Box 14, Folder 34.

(16) Grant, Manuscript History, p. 13.

(17) Decter, p. 136-137.

(18) Conversation with Daniel Entin, Director of the Nicholas Roerich Museum (Jan. 6, 2000)

(19) PAWA Brochure, ca. 1945, Box 17, Folder 16.

(20) Mark Gilderhaus, Pan-American Visions (University of Arizon Press, 1986), p. x-xi.

(21) Frances Grant, "The True Pan-Americanism,"1943, Box 18, Folder 59.

(22) PAWA brochure, ca. 1945, Box 17, Folder 16.

(23) William Korey, NGOs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (New York, 1998), p. 100.

(24) Shirley M. Stewart, "The International League for the Rights of Man," Index (London: Spring 1975), p. 61.

(25) Annual Report, 1972.

(26) Minutes, 1949, Box 23, Folder 6.

(27) Michele Gisbert, "The Challenge to Tyranny in Latin America: the Work and Influence of Frances Grant, the Pan-American Women's Association, and the Inter-American Association for Democracy and Freedom" (Unpublished Undergraduate Thesis, Rutgers College, 1998), p. 26.

(28) Inter-American Association of Democracy and Freedom, Report of the Havana Conference (May 12-15, 1950).

(29) Inter-American Association for Democracy and Freedom, undated brochure, Box 63, Folder 30.

(30) International League for the Rights of Man, Press Release (February 13, 1952), Box 38, Folder 9.

(31) Gisbert, p. 62.

(32) Sheldon B. Liss, Democracy & Dependency: Venezuela, the United states and the Americas (Salisbury, North Carolina, 1978), p. 178.

(33) Ibid., p. 183.

(34) Inter-American Association for Democracy and Freedom, Report of the Second Inter-American Congress. Venezuela (April 22-26, 1960).

(35) IADF Press Release (March 1959), Box 55, Folder 34.

(36) Hemispherica, 10(3), April-May 1961.

(37) Frances Grant to Patricia Bildner (January 13, 1970), Box 34, Folder 15.

(38) Laurence R. Birns to Frances Grant (February 16, 1970), Box 30, Folder 52.

(39) Hemispherica 22(7) (August-September 1973).

(40) Gerald Colby with Charlotte Dennett, Thy Will be Done: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil (New York, 1976), p. 778. I am indebted to Ron McGee for this reference.

In 1920, Frances Grant met the Russian émigré painter and philosopher, Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947). She wrote general articles on his paintings (then on exhibit in New York), and on his decorations for ballet and opera. She became friends with the Roerich family, who visited her family in New Mexico. In 1921, Grant resigned from Musical America and became Executive Director of Roerich's new art school, the Master Institute of United Arts in New York. (3) At the Master Institute, Roerich tried to unite all the arts under one roof, offering classes in music, painting, sculpture, architecture, ballet, and drama, as well as lectures, concerts, and student exhibitions. The faculty included Russian émigrés Sina and Maurice Lichtmann, who taught piano; Deems Taylor, who taught musical theory and composition; Robert Edmund Jones and Lee Simonson, who taught theater design; and Mikhail Mordken and Mikhail Fokine, who taught ballet. Guest lecturers included artists George Bellows and Rockwell Kent. The Institute also offered classes in music and sculpture for the blind, a new idea at the time. As well as offering a well-rounded education in the arts, the Master Institute was designed to "open the gates to spiritual enlightenment" through culture. (4)

In 1922, Roerich founded an international art center, Corona Mundi, which opened with an exhibition of his paintings, and later showed art work from around the world. Frances Grant held numerous responsibilities at the Roerich institutions, including arranging exhibitions, lectures, musical programs, purchases of art work, overseeing publications of work by Roerich and his followers, and administering the classes offered by the Master Institute. Grant was made Vice-President and Trustee of the Museum, along with Sina and Maurice Lichtmann and several others. The President and chief benefactor was Louis Horch, a foreign exchange broker, who was an enthusiastic follower of Roerich, and whose wife, Nettie, was a school friend of Grant's. In 1923, Nicholas Roerich, his wife Helena and sons George and Svetoslav set off on what would be an almost five-year expedition to India and Central Asia, where Roerich painted and studied Eastern philosophy. (5) In 1928, Grant was given a rare opportunity: with Sina Lichtmann, she traveled to India to meet the Roerich expedition. In India, Grant discussed museum matters with the Roerichs, as well as traveling and pursuing her own interests in Eastern art and philosophy.

It was in India that Nicholas Roerich first told Grant that he wanted to send her to South America on a cultural exchange mission. Believing that North and South America were uniquely linked, Roerich sought to "better human relations through artistic and cultural understanding." (6) On what was to be the first of many trips to Latin America, Grant visited Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil in the spring and summer of 1929. Her trip was a preliminary effort to explore the possibility of organizing exchanges of exhibitions, students, and scholarships. She visited museums, schools, universities, and other cultural institutions, and met with artists, writers, and musicians. Grant took a particular interest in indigenous culture as well as the role of women in Latin America, and met many women artists, including the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral.

The following year, Grant made a more extensive trip to Latin America, adding to her itinerary Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Mexico. Grant brought with her a traveling exhibition of 39 of Roerich's paintings, as well as additional paintings for loan to South American museums. She also gave lectures on Roerich and the work of the Roerich Museum to universities, museums, women's groups, and philosophical societies. Grant discussed the translation and distribution of Roerich Press books in Latin America, and helped arrange for several scholarships to the Master Institute. Her trip inspired the formation of Roerich societies in the countries she visited. As well as artists and writers, Grant met with several Latin American leaders during her visit, including President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo of Chile, and President Enrique Olaya Herrera and Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduardo Santos of Colombia. In Peru, she met with President Augusto Leguía, who was overthrown on the day of her departure. Upon Grant's return, in cooperation with the Brazilian Society of Friends of the Roerich Museum, the International Art Center sponsored an exhibition of almost 100 paintings by contemporary Brazilian artists, the first ever seen in the United States. In the early 1930s, Grant arranged lectures, programs, and exhibits of Latin American art at the museum, and undertook a lecture tour herself, speaking on Pan-Americanism.

During this period, Grant played an important role in Nicholas Roerich's crusade for the Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace. (7) The Roerich Pact, written in 1928 by Georges Chklaver at the University of Paris under Roerich's supervision, was designed to protect and preserve cultural institutions and monuments in times of war. Designated buildings would fly the Banner of Peace, (designed by Roerich) which showed three red circles on a white background. From 1931 to 1933, three international conferences were held to promote the Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace. In 1933, the Pact was endorsed by the member countries of the Pan-American Union in Montevideo. Frances Grant was an active participant in these events, meeting with officials in Washington, D.C., and corresponding with leaders in Latin America to promote the Pact. Her efforts were rewarded when the Roerich Pact was signed by the United States and 20 Latin American republics on April 15, 1935.

In spite of this triumph, in the hard times of the early 1930s, the Roerich Museum fell into financial difficulties. In 1929, the museum had moved into a new building: a 29-story "skyscraper" designed by Harvey Wiley Corbett. The first three floors were designated for the museum, the Master Institute and Corona Mundi. Most of the building, however, was designed as low-cost apartments for artists, musicians and scholars. (8) Grant and the other museum officers were also given apartments in the new building. With the financial crisis, however, the museum was no longer able to pay the mortgage on its new home. In 1932, the New York Supreme Court appointed a receiver and ordered an audit; on appeal, however, the receivership was voided, another bank took over the mortgage, and one thousand of Roerich's paintings were accepted as a guarantee.

The financial problems persisted, however, and precipitated a strange series of events which involved, among other individuals, future U.S. Vice-President Henry A. Wallace. Frances Grant had first met Wallace, who at that time was publisher of Wallace's Farmer, in 1928. (9) Wallace, who was greatly interested in all forms of religious experience, became impressed by Roerich's art work, pacifist religious philosophy, and scientific research. (10) In 1929, deciding to remain permanently in India, Roerich founded the Urusvati Research Institute in the Kulu Valley in the Himalayas. At Urusvati, Roerich and his sons George and Svetoslav conducted research on Eastern languages, art, religion, and medicine, compiling the world's first atlas of Tibetan medicinal herbs. (11) In April 1929, Wallace wrote to Grant: "Both in words and in painting, Roerich's mysticism is an adept [sic] in the use of symbols which have a power unknown to science, and yet Roerich's mysticism has a decidedly practical aspect and eventually significant [sic] to the scientific world." (12)

Henry Wallace corresponded with both Grant and Roerich during the early 1930s. In 1932, he was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by Franklin D. Roosevelt. In this capacity, Wallace invited Roerich to lead a botanical expedition to India and Northern China in 1934. The purpose of the expedition was to research drought-resistant seeds which might be useful in alleviating the conditions in the Dust Bowl. During the seventeen months of the expedition, the group researched over three-hundred plants and sent about two-thousand packets of seeds back to the United States. (13) Tensions developed, however, between the Roerichs and the two Department of Agriculture botanists accompanying the expedition. Wallace also began to fear that Roerich was pursuing his own personal political agenda, which ran contrary to U.S. interests. Indeed, Roerich met with the emperor of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, and presented him with the Banner of Peace, which infuriated the State Department, since the U.S. did not recognize Manchukuo. The botanists also complained that Roerich was agitating among White Russian émigrés in Harbin, Manchuria. At first, Wallace did not believe the allegations, even to the extent of recalling the botanists, and dismissing their chief supporter, Knowles Ryerson, Chief of the Bureau of Plant Industry. (14)

In 1936, however, Wallace turned against Roerich and abruptly terminated the expedition. (15) In his Russian Art and American Money (1980), Robert Williams asserts that the botanical expedition was completely bogus. Undoubtedly, Roerich had a personal agenda: for instance, in Mongolia, he met with farmers with a view towards setting up agricultural cooperatives. Meanwhile, back in New York, Frances Grant had become involved in a power struggle over the fate of the Roerich Museum. At this point, President Louis Horch had assumed control of the museum's finances. Apparently, during the botanical expedition, Horch and Wallace were in secret communication. In spite of Grant's efforts to mediate, in July 1935, Louis Horch closed down the museum and its affiliated institutions, claiming that the Riverside Drive building and its contents belonged to him. (16) Grant and the other museum employees were given two days to evacuate their apartments. Horch later reopened the first floor as the Riverside Museum, and continued to run the rest of the building as an apartment complex, which it remains today. Grant and the Lichtmanns filed suit against Horch, but after protracted litigation, the court decided in Horch's favor in 1940. Sina Lichtmann (later Fosdick) and some of the original supporters reopened the museum as the Roerich Academy of Arts. It moved from one building to another until 1949, when it found a permanent home at 107th Street and Riverside Drive. (17) Frances Grant, however, fell out with Sina Lichtmann during the litigation, and was excluded from the museum, forcing her to turn to other areas of endeavor. (18)

After the disastrous conclusion of her relationship with the Roerich Museum, Frances Grant refocused her energies on her Latin-American interests, which she had been pursuing since her 1930 trip. In that year, Grant founded the Pan-American Women's Association in New York, originally known as the Pan-American Women's Society of the Roerich Museum. The Pan-American Women's Association (PAWA) was a volunteer, non-political, educational and cultural organization "for the purpose of uniting the women of the Americas in a common effort for the advancement and understanding of the peoples of this hemisphere." (19) For a small fee, it was open to both men and women who supported the objectives of the organization. The PAWA can be seen in the context of the Pan-American movement, or Pan-Americanism, the belief that the peoples of the Western hemisphere are bound by common cultural ties and mutual interests. Originating during Woodrow Wilson's administration, (20) the concept was further developed through Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policies, which had an important influence on Grant.

The PAWA's activities included sponsoring art exhibits, and musical, literary, and dance programs by Latin-American figures, who at the time were little known or understood in the United States. Among those hosted by the PAWA were the Figueroa Quartet, pianist Esperanza Pulido, Claudio Arrau, and soprano Bidu Sayão. In the educational sphere, the PAWA sponsored courses and lectures on Latin-America, Spanish language classes, and arranged activities for Latin-American exchange students, frequently cooperating with other organizations. Grant herself gave a series of short-wave radio broadcasts to Latin America in Spanish. Perhaps most importantly, through setting up branches, the PAWA fostered contacts among the women of the Americas.

In the early 1940s, faced with the threat of fascism in Latin America, the PAWA began to focus on human rights issues. In 1943, in conjunction with the National Council of Women, the PAWA sponsored a Pan-American Day Inter-Hemispheric Conference on "How Women of the Americas Can Help Keep their Countries United." In a speech entitled "The True Pan-Americanism," Grant outlined the belief that this hemisphere's women, because they have not historically been involved in wars and colonialism, present the best hope for future relations between North and South America. (21) In this year, the PAWA also sponsored a conference on inter-racial understanding, which addressed the issue of racism in both the United States and Latin America

In the late 1940s, when a number of Latin American countries were taken over by dictators, the PAWA joined other organizations in denouncing human rights abuses in those countries. As Grant wrote: The Pan-American Women's Association is guided by the conviction that true Inter-American understanding will be achieved upon this hemisphere when the peoples of the 21 American Republics--men and women alike--enjoy full civil and political liberties as well as those educational, social, and economic opportunities. (22) In subsequent years, the PAWA arranged programs by several Latin-American democratic leaders, including Rómulo Gallego, Rómulo Betancourt, Eduardo Frei, and Carlos Lleras Restrepo. In the 1940s, the PAWA also served as an organizational base for Frances Grant after her estrangement from the Roerich Museum. (At this time, she earned income by working as an editor for several publications owned by her brother-in-law, Max M. Zimmerman.) In 1941, Grant traveled to South-America, visiting every country except Venezuela, as a representative of the PAWA . She renewed many of the contacts she had made in 1929-1930, and gave lectures on "Inter-American Relations" and "Women's Work in the Western Hemisphere." During this trip, she also met with Latin-American leaders and wrote articles for the North American Newspaper Alliance and the New York Times.

In the 1960s, the PAWA became involved in several self-help efforts in Latin-America, most importantly a kindergarten in the slums of Lima, Peru, which it co-sponsored with a group of Westchester County teachers. The PAWA also collected money and supplies to help the victims of the devastating 1970 Peru earthquake. The Association continued to advocate women's and human rights during this period; for example, it was among the groups lobbying the United Nations for an Inter-American Covenant on the Rights of the Child in 1967. The PAWA continued its cultural and educational activities up to the mid-1980s, in spite of a dwindling and aging membership.

While pursuing the agenda of the Pan-American Women's Association, Frances Grant began to attend meetings of the International League for Human Rights, known until 1976 as the International League for the Rights of Man. The International League for Human Rights (ILHR) had its origins in the La Ligue Française pour la Défense de Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen, founded in France in the late nineteenth century. The group was reconstituted in New York in 1942 by European refugees and Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union. (23) In 1947, the league was granted consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, giving it the right to testify before that body about human rights abuses. The International League for Human Rights is an independent, non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting human rights worldwide. In 1975, it had about 2,000 members and some thirty-five global affiliates. (24) Today it continues to be an active voice for human rights.

After 1948, upholding the principles set forth in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights became the ILHR's mandate; to this end, it has: worked at the international level 1) by direct interventions with Governments accused of violating human rights; 2) by sending observers to political trials; 3) by dispatching special investigatory missions to areas where human rights conflicts exist; 4) by taking tape-recorded testimony from persons claiming to be victims of violations...5) by interventions at the United Nations, UNESCO, ILO, Council of Europe, Organization of American States and International Court of Justice both to call attention to human rights violations and to promote respect for and advance the development of international law. (25) Frances Grant served as secretary and vice-president of the league and head of its Latin-American Committee. As head of the Latin-American Committee, Grant reported on developments in Latin-America, handled relations with the league's Latin-American affiliates, and did translations. As secretary, she dealt with internal matters concerning the running of the league, working closely with Roger Baldwin.

Frances Grant played an important role in bringing Latin America to the attention of the league. In the late 1940s, democratic regimes were overthrown in several Latin-American countries including Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. Grant spearheaded the ILHR's response to the crisis, testifying before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights about violations in Latin America in 1949. She helped secure safe conduct for former Acción Democrática leader Rómulo Betancourt--also a member of the Latin-American Committee-- from Venezuela and met with the Colombian ambassador in an attempt to obtain safe conduct for Aprista leader Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre, who had taken refuge in the Colombian embassy in Lima. (26) From this period dated a lifelong friendship between Grant and these two Latin-American leaders.

The depth of the crisis was such that in 1949, members of the Latin-American Committee formed a Liaison Committee to alert the democratic leaders of the hemisphere to the dangers menacing liberty and peace in the Americas. Under the sponsorship of the Liaison Committee, which included North and Latin Americans and representatives of the Junta Democrática of Uruguay, the first Inter-American Conference for Democracy and Freedom was held in Havana from May 12 to May 15, 1950. (27) Frances Grant continued to serve as an officer of the ILHR until the 1970s. After 1950, however, her primary organizational base became the Inter-American Association for Democracy and Freedom, which will be discussed below.

Among the organizers of the Havana Conference were Frances Grant; Rómulo Betancourt; Roger Baldwin; Serafino Romualdi, representative for the Latin American section of the AFL-CIO; Walter White, Secretary of the NAACP; and conference included Venezuelan writer and former president Rómulo Gallegos, Eleanor Roosevelt, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Hubert Humphrey, and Congressman Richard Nixon. In Latin America, conference planners included Senator Salvador Allende of Chile, Dominican writer Juan Bosch, and Costa Rican President José Figueres. Approximately 200 delegates from all parts of the hemisphere participated in the conference, including five members of congress from the U.S. Latin-American delegates, in addition to the organizers, included Senator Eduardo Frei of Chile, Carlos Andrés Pérez of Venezuela, and R. Germán Arciniegas, former Minister of Education of Colombia. The conference produced the Havana Declaration, which condemned the actions of the dictators and recommended conditions for diplomatic recognition based on respecting principles of human, civil, and political rights. It also advocated social and economic reforms which would strengthen the democratic forces in the hemisphere. (28) The major accomplishment of the conference was the founding of a permanent organization, the Inter-American Association for Democracy and Freedom (IADF).

The objectives of the IADF were 1) to create a democratic front in the Americas of individuals and organizations; 2) to fight totalitarianism in all its forms-communism, neo-fascism and caudillism-as enemies of hemispheric democracy; 3) to investigate, verify, and expose violations of civil and political liberties; 4) to protest such violations of human rights at the United Nations, Organizations of American States and other international bodies; 5) to assist, in every way feasible, democratic political prisoners and exiles, and 6) to support progressive political, social, and economic reforms in Latin America if they are effected by constitutional methods and without sacrifice of liberties. (29)

The IADF was initially designed as a transnational organization headquartered in Montevideo, Uruguay. At the first meeting of the executive committee, Dr. Emilio Frugoni of Uruguay was elected president. Aureliano Sánchez Arango, Minister of Education in Cuba, was elected Vice-President, and Frances Grant was elected Secretary-General. The Executive Council also included Roger Baldwin, Germán Arciniegas, Serafino Romualdi, Senator Juan Guichon of Uruguay, and Haya de la Torre, still confined to the Colombian embassy in Lima. In reality, however, the organization was dominated by its U.S. Committee, whose long-serving members included academics, political exiles, and U.S. congressmen, and run by Frances Grant from New York City. The IADF did, however, serve as a network for democratic leaders throughout the hemisphere. As secretary-general, Grant acted as editor and principal writer of the IADF's bilingual newsletter, Hemispherica, which had a circulation of two or three thousand, and was an important source of information about Latin-America.

In the 1950s, the IADF outspokenly opposed dictatorships in Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. The IADF documented hundreds of cases of torture of prisoners and other abuses by the Perón regime in Argentina. In association with the International League for Human Rights, the IADF testified about these crimes before the United Nations, (30) and held protest meetings against the U.S. government's rapprochement with the Perón regime. The IADF also protested arbitrary arrests, imprisonments, and violations of freedom of the press in Haiti after the Duvalier regime came to power through a controlled election in 1957. Grant assisted Haitian refugees in obtaining visas and worked closely with Haitian exile groups and individuals in the U.S., particularly Dr. Camille L'hérisson, former Minister of Health in Haiti. The IADF also denounced U.S. government aid to Haiti, which it felt was not being used to help those in need.

One of the IADF's most important campaigns was against the tyrant General Rafael Trujillo Molina, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. As in the case of Haiti and Argentina, the IADF petitioned the U.S. government and international organizations, publicized atrocities committed by the Trujillo regime in the press, aided refugees and exile groups, and denounced the support of Trujillo by the U.S. government, which valued his stance against communism. Trujillo was exceptional, however, in that his influence extended into the U.S. and neighboring Caribbean countries, even threatening Grant herself. (31) In 1956, Columbia University lecturer and IADF member Jésus de Galíndez disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Originally from the Basque country, Galíndez had lived some years in the Dominican Republic, and since moving to the U.S. in 1946, was a leader in the struggle to expose the evils of Trujillo's regime. Convinced that Galíndez had been kidnaped and murdered by Trujillo's agents in the U.S., the IADF, along with other organizations, undertook a massive publicity campaign, offering a reward for his return and holding memorial meetings. This campaign helped to counteract efforts by Trujillo's public relations machine to discredit Galíndez. With the cooperation of Charles O. Porter, U.S. Representative from Oregon, the case was brought to the attention of Congress. By 1960, when Trujillo was assassinated, U.S. support for the dictator had begun to wane.

During this period, the IADF also conducted a major campaign against Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who had come to power in a military coup in 1948. The IADF had a special relationship with Venezuela because of Grant's friendship with Rómulo Betancourt and his support of the organization, which acted as a base for him during his exile and enabled him to maintain contacts with other governments. (32) The Venezuelan government helped support the IADF financially after Pérez Jiménez was overthrown and Betancourt was elected to the presidency in 1959. The principles of the IADF formulated at the Havana Conference in 1950 were embodied in the Betancourt Doctrine, which he introduced in his inaugural address on February 15, 1959. The Betancourt Doctrine called on other democratic governments in the Americas to join together to exclude regimes that did not respect human rights from membership and to impose diplomatic sanctions upon them. (33)

In celebration of the Acción Democrática victory, the IADF held its Second Inter-American Conference in Maracay, Venezuela in 1960. Betancourt reiterated his views in his opening address. Like the Havana conference ten years earlier, the Maracay meeting was attended by over 200 delegates from 21 American republics. Subjects discussed included problems with dictatorships, land reform, economic development, international organizations, human rights, and education. The conference approved a resolution condemning the remaining dictatorships in the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Nicaragua, and Haiti, and pledged to work actively for their overthrow. Other resolutions included reducing military expenditures, strengthening the OAS, guaranteeing the rights and improving the conditions of free labor, supporting colonial struggles in the Panama Canal Zone and British Guiana, supporting democratically-executed land reforms, confiscating illicit earnings of former heads of state in exile, and an inter-American passport for political refugees. (34)

In the 1960s, the IADF became embroiled in the problem of Cuba. An outspoken critic of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, Grant initially welcomed the Cuban Revolution of 1959. (35) After Fidel Castro's consolidation of power and move towards alliance with the Soviet Union, however, the IADF became a strong opponent of the Cuban regime in conformity with its usual anti-communist stance. Grant and the IADF opposed, however, the unsuccessful 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba: "we condemn the United States' policy of armed intervention in the Cuban crisis, and particularly the role played by the Central Intelligence Agency, as a violation of our commitments to the international and Inter-American communities..." (36) Grant believed in using indirect means rather than force to unseat the Cuban regime. By the mid-1960s, the IADF was actively working to help political prisoners in Cuba. In cooperation with the Comité Internacional por Presos Politicos en Cuba, the IADF conducted a census of political prisoners in Cuba based on information from relatives in the United States.

By the late 1960s, the high point of the IADF's influence had passed. In 1969, the U.S. Committee discussed restructuring and Grant herself suggested stepping down. (37) In the end, however, she was unable to relinquish control of the IADF. Her failure to do so alienated some members of the committee, such as New School of Social Research professor Laurence Birns, who resigned, writing, "Unfortunately, you do not know when to let go, even if it means the destruction of the organization." (38) Particularly damaging to the image of the IADF was the stand which it took upon the overthrow of President Salvador Allende of Chile in 1973. Writing in Hemispherica, Grant expressed compassion for Allende's tragic end, but commented that he bore "his share of responsibility in the debacle of the country's constitutional order." (39) In a statement published in Hemispherica in 1974 and released to the press, the U.S. Committee deplored the takeover of Chile by a military regime, but once again blamed Allende for the tragedy. Such sentiments alienated left-wing intellectuals now prominent in the Latin-American field. Subsequent repression of human rights under Pinochet's dictatorship served to further discredit the IADF. In later years, however, Grant and the IADF sought to expose human rights violations in Chile and aid refugees.

In spite of internal problems, the IADF continued to campaign for human rights in Latin America through the 1970s. Although the IADF had been documenting human rights violations by the Stroessner regime in Paraguay since the 1950s, matters became particularly urgent in the early 1970s. In 1974, in conjunction with the International League for Human Rights, the IADF testified before the United Nations and the Organization of American States about the attempts to exterminate the Aché or Guayakaí Indians in Paraguay. It accused the Paraguayan government of tolerating the enslavement, torture, and killing of the Aché Indians in reservations in Eastern Paraguay, withholding food and medicine, selling children into slavery and girls into prostitution, and denying and destroying Aché cultural traditions. (40) Grant also contributed a chapter to Professor Richard Arens' influential book, Genocide in Paraguay, published by Temple University Press in 1977. On behalf of the International League for Human Rights, Rutgers University professor and IADF Chairman Robert J. Alexander went to Paraguay in 1976 to report on human rights abuses.

One of the last major campaigns undertaken by the IADF was against the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua. After the assassination of Grant's friend Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the publisher of the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, in 1978, the IADF formed an Ad Hoc Committee for the Freedom of Nicaragua, which petitioned the White House and international organizations, and sponsored a letter-writing campaign. Although she applauded the overthrow of Somoza in 1979, Grant was opposed to the communist FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) which replaced him, and continued to expose human rights violations under the new regime.

In 1985, the IADF faced a crisis when the Wilkie Memorial Building on West 40th Street, where its office was located, was sold to the Republic National Bank. The building had belonged to Freedom House, the civil liberties organization, which had rented space at a low cost to non-profit groups which supported its agenda. When Freedom House decided to sell the building for financial reasons, the IADF and ten other displaced organizations filed suit and were awarded $700,000 for relocation. The loss of the building was, however, the end of the IADF.

In her last years, Grant continued to travel and write. She became particularly concerned with documenting her activities in Latin America and at the Roerich Museum, with which she renewed contact in the 1980s. After investigating several possibilities, Grant donated the records of the IADF to Rutgers University, where her old friend Robert Alexander was still teaching, in 1982. In that year, she was awarded the Rutgers Medal, as well as a special citation from the Trustees of Columbia University at the Maria Moors Cabot Prize Convocation for her contribution to Inter-American journalism. Grant added these honors to the numerous awards she had received from Latin American countries, most notably, a Special Gold Medal from the government of Costa Rica (1955), the Orden del Condor de los Andes from Bolivia (1956 and 1963), and the prestigious Orden del Libertador from Venezuela (1965). Grant remained active until the last months of her life. She died on July 21, 1993 at the age of ninety-six.

From the guide to the Guide to the Frances R. Grant Papers 1897 (1917)-1986, 1897 (1917)-1986, (Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Grant, Frances R. Frances Grant collection, 1897-1986 (bulk 1917-1986). Rutgers University
referencedIn John Mason Brown papers, 1922-1967. Houghton Library
creatorOf Guide to the Frances R. Grant Papers 1897 (1917)-1986, 1897 (1917)-1986 Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Alexander, Robert J. (Robert Jackson), 1918-2010 person
correspondedWith Balabanoff, Angelica, 1878-1965 person
correspondedWith Baldwin, Roger N. (Roger Nash), 1884-1981 person
correspondedWith Barrios de Chamorro, Violeta person
correspondedWith Betancourt, Rómulo, 1908-1981 person
correspondedWith Blaustein, Albert P., 1921- person
correspondedWith Brown, John Mason, 1900-1969 person
correspondedWith Buck, Pearl S. (Pearl Sydenstricker), 1892-1973 person
correspondedWith Codesido, Julia, 1883-1979 person
correspondedWith Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990 person
correspondedWith Dos Passos, John, 1896-1970 person
correspondedWith Figueres Ferrer, José, 1906-1990. person
associatedWith Freedom House (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Galíndez, Jesús de, 1915-1956 person
correspondedWith Haya de la Torre, Víctor Raúl, 1895-1979 person
correspondedWith Hellman, Lillian, 1905-1984 person
correspondedWith Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978 person
associatedWith Inter-American Association for Democracy and Freedom corporateBody
associatedWith Inter-American Conference for Democracy and Freedom 1950 : Havana, Cuba) corporateBody
associatedWith International League for Human Rights. corporateBody
associatedWith International League for the Rights of Man. corporateBody
correspondedWith Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973 person
correspondedWith Kantor, Harry person
correspondedWith Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963 person
correspondedWith MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-1982 person
correspondedWith Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956 person
correspondedWith Mistral, Gabriela, 1889-1957 person
correspondedWith Muñoz Marín, Luis, 1898-1980. person
associatedWith Nicholas Roerich Museum (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971 person
correspondedWith O'Keeffe, Georgia, 1887-1986 person
associatedWith Pan-American Women's Association corporateBody
associatedWith Roerich, Nicholas, 1874-1947. person
correspondedWith Romualdi, Serafino person
correspondedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
correspondedWith Sammartino, Ernesto Enrique, 1902- person
correspondedWith Sánchez Arango, Aureliano person
correspondedWith Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, 1917- person
correspondedWith Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965 person
correspondedWith Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968 person
correspondedWith Wallace, Henry A. (Henry Agard), 1888-1965 person
correspondedWith Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975 person
correspondedWith Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Dominican Republic
Inner Mongolia (China)
Colombia
New Mexico
New York (N.Y.)
Nicaragua
Latin America
Paraguay
Argentina
Bolivia
United States
Peru
India
Manchuria (China)
Brazil
Costa Rica
Venezuela
Chile
Cuba
Subject
Cultural relations
Democracy
Feminism
Human rights advocacy
Pan
Voyages and travels
Art, Latin American
Occupation
Human rights workers
Journalists
Politicians
Travelers
Artists
Art museum curators
Activity

Person

Active 1897

Active 1986

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6vb13rh

Ark ID: w6vb13rh

SNAC ID: 36914930