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Herman, J.L. (2013). Helen Block Lewis: A Memoir of Three Generations. Psychoanal. Psychol., 30(4):528-534.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30(4):528-534


Helen Block Lewis: A Memoir of Three Generations

Judith Lewis Herman, M.D.

My mother, Helen Block Lewis (1913-1987), the first editor of Psychoanalytic Psychology, was a complicated person. Brilliant, original, and ahead of her time as a professional woman, she was personally rather shy and restrained. Anxious and conflict-avoidant in her private life, she was, nevertheless, intellectually fearless, and she did not suffer fools gladly. One anecdote might serve to introduce her: When, in 1953, she was called before a Senate Investigating Committee, she denied being a current member of the Communist Party, but refused to answer questions regarding her past membership, repeatedly citing her privilege under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. Dismissing her, the committee Chairman, Senator Joseph McCarthy, warned, “I doubt very much that [the State Department] will give you a passport, unless you come in and tell us about your activity in the party—if and when and why you left the party.”

At the time, to be denied a passport was particularly frightening to American Jews, who had so recently witnessed the desperate flight of refugees from Nazi Germany, and who saw in McCarthyism the threat of incipient Fascism in the United States.

Following on the Chairman, Senator Stuart Symington Offered this advice:

“It would be far better for you if you said you had been a member and felt it was wrong…and inasmuch as you feel you are a good American…if I had anything to do with giving you a passport, I would be glad to see you get one.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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