“Velvet Steel” Ministers for God and America: Eleanor Lansing Dulles and the Nineteenth-Century Legacy of Christianity and Nationalism

Phillips, Victoria

The political impact of Dr. Eleanor Lansing Dulles has not been assessed in her capacity as a power broker who brought her theological understandings to Cold War United States policy. The deep influence of both her brothers—Allen, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and John Foster, Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower—on global affairs and diplomacy has been the topic of myriad studies. Works draw extensively on family biography, noting that both “nature and nurture” brought religion to US foreign policy. Including Dr. Dulles in the analysis provides nuance and complexity to definitions of Christian nationalism and underscores the legacy of both missionaries and religious thought in US foreign relations during the early Cold War. Contextualizing religiosity through a study of gender and the Dulles family legacy of female missionaries into the Cold War narrative builds upon the existing literature of the Dulles family, religion, and Cold War diplomacy to challenge concepts such as Christian internationalism, Christian nationalism, and Left–Right binaries. Diplomacy is revealed as her form of Christian missionary work in the secular sphere. Eleanor Lansing Dulles became a missionary not for a religion, but for a nation.

Keywords: Christian nationalism; biography; gender; United States Cold War; Dulles


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European Institute
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September 7, 2022