SHEILA ISENBERG discusses "Muriel's War: An American Heiress in the Nazi Resistance" (Spirit/Abbot Public Library)

Lecture followed by Q&A and a book signing at Abbot Public Library

Sheila Isenberg

She saved hundreds from the Nazis, inspiring Lillian Hellman’s “Julia.” Who was Muriel Gardiner?

Muriel’s War: An American Heiress in the Nazi Resistance is a new biography of Muriel Gardiner who gave up a life of great wealth and privilege for a world of danger and international espionage. During her lifetime, as a courier and agent for the Austrian underground, she rescued men and women from the Nazis, befriended Anna Freud, then Einstein, and was the inspiration for Lillian Hellman’s golden girl “Julia.”

Born into a wealthy meatpacking dynasty in Chicago, Muriel Gardiner renounced her family’s materialistic values (but not her trust fund) and left for Europe. In Vienna, Muriel underwent psychoanalysis just as Hitler’s war clouds moved across the continent. She had many love affairs, married twice, had a daughter and finally fell deeply in love with a leader of the Austrian underground. In medical school to become an analyst herself, Muriel continued as an operative in the resistance against the fascists.

After the Anschluss in 1938, Muriel risked her life to help Jews and anti-fascists flee. After World War II began, she used her wealth and network of connections rescued many still trapped behind enemy lines. Eventually becoming an eminent psychoanalyst, she was a confidante of Einstein, a close friend of Anna Freud’s, a founder of the International Rescue Committee, and the inspiration for three of Lillian Hellman’s characters.

Sheila Isenberg is the author of A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry and Women Who Love Men Who Kill and the coauthor of My Life As a Radical Lawyer. An adjunct professor of English at Marist College, Sheila has appeared nationally and internationally in documentaries and on multiple media platforms, including NPR, CNN, “20/20,” “The Today Show,” and “Good Morning America.” She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. Visit her at

Event date: 
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Abbot Public Library
235 Pleasant Street
Muriel's War: An American Heiress in the Nazi Resistance Cover Image
ISBN: 9780230615656
Availability: Not Currently Available. Cannot Be Ordered.
Published: Palgrave MacMillan - December 7th, 2010

An American heiress turned resistance hero, Muriel Gardiner was an electrifying woman who impressed everyone she met with her beauty, intelligence, and powerful personality. Her adventurous life led her from Chicago’s high society to a Viennese medical school, from Sigmund Freud’s inner circle to the Austrian underground.