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Elizabeth Bentley. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109688).

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Bentley, Elizabeth Terrill (01 January 1908–03 December 1963), Communist party activist and government witness, was born in New Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of Charles Prentiss Bentley, a newspaper editor and department store manager, and Mary Burrill, a schoolteacher. After growing up in small towns in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, Bentley enrolled in Vassar College and in 1930 received an undergraduate degree in English. While at Vassar, she became involved in a variety of Socialist causes but did not demonstrate any interest in more radical left-wing ideas. For two years following graduation, she taught languages at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, but left in 1932 for Columbia University, where she earned her M.A. in Italian in 1935. While working on her graduate degree, she accepted a fellowship that took her to the University of Florence for the 1933–1934 academic year....

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Childs, Morris (10 June 1902–02 June 1991), Communist official and American intelligence double agent, was born Moishe Chilovsky in Kiev, Ukraine, the son of Joseph Chilovsky, a cobbler, and Anna Chilovsky. Joseph Chilovsky, a Jew, fled Tsarist oppression, arriving in America in 1910; he sent for the rest of his family late the next year. (In 1926 the spelling of their name was Americanized, and Morris became a naturalized citizen the following year.) In 1916 Morris went to work as an apprentice in his father's business; then he became a milkman. In 1919 he joined the Communist party in Chicago. Twice arrested for participating in street demonstrations, he soon became a protégé of future party leader ...

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Massing, Hede Tune (1899–08 March 1981), Communist spy and later Federal Bureau of Investigation informant, was born to a Polish-Austrian couple. Hede’s mother was the daughter of a prominent Polish rabbi, while her father was a circus acrobatic rider. When Hede was a young girl, the family moved to the United States and lived in Massachusetts and New York City. Massing’s father tried to start a catering business but failed....

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Patterson, William L. (27 August 1891–05 March 1980), writer, attorney, and leader of the American Communist party, was born William Lorenzo Patterson in San Francisco, California, the son of James Edward Patterson, a ship’s cook and dentist, and Mary Galt, a domestic. After his father left the family to become a missionary as a Seventh-day Adventist, his mother worked to support the family. Failure to pay the rent resulted in numerous evictions, but Patterson managed to attend Tamalpais High School in California by working first as a newsboy and later as a racetrack hand. He graduated from high school in 1911 and studied to be a mining engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but had to drop out because he could not afford tuition. No scholarships were available, and he objected to Berkeley’s compulsory military training. Later Patterson refused to participate in World War I because he felt it was being fought for a democratic tradition that did not extend to blacks. He was arrested and held for five days in Oakland for declaring it a “white man’s war.”...