Priscilla Hiss Bryn Mawr Archives


The Alger Hiss case was one of the key events of the Cold War, bringing to the headlines the issues of Soviet espionage and infiltration of our government. The case was the forerunner of McCarthyism. Major characters emerged from the case

Richard Nixon,
the first term Congressperson who cracked the case

Alger Hiss,
the suave diplomat who spied for the Soviet Union

Whittaker Chambers,
the repulsive editor and ex-Soviet agent who accused Hiss. The disgusting personna of Whittaker Chambers is set forth as "Gifford Maxim" in Lionel Trilling's novel, The Middle of the Journey, Viking Press, New York, 1947.

Four comprehensive sources on the case are

Perjury by Allen Weinstein, Albert A. Knopf, New York, 1978

Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus, Random House, New York, 1997.

The Alger Hiss Story, the search for the truth website by New York University

Famous Trials website by University of Missouri--Kansas City School of Law

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Priscilla Hiss from The Alger Hiss Story website

The most interesting character in the case is Priscilla Fansler Hiss, the wife of Alger Hiss. Priscilla, known in their social circle as "Pros" and "Prossy," was suspected of typing abstracts of documents which Alger had taken home from his office in the State Department. These abstracts were given to Chambers. Weinstein and Tanenhaus picture Pros as short tempered, upper crust, politically obsessed. According to Weinstein, when a friend remarked to the effect, "What a nice day it is," Pros snapped back (approximately), "It's never a nice day for the sharecroppers." Both Weinstein and Tanenhaus give a sense of Pros and her life with Alger.

Pros graduated from Bryn Mawr College, one of the finest schools in the nation, located on Philadelphia's "Main Line" (suburbs). I wanted to learn more about Pros. I visited the alumnae archives at the Canaday Library at Bryn Mawr College and found the treasury which follows.

Priscilla Hiss
The Lantern
Classbook
Alumnae Registry
Divorcee
Prison Visitor
Release
Letter to Editor
Obituary