Note from Francis Klafter née Lee

Born in Hugo, Oklahoma, in 1909, Frances Klafter is a sister — and was the last surviving sibling* — of Muna Lee. Here is her response to an early draft of the present biography, which she expressed to the author in a letter written in 2000:

        Not only was my sister Muna a very fine poet and a brilliant leader, she was a warm, generous, and loving person. She was completely devoted to her family — her original one, her own children, her parents (particularly her mother) and all of her siblings. She was particularly loving to her sister Virginia (Virginia Reppy whose husband was a law professor at New York University and later dean of a small, private law school). Her closeness to Virginia and dependence on her for companionship and personal support was extraordinary, and rather amazing considering that she was a person of much more consequence in the world than was Virginia.
        Muna was also particularly devoted to my brother, Bill, for whom she had a lot of compassion because, although my father was a very lovable man, he became a man incapable of assuming his responsibility as the main family breadwinner and an unfair part of the burden fell on my brother Bill. So Muna tried to help him and even took him to Puerto Rico for one year of college [in 1928].
        Furthermore, she was surprisingly devoted to my younger sister and me. At the time the family was the most economically hard-pressed and she herself was helping financially all she could, she never failed to send us beautiful presents for Christmas. Even later, when she worked at the State Department and I was a rather too prominent radical government worker, she showed affection and interest in me despite the danger to her job of associating with someone with my left-wing politics in the days of loyalty oaths and red-baiting.


Klafter's final statement here refers to an incident in which her sister was a victim of the McCarthy-era witch hunts. This incident took place in 1953. On March 9, Muna was suspended from the State Department, pending the outcome of a hearing before its Loyalty Security Board. Among other charges she was accused of associating with her sister and brother-in-law, then government workers in Washington who were alleged to be "active communists." Three weeks later, on April 1, the suspension was ended when the board found no reasonable doubt as to her loyalty. A sad note, also reminiscent of that era, was that the board recommended that she discontinue her limited contacts with her sister and brother-in-law.

* Francis Klafter died in 2011, at the age of 102. Her obituary appearing in the Washington Post (July 7) notes: "Throughout the years, she was active in civil rights, antiwar and antinuclear weapons protests. In retirement, she became involved with the Gray Panthers and headed its national health-care task force."

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