Breaking barriers: Margaret de Vries at the International Monetary Fund (1922–2009)
At a time when the immensely talented Eleanor Dulles was being humiliated by her ‘colleagues’ of the US State Department, Margaret Garritsen de Vries (1922-2009) steadily carved a place for herself at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). An economist trained by Paul Samuelson, de Vries was during the 1950s a key member of several IMF missions to Middle East countries and became the IMF’s first division chief in 1957—only to shortly afterwards leave the fund to care for her children.
This project aims at re-establishing de Vries’ place as a relevant monetary thinker of the 1950s along with identifying her pioneering role, from the 1960s until the 1980s, as one of the first official historians of the IMF. Other than studying the paradox between the IMF’s aperture to de Vries’ capabilities and the familiar premature end of her career as an active officer, the project examines how de Vries conceived of her role as an IMF historian. I argue that de Vries’ case offers a staple example of how civil servants working in international organisations construct their specific historical vision of the work they developed, an understanding that tends to minimise individual authorship of ideas and inter-departmental power conflicts.