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Monday, January 22, 2018

FEE Remembers and Celebrates Bettina Bien-Greaves

A hero passes on.

Bettina with Ludwig von Mises.

Preface by Lawrence W. Reed, president, FEE

One of the very first people on the FEE staff that I ever met was Bettina Bien-Greaves. It happened in the summer of 1977 in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, when I attended my first FEE seminar. She was already an icon in my mind (and in the minds of many others!) when I met her 41 years ago, and she couldn’t have been friendlier or more welcoming. One evening during that seminar week, she invited me to dinner at her home with her husband and fellow Austrian School economist Percy Greaves. I drank from a fire hose of Austrian economics for the entire evening.

When I visited Bettina in Hickory, North Carolina, about four years ago, the subject of that 1977 get-together came up in our discussion. She volunteered, “I always asked visitors to sign my guestbook. Would you like to see what you wrote?”

From off the shelf, she pulled her guest book for 1977. After about 30 seconds of searching, I found my inscription. It disappointed me. I had written barely a sentence, not much more than a perfunctory thank you. I’m sure I was so taken by the conversation that evening that I must have been gripped by a form of writer’s block. I wondered if she would frown upon such brevity. But true to form, Bettina was the perfect host then, and still the perfect host all those years later. “Maybe you should have had another drink,” she said with her characteristic, toothy smile.

So with great sadness but many joyful memories, I share with you here some words written today about Bettina by one of my young colleagues, Tricia Beck-Peter:

It is with a heavy heart that we mark the death of Bettina Bien-Greaves today at age 100. Bettina served FEE for over fifty years and was instrumental in shaping the organization during our earliest years. Bettina was, among many things, Ludwig von Mises’s bibliographer and close friend. She made it her mission to catalog Mises’s work and to make him and Mrs. Mises comfortable in their final years.

Bettina was a courageous and kind woman. Although I did not know her personally, I was inspired by her legacy. When she joined FEE in 1951, very few women were working in ideological spaces. When one considers the relatively small number of women in the libertarian professional sphere, one would have to extrapolate quite thoroughly to imagine how unique Bettina was. How many times must she have been the only woman at a table? The only woman in a room? She set an example for young women like me, working to create a place in this movement. She established the precedent that women could do great things in this movement.

One young woman who was emboldened by Bettina’s example was FEE Campus Ambassador Savannah Lindquist, who was named FEE’s first Bettina Greaves Distinguished Campus Ambassador in recognition of her contributions to the organization. She had planned to drive several hours over spring break to meet Bettina. I wish she had been able to. I wish Bettina could have looked this incredible young woman in the eye and seen the future of the movement she gave so much to. The prize will continue to be awarded in her name, but from this point on will be awarded as the Bettina Greaves Memorial Award.

Bettina gave us her tireless energy and her fierce curiosity. She gave the world the gift of Mises and his life story. When she moved into a retirement facility, she gave FEE the proceeds from selling her home. Over and over, this woman gave of herself to the cause of human liberty. Now she is gone, and all we can give her is the promise to honor her memory.

Thank you, Bettina, for everything.

For more about Bettina Bien-Greaves and her contributions, see “Bettina Greaves: A Stalwart of Liberty for Nearly a Century ” by FEE president Lawrence Reed and “A Salute to Bettina Bien Greaves” by Jim Powell.

  • Tricia Beck-Peter is a graduate of Flagler College, with a B.A. in Economics and a minor in International Studies. She served FEE as an Outreach Associate, and dealt primarily with alumni relations and the Campus Ambassador program. When Ms. Beck-Peter was not in the office you could find her swing dancing, enjoying fine gins, or binge-watching The Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's President Emeritus, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is also FEE's Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty. His Facebook page is here and his personal website is