May 12, 2004 by

Elizabeth Cronin


Categories: Government

Elizabeth Ann Swift Cronin was a 40-year-old political officer at the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979 when a mob of students commandeered the compound and took 66 Americans hostage.

For 444 days, she and Kathryn Koob, the director of the Iran-American Society, were mostly kept separated from the dozens of men also taken captive. The followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who opposed American foreign policies, blindfolded Cronin and tied her to a chair for long periods of time. Eventually, she and Koob were forced to cook and clean for the male hostages.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter halted oil imports from Iran and froze Iranian assets in the United States. He launched several diplomatic initiatives to free the hostages, and even attempted a rescue mission, but all his efforts proved fruitless. Carter’s failure to resolve the hostage crisis cost him the election. President-elect Ronald Reagan immediately initiated diplomatic negotiations with the Iranian militants, and on Jan. 20, 1981, the hostages were freed.

Upon her release from captivity, Cronin spent a year at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs. She remained with the State Department, and became a consular officer serving in Greece, Jamaica and England. From 1989 to 1992, Cronin served as the deputy assistant secretary of state for overseas citizens services. She retired in 1995.

Cronin graduated from Radcliffe College in 1962 and joined the State Department a year later. She had served in the Philippines, Indonesia and Washington before being assigned to the embassy in Tehran.

Cronin died on May 7 in a horseback riding accident. She was 63.

5 Responses to Elizabeth Cronin

  1. Tad Thayer

    “mob of *students* *commandeered* the compound”
    “The followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, *who opposed American foreign policies*”
    “Ronald Reagan immediately *initiated diplomatic negotiations* with the Iranian militants”
    Where do you get this stuff? Bill Moyers?

  2. J. Walker

    Thank you for comparing me to someone like Bill Moyers, a veteran journalist who has won more than 30 Emmy Awards. I’m humbled and honored.
    The source material for this obit can be found in the links included within the text:
    The Washington Post
    The Jimmy Carter Library
    The LA Times
    CBS News
    and The Ledger-Enquirer

  3. Kyle Blonde

    Elizabeth Ann Swift Cronin was the wife of Paul Cronin, the director of the riding center at my very small college. She always came and spoke to students about her time in Iran and the fruits of foreign service.
    I have just found out today, over a year later of her passing. I am shocked. We lost a great American.

  4. Abdul Hamid

    I am now 63 Indonesian. I first met her when I was 24 in Jakarta 1969. I was then a young graduate looking for a job at the prestigeous American Embassy by giving her a note from my brother, who had intensively done correspondence with her. So surprised, at the first meeting taking place at her diplomatic residence, that she was kind and open-hearted. The next morning I was invited to the lunch at her Embassy canteen. I am deeply sorry to know just seconds ago through internet that I have lost this beautiful lady, although, shortly after the hostage release, I congratulated her and she was thankful.
    Though our encounter was really short, I still remember her friendly smile.

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