Media Mentions

Below are excerpts and links to media where Miriam’s Words or Mary Lou Judd Carpenter has been mentioned or featured. We thank our media partners!

Miriam knew she was living in a historical time […]. Miriam’s mother kept the letters from Miriam in a folder, and Walter kept letters from Miriam during the times they were separated in the first decade of their marriage. Miriam also began keeping carbon copies of the letters she wrote when they moved to Washington, D.C. […]

Miriam’s private writings were the most revealing, Mary Lou said. So much of history is written by men, and Miriam gives a glimpse into a woman’s perspective of what was going on in the world around her. She worked out issues in her private writing, from how to find God to how to raise children as Americans when there weren’t any other Americans around [while stationed as medical missionaries in the interior of China] […].

—Lisa Kaczke, Edina Sun Current
November 21, 2013

Read the full article on the Edina Sun Current’s website (click here)


There’s a tendency to romanticize political families: The dedicated politician, the supportive spouse, the good-natured kids – always the epitome of the All-American family. More often than not, they say they wouldn’t change a thing.

But would they? […]

During her 20 years in Washington, Miriam threw her life into her three children and volunteer work, especially with the YWCA and Republican women’s groups. There were embassy parties, travel and a seat at Jackie Kennedy’s famous 1961 state dinner for Pakistan at Mount Vernon.

But in a private letter (apparently never sent) to her husband, she wrote: “Now I have at last […] acknowledged to myself that life with you will always be fundamentally lonely. There will be joys in it, and satisfactions and achievements, but the hidden spring that feeds and nourishes it will be a steady, quiet stream of aloneness.” It’s hard to tell whether Miriam Judd was a congressional wife who happened to suffer from depression, or was depressed because she was a congressional wife. […]

—The Reliable Source, The Washington Post
November 11, 2013

Read the full article on The Washington Post’s website (click here)


Jim Bohannon: Here’s Tuesday, December 9, 1941: [Miriam] has written, “Just a note tonight to say we’re well and going along normally in spite of the strenuous days since December 7th.” That of course, is the date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Were there other notes that struck you by virtue of their timing? Comments about the end of World War II, or the Pearl Harbor attack, observations by Miriam about the big historical events of the day?

Mary Lou Judd Carpenter: […] When Kennedy was assassinated, they were […] in Taiwan and the embassy cancelled all of the official events, obviously, for the mourning, and they had to decide whether my father would come back. He did not come back for the funeral, but it changed their lives and they […] sent telegrams to Mrs. Kennedy and to the Johnsons who were succeeding them and it was a painful time. […]

—Radio Interview by Jim Bohannon, The Jim Bohannon Show
November 5, 2013

Listen to the full interview on Jim Bohannon’s website (click here). Interview begins at 1 hour, 41 minutes.


Today, the public may see the congressional wife as a conniving partner in House of Cards, but Miriam was different. She was a loyal spouse and devoted mother who also found energy to inspire an American boycott of Japanese silk stockings. And she led the integration of the District of Columbia chapters of the YWCA in the 1960s.

In spite of my parents’ deep devotion to each other and the exciting moments of treaty conferences and many social events, her life was lived primarily apart from my father’s activities and emotional commitments. […]

The fact that Miriam kept all of the letters suggests she unconsciously hoped that others might learn something useful from her life. I think it’s important that the record include her first-person perspective on events, as too often history has been recorded only by men. […]

—Mary Lou Judd Carpenter, USA Today
October 26, 2013

Read the full article on USA Today’s website (click here)


With a box piled high with smudged, torn, and cherished letters, Mary Lou Judd Carpenter arrived for the first time at the Collegeville Institute in the winter of 2007 as a short-term scholar. […]

The book project began simply enough when Mary Lou, in her forties at the time, began asking her mother questions about her childhood. She recalls, “One day I asked questions about my life as a youngster in China, and my mother went to her files and brought out letters she’d written describing our fleeing from communist bandits – and our evacuation when the Japanese military were approaching our town.” Mary Lou notes, “I was aware of the fact that my mother wrote regular letters to family and friends, but it wasn’t until that day when I discovered the quality and quantity of her writings.”

According to Mary Lou, the letters were stacked in manila folders according to years. Her mother often used carbon paper to make copies for friends and family when she thought the stories would be of particular interest to more people.  “When my mother was 38 and she and my father moved to Washington, she began keeping a carbon copy for her own files.” Rejoicing, Mary Lou says, “This was fortuitous for me!”

As the book project unfolded, Mary Lou made a clear decision to publish the letters as-is rather than as a narrative or as historical fiction.  She notes, “My mother’s words were so strong, lively and compelling that I saw no need to restate or reframe her words. The original words gave her observations and feelings a legitimacy and urgency that my rewording or fiction could not claim.” […]

Inside the Institute, Volume 7, Issue II
September 23, 2013

Read the full article on the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical & Cultural Research website (click here)


“A woman 20th-century Minnesotans knew as Mrs. Walter Judd, the Minneapolis congressman’s wife, emerges in a revealing new book as Miriam Barber Judd, a person of talent, faith, passion and the unfulfilled potential that was once the customary consignment of wives of famous men. […]

Carpenter deserves credit for an honest compilation that includes the lows as well as the highs in her parents’ lives. The book will nicely contribute to history’s understanding of Walter Judd’s public career, including his service in the U.S. House from 1942 to 1962. But I believe the book’s greater value lies in the vivid, at times painful picture it paints of restrictive mid-20th century gender roles and expectations of political wives. […]

One cannot read her letters without admiring her resilience and goodness — and without wondering what heights Miriam Barber Judd might have climbed if she had been born 50 years later.”

—Lori Sturdevant, Star Tribune
September 13, 2013

Read the full review on the Star Tribune website (click here)


“Miriam Barber Judd led a remarkable life as the wife of Dr. Walter Judd, with whom she lived in China while he was a medical missionary, and in Washington, D.C., where he represented Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District for 20 years.

Miriam Judd was a prolific letter writer, and now her struggles with being wife and mother while supporting her husband are revealed in “Miriam’s Words: The Personal Price of a Public Life.” […]

Reading about the Judds is a lesson in national and international politics of the 20th century, a time when women such as Miriam had few role models for balancing needs of family, a husband who led a public life and community service. […] 

Her daughter’s compilation of this strong woman’s correspondence is a gift to women’s history.”

—Mary Ann Grossman, Pioneer Press
September 8, 2013

Read the full review on the Pioneer Press website (click here)


“[This book illustrates] that the conversation, and wrestling concern with issues of racial justice, go much further back […] than the 1960s or the ’40s. Miriam’s earliest mention is from the ’30s and she is still wrestling with the need for progress when the March on Washington takes place in 1963. (“That was a most impressive and well-managed occasion, even if I can’t see that it accomplished much immediately,” she says in a letter on September 15, 1963.) […]

On October 22, 1931, in the thick of Depression-era New York City, in a letter to her fiancé, the young doctor and evangelist, Walter Judd, Miriam writes,

This week I’ve had two rock-bottom sessions with Lee Phillips. We’ve been working on the negro [sic] episode for the pageant. Here was Lee, a person of rare and beautiful spirit, aching to do something for his people, training for it, and yet feeling absolutely sunk about doing anything constructive. He wants to show them a way out. Yet he just can’t see one. He doesn’t want to be pessimistic – in spite of the fact that Reinhold Niebuhr said last Friday at the opening of the F.O.R. Conference that American students (and America in general) needed more pessimism today – not of the gloomy-despair-and-quit type, but of the kind that can recognize the criticalness of the world situation and try to do something serious about it. Lee can’t see a single ray of light anywhere in the whole negro situation. People keep telling him the negro has loved and suffered long enough and it’s time for him to do something different. But what? How can you do anything constructive when you have nothing to work with – not money, not jobs, nor security, nor respect. […] What can he, a potential leader among negroes, suggest as a way out? I don’t know when a thing has struck home to me so vividly as the “baffledness” in his face. How helpless it made me feel – how humble in the presence of one so entirely free from bitterness, so confidently sure that God couldn’t have left the situation without a ray of hope, even if for that moment he can’t find that ray. (p.7) […]

[T]he subtitle of this collection “The Personal Price of a Public Life” makes clear that Miriam [also] looks often, if indirectly, at the sacrifices and costs of a culture in which women have long been relegated to the home, family, and quiet influence of letters. […] Miriam’s contributions are now given more public exposure and are worth a long lingering examination. […]

While there is a certain Forest Gumpish character to the collection, the reader is Gump and the Judds are legitimately in the middle of momentous events and relating to high-profile leadership. What makes the entire collection continually engaging is the personal and frank wrestling that daughter Mary Lou allows her mother to make public about her own faith and marital relationship. It underscores the very important point that public life (service) has personal costs.”

—Mark C. Johnson, Ph.D., retired YMCA director
and former executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation
August 30, 2013

Read the full review on the Fellowship of Reconciliation website (click here)


“About a century ago, Walter Judd was a 17-year-old boy hoping to go to college at the University of Nebraska. His father pulled him aside and told him that, though the family had happily paid for Judd’s two sisters to go to college, Judd himself would get no money for tuition or room and board.

His father explained that he thought his son might one day go on to become a fine doctor, but he had also seen loose tendencies. Some hard manual labor during college would straighten him out.

Judd took the train to the university, arrived at the station at 10:30 and by 12:15 had found a job washing dishes at the cafeteria of the Y.M.C.A. He did that job every day of his first year, rising at 6 each morning, not having his first college date until the last week of the school year.

Judd went on to become a doctor, a daring medical missionary and a prominent member of Congress between 1943 and 1963. The anecdote is small, but it illustrates a few things. First, that, in those days, it was possible to work your way through college doing dishes. More important, that people then were more likely to assume that jobs at the bottom of the status ladder were ennobling and that jobs at the top were morally perilous. That is to say, the moral status system was likely to be the inverse of the worldly status system. The working classes were self-controlled, while the rich and the professionals could get away with things.”

—David Brooks, The New York Times
June 14, 2013

Read the full column on The New York Times’ website (click here)