Miriam Barber Judd was at her husband’s side as he worked as a doctor in China, then as a U.S. Congressman representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District for two decades.
She was also a prolific writer, leaving nearly 2,000 letters and personal writings detailing her life, from feeling lonely and frustrated to attending luncheons with Madam Chiang Kai-shek, Eleanor Roosevelt and Queen Elizabeth.
Her thoughts and life are now available to the masses in a new book compiling her writing entitled “Miriam’s Words: The Personal Price of a Public Life,” edited by her daughter, Mary Lou Judd Carpenter of Edina. For a list of book events and more information, visit miriamswords.com. An Edina Reads event on the book is scheduled for April.
Miriam married Walter Judd in 1932. They moved to China in 1934, where Walter worked at a hospital. As the Japanese invaded China, the couple fled to the United States. They later headed to Washington, D.C., when Walter was elected to represent Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in 1942. They lived in Washington, D.C., for the remainder of their lives.
Miriam knew she was living in a historical time, Mary Lou said. Miriam’s mother in India 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.
Mary Lou spent 24 weeks reading her mother’s letters. She edited them down until she reached 800 pages, and then really focused until she reached about 390 pages, she said.
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 them, Mary Lou said.
Miriam was born to missionary parents in India in 1904. She was 8 years old when her family moved back to the United States, settling in Montclair, N.J.
She graduated in 1925 from Mount Holyoke College, where she met Walter. She received her master’s degree from Columbia Teacher’s College, according to Mary Lou.
She and Walter had a short stay in Minnesota before moving to China. When the Japanese invaded, Miriam fled China with their two daughters, including Mary Lou. Walter joined them in New Jersey a year later. By this time, their third daughter had been born, according to Mary Lou.
Walter, a Republican, was known in Congress for his foreign policy work, urging support of China against Japanese aggression, and was also against Communism in China. He served in Congress for 10 terms, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.
During this time, Miriam was running their household and raising their three daughters. She was also volunteering with the Red Cross, the Congressional Wives’ Club, United Givers’ Fund and Meals on Wheels. She also volunteered for the YWCA and served on both the board of the area branch and the national organization, according to Mary Lou. All the YWCA branches of the area were desegregated while Miriam was president of the National Capitol Area YWCA.
Miriam died in 1994 at the age of 89, four months after Walter died.
Contact Lisa Kaczke at [email protected]