I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Midge Decter via Ruthie Blum’s post on Facebook: “My mother, Midge Decter Podhoretz, died today, two months shy of her 95th birthday. Thankfully, I managed to arrive in New York just in time to say goodbye to the greatest woman I’ve ever known. As soon as we figure it all out, we will provide info about the funeral and shiva.”
Midge and my mom were high school classmates at St. Paul Central and old friends. I first met her at an informal gathering at a friend’s house in St. Paul in the fall of 1968 when she came back to do research for a personal essay she was writing for Harper’s. I asked her about Norman Podhoretz’s great memoir Making It, which had been roundly trashed in the New York press. “Oh,” she sighed, “that’s water under the bridge.” When my mom died, she sent me a beautiful handwritten note testifying to their girlish confidences.
She honored John Hinderaker and me with her attendance when we spoke about our Rathergate experience at a 2005 dinner sponsored by Lawrence Kadish in New York. We sat together and “s[a]ng like birds i’ th’ cage,” to borrow from King Lear. At dinner that night I told her how my father used to tell me that he had recruited Midge to write a book report for him at Central but that he had flunked because the teacher knew he couldn’t have written it. Midge told me in her colorful style that my dad had made the story up, but it was tailored to her gifts. I knew that much.
Midge was executive editor of Harper’s in its heyday under Willie Morris, among other magazines, and the author of seven or so books, including the prescient The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation. She was a brilliant and stylish writer. but also incredibly fun and funny. I have looked up to her and her good works in the conservative movement for some 50 years now.
Our condolences to Norman Podhoretz, John Podhoretz, and all the rest of her family. May her memory be for a blessing.