An encounter

Richard Strout's article on Eleanor Roosevelt, with its cartoon of surprised coal miners saying, ''For gosh sakes, here comes Mrs. Roosevelt,'' vividly brought back the day I was walking out of a New York City office into the sunshine, liberated for lunch.

Heading for a real restaurant for the first time, instead of the usual Chock Full O' Nuts cream cheese sandwich, I turned full of expectancy onto 43rd Street from Fifth Avenue, and who should come toward me crossing the street in front of Stern's Department Store, as though she had just been buying pillow slips, but the tall, loosely suited, vaguely hatted figure of Eleanor Roosevelt. She was alone. There were no security people then and New York was much less crowded than it is now. The street was empty except for the two of us walking toward each other. As a look of astonished recognition dawned on my face, she gave me a beautiful, bucktoothed smile. I walked by in respectful silence, glowing with delight. All the good things I had heard about her were confirmed by her presence.

Age had not allowed me to vote for president yet, and as soon as it did I voted for Wendell Willkie, but that had nothing to do with Eleanor.

All the girls I knew admired her enormously for her intelligence and earnest efforts to get at the truth of everything. We all thought she was a lot better than her husband. Later, after his death, when the protecting prestige of his office had gone, I loved her for her courage in taking unpopular stands, even when harshly criticized by clerical leaders.

Like the unsuspecting coal miners, I remember that sweet moment of the silent , approving smile of Eleanor Roosevelt.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.