December 31, 2019


Gertrude Himmelfarb, influential conservative scholar, dies at 97 (HILLEL ITALIE, 12/31/19, AP)

Himmelfarb was the widow of neoconservative "godfather" Irving Kristol. Her son, neoconservative publisher-commentator William Kristol, says the cause was congestive heart failure.

A manufacturer's daughter, Himmelfarb was born in New York City in 1922. She attended Brooklyn College as an undergraduate, while also studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary. The enemy at this time of her life was not the welfare state, but capitalism. She was a Trotskyist who attended meetings of the Young People's Socialist League, if only because she enjoyed the company of the "smartest people around."

One was a fellow traveler named Irving Kristol, who proposed to her after just four dates. They married in 1942. She received a master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and her first book, "Lord Acton: A Study In Conscience and Politics," came out in 1953. Other works included "Victorian Minds," "The Idea of Poverty" and "Marriage and Morals Among the Victorians."

She taught for years at City College of New York and served at various times as an adviser for the Library of Congress, the National Council on the Humanities and the American Enterprise Institute.

Kristol and Himmelfarb remained together until his death in 2009 and had two children: Elizabeth and William. Himmelfarb, known privately as Bea Kristol, did allow for at least one modern detail in her life: she continued to write under her maiden name. The decision was practical, she would explain, not political, since she already was known professionally as Gertrude Himmelfarb. But it didn't keep reviewers from comparing her to her husband.

"Critics never fail to mention the fact that I am married to the notorious conservative Irving Kristol and so on," she told C-Span's Brian Lamb during a 1991 interview. "One critic ... the whole theme of his essay on me was, 'Gertrude Himmelfarb is a brilliant historian so long as she's Gertrude Himmelfarb, but she fails dismally as soon as she becomes Mrs. Irving Kristol.'"

Posted by at December 31, 2019 5:16 PM