Abigail McCarthy 1915-2001

Abigail Quigley McCarthy died on February 1 at her home in Washington, D.C. She was eighty-five. Mrs. McCarthy wrote a column in these pages from 1974 to 1999. She had been scheduled to offer a comment on James O’Toole’s "Empty Confessionals" in this issue. May she rest in peace.

Cocktail hour at Abigail McCarthy’s Connecticut Avenue apartment was quite a treat, not because of the liquid refreshment, but because of the hostess herself. She believed in conversation, she practiced it, and anyone who happened by was immediately drawn in. It was during the first Bush administration (probably 1990), when I first walked into her apartment building and along the broad, carpeted hall leading to her door (the hall would have done Windsor Castle proud). I found Mrs. McCarthy and her friend newspaperwoman Mary McGrory in a discussion about that wonderful woman, Mrs. Bush—that is, Mrs. Prescott Bush, George H. W.’s mother, George W.’s grandmother, and wife of Senator Prescott Bush.

The hour’s conversation ranged over a number of political persons and topics, culminating in the statement, "Peggy, never trust a man." This was offered neither in anger nor protest. After the extended political analysis, it was simply the logical conclusion of the discussion.

Through our intermittent encounters and phone calls, I came to admire McCarthy’s sense of form and...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.