Friday, March 10, 2006


Madeleine Pelner Cosman passed away last week. She was quite a pistol as a grown-up: lawyer, amateur pilot and gun-toter. And somewhere in there she had a family. She was widowed, but is survived by children and grandchildren. Update: Robert Bidinotto has a tribute up.

Lately she had been campaigning against illegal immigration and the strain it puts on our health system. I somewhat disagreed with her on that issue, since it seemed to me the problem was more with the way our health system was set up.

It was less than a year ago that I spoke with her about her childhood. Her parents were European Jews who made a point of teaching her perfect German - along with some other children - so they could infiltrate Nazi Europe as spies if necessary when they grew up. And you know what, if the Allies had failed to take out Hitler, I believe Madeleine would have succeeded in killing him herself.

Around the same time I asked her about her beautiful speaking voice. Well, it turned out she had been an opera singer as well. It was part of the way she paid her way through Barnard College. She told me stories of having to take the subway from the Morningside Heights campus to the opera house. Sometimes in a long gown. And that's the image I want to end on. With her riding downtown on the IRT, in her evening gown, ready to sing.

Amazing talent, astounding drive,
She lived her life alive.


Ergo Sum said...

I never knew of her, never heard of her. Sounds like an interesting personality. Did she understand and agree with Objectivist principles? Or was she just a distant admirer of Rand's fiction and some ideas?

JohnJEnright said...

She was very interesting, and apparently quite well-known in her own circles. She was a regular, and dramatic, lecturer at TOC summer seminars. As for Objectivism, I never quizzed her on exact understanding and agreement, but offhand I don't recall any specific anti-Objectivist positions either.