I SHOULD like to speak to you for a little about Miss Caroline Church. She was the most anonymous member of our editorial staff but her right-mindedness and integrity were discernible in the Atlantic for over twenty years. I must call her ‘Churchie’ for so she has long stood in my mind and always shall. It was fun to work with her. Her quick, firm step coming up the hall meant business, meant determination, meant zest. Eight Arlington Street means something to every one of us, but to no one did it mean more than to Churchie. For eighteen years I worked in harness with her, and for a part of that time our desks were in the same room; never once did I see her disheartened or disgruntled. She had the most exacting task of us all: she had to prepare the copy (and when the copy was late she did this on the run); she had to police the magazine for errors of fact and errors of taste; she had to polish our prose and be ready to defend it against exacting readers who thought that they knew more about the standard dictionaries and the Atlantic usage than she did. I used to pass on some of the querulous complaints to her and it made me grin to see her explanations come flying back, like hot shot, so firm and to the mark. Churchie stood by her guns. Work out of hours was no chore; her last week end she took copy home to prepare for the Monday pouch. I dropped into her office Saturday noon with the manuscript in my hands and, finding her desk deserted but her hat still there, I was about to prop the pages on its crown when in she came, smiling. I like to think that the magazine was almost the biggest thing in her life. I know she gave it life, I know she gave it the most impeccable proofreading of any periodical in America.
The Atlantic was more than business to Churchie. To work with her was to be her friend. She would help you with your problems but never trouble you with her own. Although she did her reading tucked away by herself, without fuss or talk, when she came out to lunch or to a meeting, she had the cheer and confidence you needed. I know how often I have borrowed from her buoyancy. On the return from my lecture trips I’d hear her coming up the hall to discuss the schedule, and her ‘Hello, Boss, glad to have you back!’ was a great lift. She led the singing at our parties, she kept in touch with those who were forced to withdraw; had there been an air raid, she would have kept us in order. She was the eager incarnation of how to do the right job the right way. And with that unquenchable spirit there went a singular capacity for encouragement. She was a person for whom you tried to do your best work. She brought out the best in us as she brought out the best in the Atlantic.
We have lost something precious, solid, and hard to replace. I think of the spirit and quality which Churchie never hesitated to burn up for the Atlantic, and realize that people like her have kept the magazine alight stretching back eighty-five years. She’d have helped to keep our heads up in a year like the one ahead. She’d be proud of us, and we of her. Remember her. — E. W.