Monday, August 27, 2007

The Churchill Series - Aug. 27, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

This is the final post in a five-part series intended to refute the assertions of some historians that Churchill was insensitive to the problems and accomplishments of ordinary people, particularly those who worked for him.

The series began with a presentation of "the case" of those making the "insensitivity" claims. Following that were posts concerning legislation to aid ordinary people which Churchill fought for and helped implement as a cabinet minister as well as examples of ordinary individuals he knew well and treated with compassion and financial generosity in their times of need.

I end the series today with a look at how Churchill treated Violet Pearman and her two daughters.

Mrs. P, as Churchill always called Pearman, was one of his secretaries during the 1930s when Churchill was out of office, and worked mostly on his articles, speeches and books at his Chartwell home.

Mrs. P was divorced and was raising two daughters when in 1938, at about age 36, she suffered a very serious stroke that left her unable to work.

Churchill arranged to pay her full salary for the next year. He consulted physicians on her behalf and sought to assure she received the best possible care. As she began her recovery, he sent her the following letter:

Dearest Mrs. P,

I am so grieved at your illness – due I fear largely to your devotion to my interests and fortunes. I am sure that all you need is a good long rest without worries of any kind. Now do help in this. Lie absolutely fallow and you will recover. There is no need to fret about anything - though I don’t pretend I do not miss you badly.

Do not let your case be a burden. Why don’t you tell your solicitor to come to me. I will have it all properly looked after. Remember you can count on me for the 50 [pounds] I promised.

All I want you to do is to get well, and this you can do by a good holiday. I will look after you.

Yours affectionately,

Winston S. Churchill
Violet Pearman died in 1941. Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert wrote:
Churchill made arrangements for her monthly salary, at that time 12 [pounds], to be paid to her daughter Rosemary , then aged eleven, and for a further seven years beginning in 1943 he paid 100 [pounds] a year towards Rosemary’s education.
Churchill’s treatment of Violet Pearmen is one more example of his sensitivity to the problems of ordinary people and his appreciation for their achievements.

I don’t want to make this post any longer than it already is, but I do want to make a few remarks before ending this series. So tomorrow I’ll offer summary remarks about the sensitivity and generosity of Winston S. Churchill, a great and good man.

All of the material concerning Churchill and Violet Pearman can be found in Martin Gilbert’s In Search of Churchill: A Historian’s Journey. (John Wiley & Sons, 1994) (pgs. 156-160)