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Waldorf Letters

A Waldorf Story by Petra Mensing

My Waldorf Story has accompanied me for many years, and it continues to this day! When I was seven years old, I met Great-Aunt Minnie (1901-2001) and was impressed by this woman. Almost 30 years later I received her handwritten memoir and countless letters. Therein, Minnie recounted her entire life story: She spent her youth as an orphan in a small village in Germany; in 1923 she emigrated via Santo Domingo and Cuba, finally arriving in New York in 1928. To my amazement, a few letters were written on Waldorf Astoria paper! I was thrilled and kept reading. And finally, I knew why I was holding these particular Waldorf letters: Minnie had been employed as a chambermaid in The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria for nearly 20 years in the 1940s and ‘50s!

Duke and Dutchess of Windsor, General MacArthur, Cabot Lodge, Cole Porter, Gloria Vanderbilt, Countess Moon Beguin Kahn, Neruk of India, Indira Gandhi, Queen Juliane and Prince Bernhard of Holland, President Nixon, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip of England, Lowel Thomas, the Arab Sheik, the Iranian Sheik when he married Soraya, Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr, Hedda Hopper, Crown Princess Martha and Crown Prince Olaf of Norway, John and Jackie Kennedy and the old Kennedys - Minnie met all these notables at The Towers and recounted them in the letters.

A fantastic life story lay before me like a diamond in the rough. There was an overwhelming desire in my heart to save this story from oblivion, so I decided to publish Minnie’s life story. I called the book the way Minnie always signed her letters: “Seid alle herzlich gegruesst, Eure Minnie“ (Eng.: Greetings to all, yours Minnie). It was with great emotion that I stood together with my family in front of the Waldorf Astoria afterwards in 2019. To see this wonderful place with my own eyes was an indescribable feeling. Just one year later, Minnie’s story returned to New York - to the NYPL’s archives. And it is not only there that this impressive life story can be found – Minnie’s story is also available in the Harvard Library as well as the Stanford Libraries. Fittingly for Minnie’s 120th birthday, the story is now immortalized in Waldorf Stories. Minnie would be so proud and overjoyed. So am I.