Eleanor Roosevelt



Transcription of Annotations

Notes on half-title: Homosexuals/Newport 267-268. ER commercials for money; FDR homosexuals; wrote a column; mistresses--Special interviews Hicks. 1884-1933 16, first 49 years. Underlinings/notes: Book made possible by a movement. 20 years transformed craft of biography. Closed archives/court biography. Met Eleanor Roosevelt several times. Papers closed, discouraged from considering ER as woman with independent power. Friendship with Lornea Hickok taken out of context, treated meanly. Made effort to avoid historiographical quibbles/biographical arguments. "Lost" archival sources opened. Most work done at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, NY. ER's sons met with author. 10 years to write book. Quotations on ER: "presence lit up the room," "ugliest woman," "most beautiful woman," "voice could shatter glass," "changed my life, just by caring," "hardly understood the New Deal...knew nothing about foreign policy." No one neutral about her. Those who mock the person, focus on her teeth, voice, other characteristics. J. Edgar Hoover kept a record of her every word/activity from 1924. Considered saint/sinner. Marie Souvestre--"Never be bored; and you will never be boring." School in England (1899-1902)--happiest time of her life. Her life tells us about survival, activity, consciousness, change. ER's life temp. shattered by discovery of her husband's affair with friend/social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Marriages hid romances; romances were discreet and buried in archives. ER considered sex an ordeal to be borne; forged intimate friendships with lesbian couples, Esther Lape and Elizabeth Read, and Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerman. Later relationships with Earl Miller/Lorena Hickok, were erotic, daring and tumultuous. So many letters were lost/destroyed that the full dimensions of her love remain a mystery. ER's romantic love for Earl Miller began when she was 45 and he 32. After 1920 closest friends were lesbians. Public women of ER's generation see nothing valuable about today's openness. While ER never published anything related to her heart, she saved her correspondence with Lorena Hickok and Esther Lape. Hick's, Lape's letters burned. Triumphed over anorexia, rejected suicide. Migraines. Bernard Baruch proposed marriage. TV commercials for money. ER scorned the elitism of her mother's family; romanticized her father. By 1800 over 50 Roosevelt families. 27 October 1858, Theodore, Jr. born; 28 Feb. 1860 Elliott born; Sept. 1861 Corinne born. Theodore "Greatheart" Roosevelt died from intestinal cancer at the age of 46 on 9 Feb. 1878. ER walked down aisle with uncle Theodore Roosevelt. 20th birthday, 11 Oct. 1904 FDR gave ER a secret gift, engagement ring. Cousin Alice resented ER. Many guests followed TR to library and skipped receiving line. Sara Delano Roosevelt knew best--they needed her money, help, presence, advice about everything at all times. Imperious, cold. Couple returned to NYC--FDR needed to pass law-school courses; failed 2. Dolomites, Cortina. First moment of pain/resentment as a wife--as Kitty Gandy and FDR went on a hike. Could not answer question from Lady Helen Ferguson about differences between national, state, local government in US. Sara loathed politics, political people--especially political women. Alice Roosevelt Longworth--TR placed her hand into hand of Nicholas Longworth. Edith Carow Roosevelt told her she was glad to see Alice go. FDR no interest in intimate talk, household problems. ER generally distraught. 47-49 East 65th St. 5 children raised in house. James, first born son--Franklin, born 18 Mar. 1909 died 1 Nov. Eleanor devastated. Elliott born 23 Sept. 1910. Eleanor's depression intensified by Franklin's habits. 1910 severe depression. FDR no party regular, voted for TR. At 29 ER felt healthy and robust. Groton-Harvard-Princeton axis--Roosevelts at heart of the new alliance. Wilson shocked everyone by canceling the Inaugural Ball. ER's calling--10 to 30 wives a day, staying no longer than 6 min. at one place. Louis Howe. ER--achievements in Washington society extraordinary. ER moved army of 5 children, servants, pets--six times a year--alone and without complaint. ER instinctive belief in William Bryan's "stand on peace". Tensions of Washington's interminable gaiety--illusions, temptations--intruded in Roosevelt marriage as FDR stayed later and ER left earlier from events. In Albany reached agreement--FDR could do as he wished as long as she did not have to endure frivolous, alcoholic evenings with him. By 1917 social interests diverge. NYT interview 17 July 1916. Alice invited FDR and Lucy Mercer to her dinners. Nicholas Longworth--ardent politician, dandy, superb violinist, notorious drunk. Aurora Borah Alice. Nicholas Longworth was one of the most popular men in Washington and most beloved Speaker of the House. During winter/spring 1917-1918 ER/FDR saw little of each other. 12 Dec. 1918--told to meet FDR's ship in NY with an ambulance and a physician. Divorce would have ended FDR's political career-- an unacceptable public scandal. Although FDR promised to never see Mercer again, they did and before her husband's death in 1941. Mercer with FDR when he died. In 1918 ER began process of introspection/change, took years to regain self-confidence. Louis Howe played significant role in discussions between FDR/ER. Appears that Franklin/ Eleanor never resumed sexual relations. ER does not address the Mercer issue in her autobiographies. Depressed/anorexic. Newport sex scandal--most systematic persecution of homosexual men in American history. Earl Miller--first romantic involvement of ER's middle years. ER orphaned at 10, Earl homeless at 12. Confided in each other, remained intimate, profound friends for over 30 years. ER refers to him only once in memoirs. Most documentation of relationship lost. Earl Miller--married twice to kill gossip. Miller believed that ER would make a better president than FDR. Lorena Hickok--ER's closest woman friend during WH years was erased, distorted, demeaned. ER and Hick letters, Hickok typed, edited and then burned originals of ER's letters from 1932-1933--the remaining thousands are amorous, specific. Lorena Alice Hickok foremost woman reporter in US. Understood needs/wants of people without power, money, prestige. Close friendship with Ernestine Schumann-Heink gave Hick a sapphire ring that Hick later gave to ER. Hick devoted to ER, jealous, willful, difficult, emotional, expressive. Nancy Cook/Marion Dickman resented Hick's company, deplored her presence. Hick suggested ER hold press conferences restricted to women. Hick assigned by AP to cover ER. FDR invited Lucy Mercer Rutherford to inauguration. ER took Hick to see statue of Grief at 7:45 the day before inauguration. ER felt alone in a guest-filled WH. Wrote to Hick of her emptiness without her. WH had never been used as platform from which First Lady expressed political ideas. During WH years ER juggled complicated private life/public responsibilities/political activities.


Cook, Blanche Wiesen, “Eleanor Roosevelt ,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed December 6, 2022, http://booknotes.gmu.edu/items/show/214.


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Eleanor Roosevelt


Cook, Blanche Wiesen


Program air date: April 11, 1993.


A study of the complex and political figure of Eleanor Roosevelt begins with her harrowing childhood, describes the difficulties of her marriage, and explains how she persuaded Franklin to make the reforms that would make him famous.


"Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962."
"Presidents' spouses--United States--Biography."


Brian Lamb Booknotes Collection
Gift of Brian Lamb, 2011.


George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives


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