Eleanor RooseveltPosted: 2012/09/11
Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One 1884-1933. New York: Viking, 1191.
I think it goes without saying that Eleanor Roosevelt was a fascinating person both in and out of the political arena. What astounds me the most is how Cook could write such a thorough biography despite so much of Eleanor’s personal correspondence either lost or destroyed. I am in awe of what Cook could have done if she had everything ER had ever written or was written to her. Here’s what we do know – research has concluded that Eleanor had an unhappy childhood. She grew up shy and awkward. She a cold mother who died when Eleanor was eight and a father who was practically nonexistent. Research also supports her unhappy marriage to Franklin D. Roosevelt, a man who was clearly a mama’s boy and did nothing to hide his adulterous indiscretions. And yet, they made it work. All of Eleanor’s political and humanitarian endeavors and alliances are carefully documented. All the facts about Eleanor Roosevelt as a historical icon are there. But what Cook is able to illustrate in meticulous detail is Mrs. Roosevelt’s courageous, determined, caring personality. Once ER found independence she sought to better herself at every chance she got. She surrounded herself with men and women who would become lifelong friends. There is so much detail to Cook’s biography that you feel as though you’ve just had a conversation with Eleanor herself about her life’s work. My only complaint? As an “out” lesbian I felt Cook was trying too hard to find the lesbian angle with ER’s relationship with Lorena Hickok, among others.
Interesting line, “She knew it was possible to freeze the heart away” (p 217). An example of how little times have changed: “ER deplored the fact that Republican policies protected “big business and industry,” not the individual on the farm or in the family store” (p 403).
Reason read: Eleanor Roosevelt was born the in the month of September.
Author Fact: Cook published Volume Two of ER’s biography in 2000.
Book Trivia: Cook’s biography of Eleanor Roosevelt has been called “one of the best.”
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “People You Ought To Meet” (p 184).