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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  April 23, 2011 8:00am-9:00am EDT

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modest payment system remains oriented toward more and not better the clear answer is no. >> the payment system and consumer as well. >> thank you for bringing that into it. that is a high point to end on. thank you for joining us today. .. >> beginning with the arrival of new england missionaries in 1820. find the complete schedule at and get our
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schedules e-mailed. sign up for booktv alert. >> the 2011 pulitzer prize winners have been announced. at 9:45 a.m. eastern, watch three authors discuss their books.
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>> for a complete list of the 2011 pulitzer prize winners, visit and check out the news about books section of the page. >> maureen beasley recalls eleanor roosevelt's years as first lady detailing her involvement in politics and her transformation of the position of first lady from one that was largely unacknowledged to prominent political actor. ms. beasley speaks and takes audience questions for a little over an hour. >> our speaker today, maureen beasley, is professor emerita of journalism at the university of maryland. and as i was reading her bio, i noticed a connection with the state of missouri. she attended the university of missouri's journalism school which if you know anything about
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journalism, that is one of the top two, i would say at least, schools of journalism in the united states. and she also worked as the education editor for the kansas city, missouri, star. and i'm originally from missouri, and i mentioned that to her. she said, oh, where are you from, my family is in she dale ya -- sedalia, and turns out that ease her home -- that's her hometown too. her bio is very impressive, but in addition to being the editor at the kansas city star, she also was a staff writer for "the washington post," she's taught journalism, she's a journalism historian. her particular focus is upon washington women journalists, including eleanor roosevelt who
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considered herself a journalist and coverage of the first ladies. her most recent book is what she will be discussing with us today, "eleanor roosevelt: transformative first lady." maureen. [applause] >> thank you so much, don. it was really wonderful to find out that we have a sedalia, missouri, connection. his grandfather was mayor of the town that i grew up in the, and i have a feeling that his father actually was a student of my mother at smith cotton high school in sedalia, and i'm going to tell you a little bit about that as i get into my speech on eleanor roosevelt. but i do want to thank dr. kennon, vice president for scholarship and education of the united states capitol historical society for asking me to be here
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and to say i'm so happy i am a member of this organization and have been for many years. we're so fortunate to have a vital historical organization like the united states capitol historical society help us recognize the importance of our heritage as americans. isn't it study of the past that gives us the strength and vision to press onward into the future? every time i get into the eleanor roosevelt material -- and i must say that i and my husband, hank beasley, who has joined me in researching eleanor for many years -- have been into roosevelt literature for a long, long time. everything time that -- every time we get into it we're struck by how much the life of this woman can speak to us today. i hope i'll be able to share a bit of that with you today.
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i also want to introduce another person who we will hear more from later, and that's cornelia jane strawser who, would you wave? she knew eleanor roosevelt personally, she visited in the white house as a small child, and her mother, ruby black whose picture you will see as i show my slides, was eleanor roosevelt's first biographer and a person who had an impact on eleanor roosevelt's career in the white house. i'm so pleased that cornelia's with us, and she has brought a couple of prize items from her personal collection which are back there on the table. and she'll tell you about those, but they relate to the visit of the king and queen of england to the roosevelts in 1939. she'll share her experiences
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during the question and answer period that will follow my remarks. i wonder if there are others in the audience who also have personal recollections of eleanor roosevelt? okay, great. well, during the question and answer period i hope you'll share those too. eleanor is still being written about, you know. she lived from 1884 to 1962, but here we have at least three books that i know of and perhaps there are more that have come out within the last five or six months. people are still writing about her, still exploring facets of her career that have been unexplored. she is still speaking to us. of course, today what i'm going to talk about is the way she spoke to us as first lady. so let me put on my eleanor roosevelt outfit. [laughter]
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the neck piece. now, that was favored by her and many other ladies of the day. any of you remember when these were ubiquitous wardrobe items? [laughter] upper class families, everyone had one of these. well, i wear this because i like to transport us for a minute or two back to eleanor's era. and, of course, here i have my prop, here's eleanor, you see? in i would say one of her many traveling outfits. she's carrying her big purse. and here is franklin with his jaunty look. you would never know that he could not walk when he was in the white house -- actually he never could walk again after the paralysis of 1921. then, i saw this in the
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supermarket, this is an eleanor roosevelt refrigerator magnet. [laughter] you see, she's got her fur on. and then, of course, there was their little dog. an era dominated by these folks here. so, please, join me now in picturing a scene that will take us back to the past. this is a drafty old house, and i usually just say a small town in missouri, but this time i'm going to say in sedalia, missouri. here we have an exhausted housewife trying to keep warm. at the end of a dull day of housekeeping while reading her favorite columnist in the kith star. suddenly, she looks up at her little girl, and she says, i am sure that she is better than he is. well, who do you think the she was? eleanor or roosevelt. and who is the he?
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franklin. my family was rock republican, believe me. they would have sit pretty well with the tea party crowd we have now. but my mother leaved reading eleanor roosevelt's "my day "column. do any of you remember my day? i see a few heads nod, yeah. why did my mother like it? well, this is a chum about a woman -- column about a whom who was doing something. she was going places. she was doing things, she was making history in washington d.c. and actually i think my mother's interest in that stimulated me in part to get an education and, eventually, move to washington myself. years later when i was asked by lou ghoul who's editor of the modern first lady series that has been featured this month during these noontime meetings
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to write a biography concentrating on how eleanor roosevelt had changed the role of first lady. first ladies before eleanor had been hostesses, they'd been helpmates to their husbands in various degrees, and some of them had been unofficial advisers. but eleanor changed all that. she made the role of first lady much more important one, and i'm going to be talking about that. eleanor, historians will tell us, did not want to be first lady although she certainly campaigned for franklin in the election of 1932, the first of the four elections in which he was chosen president. why didn't she want to be first lady? most of us would think that was pretty nice, i think. well, because you have to remember that eleanor was a roosevelt before she became a roosevelt. she was eleanor roosevelt
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roosevelt. her uncle was teddy roosevelt who was president of the unite, of course -- of the united states, of course, at the turn of the century, and some say franklin just followed teddy's career. and she had seen teddy's wife preside in the white house mainly as a hostess, and she just didn't want to do that. she said, i just don't want to sit in the white house and pour tea. now, she would have perhaps liked to have been a closer adviser to her husband than she was. although she certainly gave him the benefit of her ideas. she never hesitated to offer opinions, but he might or might not accept them. so when franklin was elected, she went to franklin, and she said i'm not going to have very
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much to do as first lady, could i take care of your mail for you? actually, that was rather commonly done by political wives in those those days. arkansas -- harry truman's wife had worked in his office and taken care of his mail, and the vice president, vice president gaper's wife also had been in his office and taken care of the mail, so that wasn't a truly unusual request. what do you think franklin said? no, of course not. that's missy's job. and he was referring to his personal secretary, missy lehand. in fact, history is dubious on this, but it is in the biography ies, there is even speculation that eleanor was so upset by thinking of having to be first lady which she saw as an empty, ceremonial role she
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didn't want to participate in, that she wrote a letter. and in that letter threatened to leave franklin and run away with earl miller who i'll show you a picture of in a minute. so you've got to remember, you know, we think of these people as saints now, they're flesh and blood folks just like us. well, we don't know for sure if there was such a letter although there were people who supposedly saw the letter, and the letter was supposedly destroyed by louie howell who was eleanor's great friend and confidant. of course, he was also franklin's political genius. at any rate, how does it happen then that this unwilling woman who really didn't want to be first lady rewrote the script for first ladies from 1933 until 1945 and made the job of first lady part of the white house
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political communications process as it is today? it's a script that all of her successors have had to take note of whether they followed it or not. but most of them have followed it at least in part by finding appropriate causes to interest themselves in and to publicize. now, i argue in the book that as eleanor became accustomed to being first lady, she saw great possibilities in this role. she saw the possibility of making it a platform, a bully pulpit as her uncle, teddy roosevelt, had said of the presidency, what a bully pulpit. i can speak to people, i can get attention. well, she saw job, the position of first lady in the same way, as a bully pulpit. she saw in it possibilities for communicating with the american
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people, particularly women. and we have to remember that eleanor was part of the women reformer element of the democratic party in the 1920s and the 1930s. she honestly believe inside a lot of social -- believed in a lot of social causes which she wanted to promote especially to women. so as she became accustomed to being first lady, she realized she could use the white house to call attention to the causes in which she believed. now, one of those was the right of married women, including herself, to pursue a money-making career. and i will tell you she made a lot of money in the white house, too, which we often don't think about that. first ladies have written books with, but nobody's had the kind of money-making career that she had in the white house. now, how did she learn to do all this, or what inspired her to do it? who did she draw ideas from?
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because she didn't have any experts in public relations or in spin devices or in focus group kinds of things. she did this herself. but i think she borrowed ideas from a rather small group of personal friends. now, what made eleanor roosevelt an upper class patrician? roosevelt family's one of the 400 families in new york society. what made her write a newspaper column that related to people like my mother? well, she had a lively intelligence, genuine interest in others, and i think she learned from some of her personal friends a lot about communicating with just average folks like us. let me read you just a little bit of this "my day" column so you get the idea. this is from a 1938 column, and
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it's headlined, "i felt very guilty to have missed mihos -- my hostess." washington has bloomed since the day i went away. at 10:30 this morning i went out to the university of maryland to give a talk. because this is a land-grant college, they have quite a large military force. i drew up to the front of the auditorium mainly because i was impressed by the number of boys in uniform standing outside the door. does that sound much like a political pundit today? no. [laughter] what does it sound like that we hear a lot about? i bet you can tell me from the internet. blog, exactly. and it was written like that. it was a very personal kind of thing. so eleanor was communicating with people, she was making the
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job of the first lady a bully pulpit, and in my opinion, she was -- and i have studied this -- she was drawing from her, in some degree certainly from the personal relationships that she had with some remarkable but not the kinds of folks you would expect aristocratic lady to have. but in any event, let me move on and show you some slides that will help illustrate what i'm trying to say. now, of course, eleanor roosevelt drew from franklin roosevelt. obviously, she built her whole career on being mrs. roosevelt. of course, she helped franklin too politically. but you notice in this slide which shows eleanor and franklin shortly after their marriage in 1905, there's somebody in the middle there. who was that?
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sarah, franklin's indomitable mother. and, look, franklin and sara are looking at each other, and eleanor's kind of to the side, isn't she? and that's sort of the way it was in their marriage. now, i think most of us know the story that sarah controlled the family pursestrings. and, actually, she tried to tell eleanor who was quite young -- she was only 20 the when she was married -- what to do even to the point of trying to supplant her as a mother for eleanor's five children. of course, eleanor had a sixth child who died in infancy. but mama definitely was an influence there. now, we know that eleanor and franklin lived increasingly separate lives after she discovered his romance with lucy mercer during world world war i.
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but that they stayed together. why'd they stay together? well, one reason is mama said, franklin, you leave eleanor and those children, and i'm going to cut off the money. so that made franklin think about things. and then, of course, louis howell said, franklin, it's going to ruin your political career if you should leave your family. so at any rate, they decided to stay together. we know that eleanor nursed franklin devotedly when he was stricken with infantile paralysis in 1921. but then as franklin tried to recover from that and went off to warm springs and to the south to try to seek healing there which he never really succeeded in getting because he could never really walk again, eleanor starts her own career too. she begins to write magazine
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articles which she sold on such summits as women in -- subjects as women in politics. she begins to get active in the women's division of the new york state democratic party. remember, women had just gotten the vote in 1920, so this is a new field and she's entering into it. she's becoming part of a network of these new deal women reformers and intellectuals. and then she's teaching school at the exclusive todd hunter school in new york. she could not have taught in public school. she never had an education past finishing school which she'd attended in the england, so she bought a share of todd hunter, and that permitted her to teach this. and she went on record to say that there's nothing she'd ever done in her life that she liked as much as teaching. and, in fact, as first lady i think she saw herself as a teacher to the american public.
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well, now, franklin in spite of not being able to walk is elected governor of new york in 1928. and the population probably didn't know how incapacitated he was. historical evidence is sort of split on that. anyway, at that time eleanor accepted the role of his secretary, missy l ehand, as a kind of surrogate wife who could fill in for her and provide franklin with the sort of flutter ri, feminine attention that he liked and that eleanor wasn't good at giving. eleanor finds a companion of her own, and that is earl miller. let me show you this slide. now, here is the four of them together here. earl miller is the athletic-looking man on the end there. next to him is missy lehand,
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then there's franklin and eleanor on this side of the picture. earl miller was a highway patrolman who was assigned to eleanor as her bodyguard when franklin was elected governor of new york. they became very close. he brought a sense of fun to the serious-minded eleanor. and here we see in this 1934 home movie taken at hyde park that the two of them are in a little play. and here's earl miller as a pirate, and he's about to kidnap eleanor, the first lady. they were quite close, they would go on walks together, she read poetry to him, she loved doing things for him even cleaning up his house or his apartment, buying things for him. perhaps like an aunt looking after a favorite nephew.
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we don't know exactly their relationship either. but we do know it was close, and we also know that franklin did not want earl to come to washington as part of the roosevelt entourage in 1933, so he found earl a good government job in new york state. but eleanor and franklin -- i'm sorry, but eleanor and earl continued to be in touch, and eleanor would visit earl while she was first lady. in fact, i really believe that miller helped her make that transition to first lady by giving her self-confidence. he encouraged her to ride horses. he bought dogs for her to play with. these were kind of obstreperous dogs, i guess they were sort of protection to her, and he also taught her how to shoot a gun.
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because as first lady eleanor refused secret service protection. and so earl taught her how to shoot a gun so she could carry the gun in the glove compartment of her car. miller all during the period she was first lady even though he was married and divorced in there several times, he offered her relaxation from her high-profile life. now, once in the white house, of course, eleanor found that she had to play a ceremonial role. and here she is in what appears to be heavily retouched photograph. [laughter] many -- in an inaugural reception outfit. you can see she's first lady. and i wonder how many of us are aware of this, she was actually on the best dressed list of women in 934. 934. she had arrangements with a new
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york department store to wear their attire, and then she'd have her picture taken like this one, that's an arnold constable down, and these pictures would be circulated throughout the country. now, i think this was a financially advantageous arrangement for both. the store and eleanor. ah, but now we get to the person who was much more of an influence on her as she transforms the role of first lady, earl miller. we can't see this person too well in this picture, but we get some idea perhaps of the way she kind of hid herself from public view. when eleanor was in the white house, she was definitely there assisting eleanor in frank forming -- transforming the role of first lady.
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okay. here we see eleanor, and then we see this woman sort of in the background there. okay, that's lorena hickok. she had been the top woman political writer for the associated press of new york. and she was assigned to the roosevelt campaign train in the election of 1932. and the campaign train went all over the united states, and eleanor was there, of course, to stand by franklin's side and smile when he gave speeches, you know, the role of the political wife. well, hickok realized that eleanor wasn't too happy in this role. in fact, hickok eventually years later wrote a book called "reluctant first lady," which is part of why we know how much eleanor did not want to be first lady. but anyway, the two of them found themselves soul mates. lorena hickok was a lesbian, there isn't any dispute on that
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point. she and eleanor became very attached. to what degree they had a physical relationship, nobody knows for sure, but it's undisputable evidence that they had a close emotional relationship and that hickok helped her in transforming the role of the first lady. now, hickok and eleanor drove together in that car. they took private vacations together, about six weeks in this 1933 and 1934. and the press let 'em alone. can't imagine that happening today, but it did then. and here they are at a tourist home in lowell, massachusetts. now, hickok went with eleanor roosevelt on the first trip made by a first lady outside the continental united states while her husband was in office. this is a trip that eleanor made
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to puerto rico. and i want to call your attention in particular to the woman who is standing to eleanor's left, immediate left because that's ruby black. you know, she has the dress on that has a definite pattern to it. ruby black, of course, is mother. and ruby black helped arrange this trip because ruby black was a correspondent for a newspaper in puerto rico. she spoke spanish, she was quite involved in the puerto rican politic, and she helped arrange for eleanor to make this trip. these other people with her are devoted admirers of eleanor, newspaper women who covered eleanor's press conferences for women only. lorena hickok, who had to leave the associated press because she was so close to eleanor she had no more journalistic integrity
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or objectivity, had geffen eleanor -- given eleanor the idea of having press conferences for women reporters only in the white house to give women something that the men couldn't get. ruby black was extremely vfed in these press -- involved in these press conferences, and it was because of this woman-only rule that ruby black was hired by the united press which in those days had a rule against hiring any woman. see, women weren't considered capable of being journalists. and if they worked for a newspaper, they were usually consigned to society news and women's pages, that kind of thing. so ruby black, like these other women, very grateful to eleanor for having these press conferences, and eleanor had 347 of them while she was in the white house for women only. the other women represented, well, the woman on the end there
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represented the new york herald tribune, an important republican newspaper which objected to the roosevelt administration editorially, but she wrote the loveliest stories about eleanor. [laughter] you see, next to her was dorothy who worked for a hearst newspaper press syndicate, first hearst was for roosevelt, then he broke with roosevelt. but she went ahead writing these nice articles about eleanor. as i said, there's ruby black, and on the end there's bess fuhrman who worked first for the associated press and later for "the new york times." these women more or less turned into eleanor's public relations agents because they admire her so personally. hickok, like louis howell, also advised eleanor in the writing of magazine articles. does anybody remember reading
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eleanor's question and answer column in the "ladies home journal" or in mccall's? yeah, good. good, yeah. i still remember her advice on smoking because i was quite interested, you know, should i smoke or not. eleanor said, well, she didn't really do it herself, but she thought as a good hostess you should always provide cigarettes to others. but, you know, i've always been very glad that i listened to her advice on that point. i never had to stop because i never started. [laughter] anyway, eleanor was writing for these magazines. both howell and hickok were helping her sort of furbish her articles, and howell was helping her sell them. and it's even believed that hickok gave eleanor the idea for the "my day" column. which was quite a popular
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column. she had a good many more readers than some of the men political pundits of the day. now, you want to see a picture of lorena hickok, a little bit better. here she and eleanor are going down a squall lid street in san juan, puerto rico, to inspect conditions there. and hickok is the woman in the dress with the long tie there by eleanor's side. hickok, after leaving the associated press, then went to work directly for the roosevelt administration as an undercover investigator of poverty and relief conditions. the roosevelt administration -- and franklin's behind this -- didn't really believe that the newspapers and the media of the day was telling people the extent of poverty. he wanted independent investigations of how well welfare programs were working,
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independent investigations of how desperate people really were. he wanted a personal source of information, and hickok was one of the investigators. there were others who were hired to go out around the country and make these reports that went to harry hopkins who was head of the new deal relief efforts and also to franklin himself. and, of course, eleanor saw these reports. so that's, that was part of their puerto rican trip. now, hickok like miller certainly wasn't a member of the upper crust. she was the daughter of a traveling butter maker in south dakota who had abused her as a child. as a reporter for the associated press, she learned to write for average people. and she encouraged eleanor to write in that kind of style, and she also encouraged eleanor --
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who she admired tremendously -- to see herself as a role model for ordinary women. the "my day" column certainly had the air of one neighbor talking to another. this conversational style highlighted many of the communication activities. the advice columns for women's magazines, the articles she wrote on such topics as a day in the life of the white house or the role of women in politics, the role of women in cleaning up conditions in their own communities, that kind of thing. eleanor's paid radio broadcasts, her paid lecture tours and, of course, what she got from the column did give her an income. in fact, she earned an average of about $70,000 a year. an average of $70,000 a year.
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as my husband can testify because he's been through her income tax returns which were fairly recently made available to the public at the roosevelt library. now, $70,000 a year in those days is a pretty good salary, especially for a woman. particularly, it was a good salary when you figure that franklin as president of the united states was only making $75,000. in fact, there's one story -- i don't think it's true, but you run into it -- that when eleanor sold the first installment of her biography, this is my story, to the ladies' home journal for $75,000 in 1937, she ran through the white house waving the check saying, look, look, this is as much as franklin made, and i made it myself. [laughter] doubtful that this actually took place. but there is historical evidence
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that she really did believe that a paycheck validated a woman's worth. she opposed legislation that had the effect of forcing women to give up their government jobs when they got married on grounds it wasn't right to have two wage earners in the family. she publicly advocated, and ruby black helped her with this too, that married women had the right to hold paid employment. i'll just have to tell you this story since we started out talking a little bit about sedalia. my mother had to give up her job as a high school teacher when she married my father. of course, married women couldn't be school teachers in those days. anyway, when she told the superintendent of schools that she was getting married, he said, oh, my. you see what have left, only those wanted neither by god nor
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man. [laughter] an awful comment of unmarried women teachers, but that was sort of the way things were back in that era. well, now, of course, while eleanor is redoing the role of first lady, she's still carrying on these ceremonial activities. this is the white house christmas card, 1933. see, she's sitting properly by franklin's side. but she's making history in other ways. here she is showing an interest in african-americans, and she was really the ambassador of the roosevelt administration to african-americans who were unbelievably discriminated against. this is a picture, 1936, and she is visiting howard university. and the two students on either side are dressed in reserve
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officer uniforms. now, this picture caused an outcry from segregationists who used it in the south to attack the racial policies of the roosevelt administration. but on the other hand, it made a great hit in the african-american press of the day which would take pictures like this and run them to show that here you had a first lady who really was sympathetic to the cause of african-americans. now, she travels all over the country giving speeches, and some of them definitely paid lectures and some were not. often she is accompanied only by one person, that's her trustworthy secretary, melvina thompson who's the woman you see there with her. you see the kind of clothes they wore, you know, they sort of looked matronly. women weren't supposed to have to try to keep young the way
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they are today no matter how old we actually are. they were expected to dress like older ladies. here she is on an airplane. of course, she loved to fly, she traveled about 900,000 -- 300,000 miles during her first year. first eight years as first lady and then during world war ii she was all over the globe visiting service personnel. now, here she is anytiming in a plane -- knitting in a plane. eleanor was never quiet. if she was sitting down for a minute, she would pull out her knitting needles. this photograph was taken by her son in 1936 and used by the airline industry to try to promote flying among will. among women. and i just have to read you this, this is my favorite part of this book. and it's short, but let me tell you, here's an usher at the
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white house, j.b. west, recalling eleanor racing through the white house skirts flapping around her legs. see, they wore sort of long skirts. on her way to numerous appointments, west remembered, she would jump into her waiting car and call out to the driver, where am i going? and on her way back she gathered up people to bring home to lunch. he said she sometimes invited so many she forgot who they were. [laughter] well, she was a very busy woman. of particular interest to this audience, i think, would be eleanor's interaction with capitol hill. now, of course, she operated behind the scenes as a conduit to place democratic women into positions in the roosevelt administration. she and molly duessen put pressure on james farley who
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handled patronage matters for franklin to try to find jobs for these very well qualified democratic women. but she was the first president's wife to testify before congress addressing congressional committees on the plight of migrant labor and arguing for home rule for the district of columbia. still got that one going on. [laughter] she was the first to hold a government office. she was appointed assistant director of the office of civil defense, served for about five months in 1941 and '42. it was a bad situation. she did not prove herself a good administrator. she put some people in, at jobs that seemed rather strange such as teaching dancing in air raid shelters. the press laughed her out of that job. but she never really took responsibility for the fact that
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she had made some mistakes. in her "my day" column she said after she had resigned, people can gradually be brought to understand that an individual, even if she is a president's wife, may have independent views and must be allowed the expression of opinion. but actual participation in the work of the government we are not yet able to accept. and, in fact, several times she was asked particularly in her latest years if she was interested in be being president, and she said, no, she didn't think the country was ready for a woman president. well, it seems to have taken us a long time to get to the point where we might be. okay. well, i'm going to move carefully, quickly here because we want time to talk among ourselves. but i'll show you some of the other slides that show her transforming the role of first lady. here she is talking to the democratic national convention
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in 1940. the convention is about to rebel because it doesn't want franklin's choice of henry wallace as vice president. and eleanor was called in to make a speech, and she made such a stirring speech intimating that the country was ability to go to war and that the person in charge, the commander in chief, needed people he could believe in to help him that the delegates went along with roosevelt's wish and nominated wallace. here she's accompanying f,dr an, guess who? sarah. and her oldest son, jimmy roosevelt, and his wife betsy on a tour of a battleship pre-world war i. on a more substantial note, here she is addressing a national conference on the problems of negro youth in 1939 with aubrey williams who was head of the national youth administration and mary mcleod bethune who
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was the highest ranking african-american woman in the roosevelt administration, official of the national youth administration. do any of you, by any chance, participate in programs of the national youth administration? sometimes i talk to people and they say, oh, yeah, that's how i got through high school. because this was a program to offer work study opportunities to students and let them stay in school during the tail end of the depression and then the start of world war ii when it then changed into training people to work in defense industries. we know that eleanor was very instrumental in setting this national youth administration up, and, in fact, fdr himself referred to it as the mrs. organization. and here she is in july 1942 at a summer leadership training institute of the international
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student service. note this is an integrated group. that was very rare for the day. unfortunately, we do not see joel lash in this picture. he was the general secretary of the international student service. but joel lash was the third person who i think was very instrumental in the way she transformed the role of first lady. joel lash was a jewish man, graduate of columbia university, an intellectual who was very involved in left student movements of the late 1930s. somehow he became one of her closest con my adapts -- confidants after her relationship with hickok waned in the late 1930s. now, as a representative of the press because of her "my day" column, she attended hearings of the house un-american activities committee at which lash, who
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played a leading and controversial role in these leftist youth organizations, testified. lash first was a communist or a communist sympathizer, but then he broke with communists and became a very strong anti-communist. lash said the two of them had a moral affinity. he introduced her to the machinations of communists within social movements, and eleanor benefited from his political savvy as he discussed the way in which communists operated within these movements. and years later at the united nations she said that she didn't have much trouble dealing with the russians because she had learned about the communists when she'd been first lady. she learned a lot, i think, from joel lash. by now accustomed to making the role of first lady one of real significance as a traveling
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ambassador for the first, for the roosevelt administration, during world war ii she makes an enormous number of visits. in fact, she's away from washington so much that a washington newspaper has a headline, "mrs. roosevelt stays at white house overnight." [laughter] here she is visiting enlisted men at a base in the galapagos island off the coast of ecuador during a morale-building trip to latin america. here she is in england inspecting troops. why, she's certainly the first first lady to ever do this sort of thing. of course, she's traveling without franklin. and in washington here she and mary mcleod bethune are visiting a residence for african-american women war workers. once again eleanor's making history by showing that she and the roosevelt administration
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really care in the plight of people who are at the margins of society. but she continues to play her official role as white house hostess too. here she is entertaining madam shack kai-shek in 1943. well, we all know the end of the story of eleanor as first lady. fdr dies in 1945 unexpectedly, and guess who's with him when he dies? lucy mercer, the old girlfriend. eleanor is appointed u.s. delegate to -- by the -- i'm sorry, is appointed u.s. delegate to the united nations by president truman, and she is instrumental in the creation of this document, one of the most important documents of the 20th century. the universal declaration of human rights. we would not have that document if it had not been for eleanor's
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genius in dealing with the communists and with the other political players at the united nations. so let me just conclude by saying i personally think and try to make the case in the book that eleanor's ability to turn the relative passive role of first lady into a vibrant one of activism stems in part from the close relationship she has with people who are outside of the normal aristocratic circle of an upper class woman. these people, well, lorena hickok, joel lash in particular but other people, too, the women newspaper reporters she knew, women like ruby black and, of course, louis howell who, unfortunately, dies in 1936, they all help her transform a position she didn't really want,
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a job of first lady, and make it into a position of importance in the american presidency. in that spirit, i think, she inspires us all to see the possibilities maybe within our own lives for doing what we can. i'd just like to end this with a quote from eleanor's book that she wrote in 1960, "you learn by living." you gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. you must do the same, you think you cannot do. here she didn't think she could be first lady, but she succeeded very well. thank you. [applause]
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now i'd like to call on mrs. strawser to tell us about her experiences with eleanor roosevelt. >> well, you know, they were kind of peripheral. i discovered this book that my mother traded shamelessly on her relationship with mrs. roosevelt. and, you know, not only concepted for me -- consented for me to go to the children's parties at the white house, but then bragged about it in little newspaper stories afterwards. [laughter] it is somewhat embarrassing, i think. [laughter] and my, a lot of my acquaintance with mrs. roosevelt was just reading the "my day" columns which as a young person i hated
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to think were pretty boring, and i often didn't notice looking back at them -- [inaudible] with a barb in it. like, for example, if she was dealing, if she was discussing the subject of cardinal spelman. so, you know, there were things i didn't understand at the time, and, you know, it was just this boring, nice lady that takes up a lot of my mother's time. [laughter] but, you know, i certainly admired the things she did. and at one point i actually, when i was in high school, i actually got to spend a week with her. my mother somehow arranged that i should spend my spring break in new york, and i got on a train, i went up to new york. i guess i was met by some family retainers. spent a couple days on
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washington square, helped the butler walk fellow around the walk. visited the united nations when she was working on this declaration and observed, you know, these debates in which she held her own so confidently. against, against the soviets. and then we went up to -- [inaudible] and she just sort of swept me along in anything she was doing including the visit to the school for boys which was one of her causes. this was a residential school for at-risk urban boys. they were all black, i think. and, you know, she brings me into the school -- [inaudible] i had never, i was raised in virginia, i had never been in a place with little black boys. [laughter] but they, the thing i realized
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from that was a great amount of -- she had a lot of personal charisma. she had more charm than you would think of from read what she wrote. if you read my mother's book, you will say ruby black had a crush on eleanor roosevelt, and i'll say, yes, yes, she did. and eleanor was the kind of person you get a crush on. she was the kind of camp counselor that i developed a crush on, you know, when i was 12. she had that kind of a attractive personality, and i suspect may always have had it. and that was part of why she, why she caught franklin. you know, she was not quite the ugly duckling that she liked to portray herself as. so by the way, you know, something i just realized and
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i'd not internalized it before about the press conferences, with all that she did for black people, there were no negro women. >> no. >> in the press conference. >> that's right. and there were efforts by black women reporters to get in, and eleanor would have accepted that, but steve early who was, i think, a racist and he was franklin's press secretary said, no, because if you let them in to your conferences, we're going to have to let 'em into our conferences. [laughter] and they kept them out. they, you know, spoke of people that way, they meaning african-americans. >> yeah. i think she sort of set up a completely different channel into the negro community. >> yes, she did. she was a great bams door for -- ambassador for them because franklin didn't want to pass or make an effort to pass anti-lynching legislation which was definitely needed because he didn't want to antagonize the southern democratic congressmen
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over here in the capitol, and so franklin really didn't do all that much for african-americans. but the fact that she was out there trying to do something spoke a lot. would you like to tell us about your experience with eleanor? >> well, i didn't know eleanor, but when i was a teenager, i played in a band in lancaster, pennsylvania, and i was totally apolitical. my parents would have been republican. and my father probably hated fdr because he came from the amish community, so he didn't believe in social services. and so he probably didn't believe in the new deal and all of that stuff. but anyway, we played for, i assume, a political activity, and she, she was the star. and so she came up and shook hands with each of of us. and now as i think back to that, i think how wonderful it was of her to take the time to do that. we weren't voters, we were just
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kids. and i'm sure she had many important people to talk to, and we were not among them. but she took time to shake hands and talk to each of us. >> lovely. do we have questions or comments? yes. >> in relation to what was said about african-american relationships, in new york there was a newspaper and i think it was the afro-american, but i'm not sure -- >> amsterdam news, maybe? >> pardon me? the amsterdam news. langston hughes had a column in the newspaper, and he had a spokesman, a very simple kind of guy who he named simple. and the title of his column was "simple says." and one of the things that i remember reading and knowing about when i was young was simple says let's kill all the white folks except


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