tv Eleanor Roosevelt CSPAN August 10, 2022 8:54am-10:10am EDT
greetings from the national archives flagship building in washington dc which sits on the ancestral lands other than a coach tank peoples. i'm david ferrio archivist of the united states and it's my pleasure to welcome you to this forum examining the life and legacy of eleanor roosevelt few individuals had as dramatic effect on 20th century history both in this country and abroad than mrs roosevelt and we were proud to partner with the franklin roosevelt presidential library and the concord museum on this evening's discussion. no scholar knows more about our subject tonight and has spent more time examining her papers, then elita black the editor emeritus of the eleanor roosevelt papers project and
former research professor of history and international affairs at george, washington university. professor black is recognized as a leading expert on eleanor roosevelt and the universal declaration of human rights and is ridden and edited to 10 books as well as a variety of articles on women politics in human rights policy. she has also curated exhibits on human rights for presidential libraries and other renowned repositories and has received awards from three universities for her commitment to students and her teaching she currently also serves as a senior advisor to former secretary of state hillary rodham clinton. the spark for this evening's forum is a new biography of david nicholas titled simply eleanor, which is now out in paperback. this is the perfect biography for our times rights walter isaacson, the story of a determined woman who willed herself to become the voice for the voiceless a fighter for freedom and a tribute to the nobility of america's true
values this comprehensive biography of eleanor roosevelt filled with new information portrays her in all of her glorious complexity. it's a wonderful read with valuable lessons about leadership partnership and love david nicholas is the best-selling author of schultz and peanuts and nc wyeth which won the ambassador book award for biography since we are partnering with the concord museum. let me know that this is a bit of a homecoming of sort as david is a proud graduate of concord academy and it's traverse the shores of walden pond in the trails in which british regulars marched on april 19th 17. a5 it is a pleasure to welcome tonight's moderator back to the national archives. tom putnam is the former director of the kennedy library and served as acting director of the office of presidential libraries before he chose to abandon the 20th century having been wooed by the siren song of concord's reformers transcendentalists and
revolutionaries. he's a close friend and we are pleased that he is spearheaded this partnership with the national archives and the fdr library. as you may know the national archives administers the network of presidential libraries from herbert hoover to donald j. trump franklin d roosevelt library was our first we now have 15 libraries in total more than 660 million pages of textual records. 640,000 museum objects. electric express my appreciation to our colleagues at fdr and throughout the presidential library system who worked tirelessly to provide access to the documents that define us as a people. i was pleased that in david. miklas's acknowledgment. he calls out and i quote the roosevelt library supervisory archivist christian carter and her superb team including matthew hanson sarah and evans and patrick faye. he notes that in the stacks at hyde park mrs. roosevelt's papers.
rise 889 cubic feet more than a million documents their content traversing. no fewer than nine ages of world history from the victorian age to the space age. let me close with these words from the new biography. luckily eleanor roosevelt believed in protecting and guaranteeing individual freedom. nothing could have forged a greater trust with her future biographers scholars and historians then the counterintuitive measure of making her personal and professional papers available for all to study. i thank you all for joining us this evening as we explore the life and legacy of eleanor roosevelt with historian or leader black and biographer david nicholas. and i'm so pleased to be sharing this virtual space with an old friend alita and a new acquaintance david who until this moment. i had only know through written words of first via our recent emails and more importantly this wonderful new biography, which i
really enjoyed reading over the past few days. i should note that. it's just out in paperback and truly no gift would better say merry christmas. happy hanukkah kwanza or new year to your loved ones. then this wonderful new biography. and meeting it. i realized i've actually organized a number of forums an attended them with alita and others on mrs. roosevelt, but i had never had the time to read a cradle to grave biography. so i thank david for that opportunity and i thought for the next 60 minutes. we try to do the same which of course means we're going to have to skip over large swath of her life and parts of the book including including some of the most really interesting personal stories, which i feel we couldn't do justice to in this short conversation, but i hope that it peaks your interest and leave you wanting more so you'll go out and buy the book. there's also possibility that our discussion will be aired on seat and i'm hoping that we will appeal to both those of you who
know a lot about there's also there's also the possibility that our special be aired on c-span and for those people who know a lot about mrs. rugs roosevelt and for those of you who this may be your first introduction. we will pry china to assume too much of information. and i hope to fill in some of the blanks here and there with books from the biography which is superbly written. david is an artist who paints with words and i wanted to share a few of his turns of phrase here and there is part of my questions. and we've selected a few photos from our colleagues at the franklin roosevelt presidential library museum. but since that conversation is going to be organic, forgive us as we go through some of those images if they don't immediately match the moment in which we are talking. there is a span of roosevelts life. so it is a cradle to grave biography talking about her
childhood. i think we will see a few images. you quote are in the book as saying quote, i was brought up in a rather peculiar way. and just in terms of your own turns of phrase, i thought it would. you describe her father as someone who lived, and his brothers teddy roosevelt's shadow and quote, took a pleasure in victimized under filament. and eleanor became her father's caregiver and quote, showed yourself uncannily gifted that responding to each -- . and so tell us a little bit briefly if you can about her childhood and relationship with her mother and her father. >> well the childhood that we known it's a shouted from that would be in a victorian novel or adventure story about a lost girl. eleanor was an oddly adult child because her parents were
oddly childlike adults. the economists who are of unfulfilled notion in teddy rods roosevelt is not just that he was trying to live up to his brother, but they both had a father who is a great philanthropist. he would be hard to live up to for anybody but elliott was falling down very quickly having no real purpose in life. there was no place for him. he was in finding a way to prove himself. he didn't go into politics, there was no war. he was a very uncertain guy. i personally think he was suffering from all kinds of self medication problems. but those turned into alcoholism quickly. when he married anna rebecca hole. it was a last-ditch effort to get himself right and he was determined when he married her to do right by very quickly they both discovered, both of eleanor's parents discovered that they weren't very good
parents. partly because i don't know anything about it, and they were also very concerned in their individual ways, anna. the whole family, once powerful and rich in new york, had fallen down. they were marginalized by -- . she wanted to be an intermediary between the asker 's in the old family. so she was kind of the original model of a diplomat. she was a society lady who is bringing together the old 400 with the new 4000. and she was smart but absolutely dysfunctional mother. and she put eleanor under a severe pressure of never living up to her expectations. her father on the other hand, eleanor's father, adored her. however he was falling down drunk almost from her earlier earliest days. she never stopped trying to impress and fulfill his wishes
for her as a horse woman, as a hunter, as a woman who was in charge of herself. i think he gave her sense of roosevelt confidence, but that he himself was just losing fast. it all fell apart very early in her life. she lost in 19 months for mother to diphtheria, her older brother, and older younger brother and then her father toggle-ism. and off begins story of her life. >> so let's turn to happier time. again we have to do this so quickly. this is kind of this -- moment where she becomes kind of it perhaps, she attends the allen wood school in london and comes under the influence of the headmistress their murray sues that. who david quotes, out welcomed eve's new pupil with a question, what was your mind given to you but to think out for yourself.
tell us more about her time there. >> allen would schools outside of london. >> oh i'm sorry that's a question for -- . >> that's okay. if there is one person in her life that i wish i could have meant it would be marie's true vests. she was a force of nature, a bolsheviks, a self proclaimed bought a book that eleanor decree scribe visible chauvin. but she challenged eleanor to do one thing, then as a historian and as a teacher, i have tried to emulate which i think is the defining thing that eleanor learned in her life. and that is you can never know what you think until you can argue the opinion of your fiercest predict with equal integrity. when eleanor went to islands would, she was delighted to be
out of a home that she found lonely and scary, as our great friend blanche cooking notes, she had locks but on the inside of her bedroom doors. we know that her uncles also had alcoholism problems and left to take potshots out at the family home. and she only really felt safe when she called up any cherry tree. so allen's went to her with the place where she could be eleanor. and she blossomed there in a way that was truly remarkable. she became the most popular girl in the school. she was elected captain of the field hockey team. and eleanor says the happiest day of my life was when i was elected captain of that team. so she is finally seeing that she has got a brain, that she is free to move, that she can
have friends in her own right. and mademoiselle sure vest sees in eleanor this spark of greatness, if you will. she moves eleanor to her dining room table, they have dinner together every night, they argue the great issues of the war and the world. they argue the boer war, and eleanor writes a friend when night, you know i finally learned that i have a brain. i have argued the boer war with mademoiselle and i have one each time. so how does this help eleanor become eleanor? eleanor doesn't want to go home. she is elated to be at allen's would. and so she asks to stay during the summer's. and mademoiselle says to her basically, of course you can stay, but you must learn to be independent. you must learn to live on a budget, you must learn to make your own reservations, you must learn to speak the language of
the communities that you visit, and most of all, you must remember that you are a guest in these communities. so, while you go to the opera, and the museums, and the stores, and the fine restaurants, you have a duty. you must volunteer in hospitals, you must volunteer in settlement communities, you must learn to see the cities in all that of their complexity and told us. and eleanor revels. she is there so much, to get the short story short, she wants to stay and teach their. she wants to teach history and civics and english literature at allen's were. teddy becomes president, she has got to go home and make her debut which she does not to do. mademoiselle says to her, of course she must go home, you ari roosevelt. but she writes eleanor a letter that eleanor carries with her.
basically for the next 50 years. which is why mademoiselle should best picture is in eleanor's bedroom in every residence that she has. and the letter basically says, of course you must go home and be a roosevelt. your uncle is in the white house and your family responsibilities. but also remember, first and foremost, you are milan where. and you can make your own way in this world. >> david you have this lovely image of when she is living leaving new york she is with her aunt. the aunt wants to go to her -- so eleanor isn't able to see the statue of liberty when they leave new york harbor and you have that lovely quote. eleanor roosevelt was seem to discover more of herself from
erratic cool frenchwoman images of freedom. can you say more about sylvester and then bring her back to the united states which would happens when you comes back? >> i think a leader really just did it beautifully. the whole memory so vast, i would just add that i think marie opened up a part of eleanor that women. we have to remember women's education at the time was thought to be potentially hazardous to women's health. the idea that you must think for yourself, that you must figure out how to argue, even a continental point of view. all absolutely true. i think she also, there is a scene on a train when they are going on one of the holidays where eleanor can't go home, and marie serviced suddenly realizes that her great friend, a novelist, is living in that town. despite decides on the spur or has incited that they are going to get off the train. but eleanor doesn't know. this she thinks that their bags are booked through to two stations down. and suddenly millie murray's arrest has things going out the
window. she says were off the train. eleanor sense of spontaneity, which was so crushed by the expectations of edward e. and women who had suddenly opened up. and i think that going home, she took him to america and aunt thing that i noticed in her settlement work which is, eleanor was so exposed by madam so vest to italy, to seeing italy with their own eyes. she was sent out by her into towns walking the streets alone. this was unheard of to be walking the streets alone at the age of 19 1819. eleanor saw things with their own eyes, experience things at one point there living in the home of an artist. that was unheard of. she was talking with the artist about his representation of the christ figure. she was doing analysis, critical, thinking she was thinking herself. when she got back to the united states, one of the bonuses of being her age, doing which she was doing which was this
horrible process of coming out the debut of a young woman it is society. fortunately the junior league just that had begun its own participation in the settlement movement. this is a movement that had become in england through chicago, through the whole house, there jane adams, coming to new york in which the idea is essentially make yourself a friend of the community. you live in the community. it was essentially college kids, really. eleanor in the junior league girls were pretty advanced. these were college kids who are embedding themselves in communities, in eleanor's case it was down to livingston street, down to lower east side manhattan twice a week sylvest on the subway. and unheard of liberty. it was scary, it was bold and one of the things that she noticed as i saw it in her own writing, was that as she taught
young italian children how to move in calisthenics class, how to be american citizens, she knew that what she had to do is get them away from their italian mothers long enough to listen to another voice, to an american voice. italian mothers were incredibly protective. she knew this from italy, they were incredibly protective of their young daughters, especially. eleanor watch children home, she brought young cousin franklin roosevelt down to the lower east side to see what it looked like when you watch somebody back to their door, back into their tenement building, what's the conditions there were. franklin roosevelt had never seen anything like, it how people lived like this he said to her? she was absolutely crucial to his understanding that there was another world. this wasn't just club philanthropy or club activity. this was real stuff, this was the real thing. and she took to it in a way that you don't see among the
others in her group in her peer group at the time. but she had to do these other things. this however was her first glimpse of what's multiracial pluralist democracy look like in a world where only corrupt politicians of tammy hall and others like it were in charge. >> atlanta, explain a little in congruity for me again. in the biography, that she wasn't a supporter of women's suffrage. we are doing this in connection with an exhibit that we have up on the 19th amendment. explain what was going on there. >> well i would like to piggyback on what david side as a segue to answer that, if i could, tom. one of the things that eleanor learn in the settlement world is to not act like her friends who thought that if they put a picture on the wall life would be better.
and the reason that she thought this was that she becomes involved with immigrant union organizers. and they take her under their wing, both covertly during this time, and overtly later. to really show her the horrors of the tribal short wait factory fire, the horrors of the tenants where they're feces on stairwells, where you have just up over buckets of urine in order to enter peoples rooms. and who's rotting food and human waste were thrown outside their windows on the street. and so she sees disease, she sees famine, she sees women
literally chained to sewing machines. and so her whole focus is on protective worker legislation. and so, her energy will begin in ribbing tons street, for her lifelong commitment to the living wage. her life and commitment to what we will call the fair labor standards act. her lifelong commitment to welcoming immigrants and ways that value their own cultures, while trying to expose them to democracy. against that backdrop, suffrage is not a priority. her priority is sanitation. her priority is a living wage. her priority is food. her priorities are clean places to live, and public education.
so she does not embrace the suffrage movement because she is committed to progressive reform. that does not mean that she was supposed opposed to suffrage. it just means that she did not prioritize it. and then once fdr is campaigning to be vice president, and he thinks oh my god after him out for suffrage, then she will move in that direction to support him and dedicate her enormous organizing talents to organizing new york state precinct by precinct's, in a way that it had never been done before. so much so that when the war boss of chicago, richard daly, who would become mayor, he sent his staff to look at how eleanor would organize the state. david
, why don't we>> well, again, ia us through this. we just brought up franklin roosevelt. you have a lovely line. she's on her merits strengthen as an opportunity, by putting virtue and virtuous customs in her own. from now on, wrote eleanor, a certain kind of orthodox was my ideal and ambition. talk about her meeting franklin roosevelt, their marriage. >> well, franklin was her fifth cousin, and they met on a train one summer day, on a train going upriver. he to the park, and he sheet to her grandmother tells. al-ata has already referenced, there were blocks on the inside of her door to protect them from the ankles, who had ones have been a charming young men around town, tennis champions.
alcoholics who are dangerous and scalp very, and eleanor's life, being in her grandmother's house, in town, as well, where she lived, and it just after, at the time she met franklin was chaos. it was pure chaos. it was not knowing where she lived, not knowing what her future would be, where she was even going to go. franklin's life was solid. it was backed by a mother who created a couple that eleanor attached to. i think of them as a compact of oddball's. eleanor was odd, and that she was left out. i think of her as being ghosted by the roosevelt. her own family was discontinued as one of her cousins, roosevelt's cousin said. there was no mother.
there was no father. it was her brother, paul, with whom she took a parental role. when paul went off to boarding school, she was the parent that presented herself on parents weekend. other than that, eleanor had no center in her life, in terms of a family. franklin was not just a center. he was a son guy. off of him, came a certain certainty, confidence, a belief in himself, that had been borne out of the hudson valley childhood. she was the sole error to james roosevelt, and said eleanor roosevelt, he was as much in his mother's eyes are roosevelt, which meant that he had a certain -- what's was it, going to be always -- franklin was always going to be in his mother's life. eleanor had a place in, it potentially. i think she understood franklin as being an audit dunk, dock
because it not been popular among his hit. she saw him as somewhat of an outsider. she also some a little like her father. he was charming. he was lovely. he made that world a happy place for her, when they were finally, not secretly engaged, but it truly engaged. they married on st. patrick's day, and teddy roosevelt, theodore roosevelt, uncle ted, on various missions in new york, to speak to high societies and so, on and so forth, and gave eleanor to franklin it, a sort of, a preposterous, old-fashioned, tribal wedding, as the irish paraded outside, and the old knickerbockers families at the roosevelt or still very much a part of, all gathered under this, sort of, double sided mansion of one of eleanor's cousins. they were a power couple, seemingly. i think, franklin --
it's really important to remember that franklin's attraction to eleanor had a lot to do with the fact that she was that niece of the president of the united states, i figure that he idolized, as it did so many young men in his generation. the roosevelt was not as the president of the united states. he was something new in the world. he had a worldview, a global view of america and its participation in the far east, in a south america, in so many ways that we're going to get us into terrible trouble as a country. theodore roosevelt was shaping that world that franklin roosevelt wanted very much to be part of, but it to emulate. i think, marrying eleanor was a fast ticket for a guy, who when he appeared at one of the uterus inaugurations was marked down in the newspaper as franklin b roosevelt. nobody really knew who this younger cousin was from europe river. eleanor was, along with alice
roosevelt, her cousin, theaters oldest daughter, far better known at that moment, when they got together. their honeymoon, a long story to go into. simple to say, it was right out over -- if discovering that he had married -- it was a citizen cane moment for franklin. now, my destiny will be fulfilled. he, coming down with hives on their honeymoon, and in doing what he wanted to do, not so much what it wanted to do, dominating her in a certain type of way that was to say, i am going to do what i want to do, and he will follow me. it suggested that they were not as well matched as they might've seemed to people. in fact, it was going to be a marriage of an fulfillment. i think that discovered it, to both of their shock, another honeymoon, and pretty quickly as the children began to appear. it was clear that their marriage was going to be a complicated relationship that was dominated by his mother and
by the old expectations of the old world that both of them didn't really ever have a place in, and both wanted to emerge from quickly. >> let me start with you, david. i will give you a couple of quotes, and then maybe you can tell -- we are going to fast forward, and you can maybe tell the story to those who might not know it. you write, similar to what you are just saying, as a couple, they were spoiled. eleanor, an old woman married to an eternally young man. he enjoyed our seriousness, as she enjoyed his sort. play a boyish world and his upbringing remained a source of entitlement's whole life. he was not intentionally unkind, but he could be cold, and it was often cruel. there is one more quote. she had predicted to frankness that laid headlines across the nation, observed, but later a washington columnist wrote, her husband's first instinct was tell the partial truth. he was the bender of fact.
he believed no one would catch on to his fogginess. maybe, just briefly tell us -- she does catch on. what does she discover about this? >> lucy mercer was a young woman and washington from a similar background, alcoholic father and a very social mother. they, to, had fallen down, and lose he got a job with eleanor, as owner's personal secretary, when eleanor had mastered the trait of political wife. he was extremely good at sorting out all of the washington, like, games and functions that politicians wives -- franklin was about the fifth most powerful in the under cabinet, and it was an important spot as assistant secretary of the navy. eleanor, as his wife, was very much in charge of what she was doing and did it well. but, it also was overwhelming. another child was on the way in 1914, as she was pregnant in
1914. lucy came into that household, and almost mediately, franklin lost his heart to her. it was a relationship that took place over a number of years. we get to see it, you know, in 1917, as the united states is in the war, and the united states is consumed with war and the navy department. as eleanor, herself, is now about to be consumed in her own contribution and education from the war and the red cross army canteen, lucy and franklin had a relationship, i love affair that eleanor discovered by accident, when franklin returned from europe, from a navy department trip to the front. he was suffering from symptoms of a flu, spanish flu, from a cruise ship he was on, and his luggage it was a packet, a partial. a number of, we don't quite
know how many or what it quite looks like, but some number of letters. she came across in his suitcase, and it was quite clear that he, lucy and franklin, had both lost their hearts to one another. i knew relationship was going to have to be forged if eleanor and franklin were going to move forward. fdr could not have gotten divorced and kept his standing, as the politician he was and that he wanted to be. lucy marker was not the iron frame on which two stretches lob. his mother made this very clear. it took eleanor to stand up to mama. lucy and eleanor would've been divorced -- would have -- a divorced man would've been marrying a catholic, it was not something that was going to work in the politics of the democratic party at the time. although, when franklin did run, as soon as 1920, he ran with a
divorced candidate, mr. cox. but, if fdr was to be who he is to be, with eleanor -- eleanor had to be at the heart of his life, and he knew that, i think. his mother knew this. his mother was absolutely not in favor of a divorce, and she was very much in favor of eleanor. i think they both formed, at the time, eleanor and her mother, a bond that sorted out certain things about how the relationship is going to move forward. lucy and franklin never stopped seeing each other. she returns in the story. i don't think significantly, and from an elitist point of view, my sense is that polio itself, and the rearrangement of their lives after polio's for more important than the rearrangement of their lives post mercer. >> there's a lovely quote in the book that says, marital
resentment can have the effect of returning people inward and selfish. franklin and eleanor turned outward. the more disappointed they were by each other, the more they were about the world. so, if you want to respond to it david just said, and then your focus has been really on her focus, a problem for the world. maybe can you comment on that? >> well, i think, david is an extraordinary writer. he's put his heart and soul into this book. i think we should all read the book. this is my third conversation where i have said, beat the death, go by the spot. i have to, say there are some major disagreements i have with david. one, you know, one of the major ones, is that he was ready to do anything when he got married. he was a dandy boy, okay? this is a man who was mocked by
politicians. this is a man who couldn't even give a coherent campaign speech. eleanor had more of an engaged, active career than franklin did. eleanor, where i think what david and i totally agree on, is that to define eleanor roosevelt by lucy mercer, is to define, i don't know, a christmas tree by the branch, okay? i mean, it's not there. what happened, i think, is that eleanor loved being in washington, not because of the social duties. she hated that. that's why she hired lucy. but she liked about washington,
was being able to work with the organization, not at the junior league. but, the international working women's lead, the international committees of war. but she ended up doing, was learning how to manage the household, how to welcome politicians in harmony, how to welcome wheeler's and it dealers in washington, but not leave at the conversations. otherwise, other wives left, eleanor state. by the time lucy hits, eleanor feels betrayed, not just because franklin's her husband, but that she has sacrificed so much of her independence to try to make this work. so, that when they come back together, it's -- i think it takes remarkable
maturity to pull this off. i feel, for parents of school aged teachers, i look at the roosevelt narrative at this point as i've been diagram, you know? they have their separate lives, and then they have the time they are in the middle. what's in the middle is that volker with superglue on it. it disintegrates, that velcro in the middle collapses. there are two things that do, that i think. first of all, when -- lance is absolutely correct. the second thing that really rips it apart, is harry handguns, who alam are brought into the white house, who really supported, when fdr
turned on him, when hip turns on him, when the war comes, and hopkins says, goodbye to the new deal. the associate press assessment to fdr, there is no center. they began to live distinctly separate lives in the same institution. at one point, i think that is very correct, and david makes this point. lance makes this point. jeff ward makes this point. i make this point. after polio, the roosevelt never spent more than six months a year together. they are always more apart than they are together. coexist in a way that she's traveling, he's traveling, and so they figure out how to coexist in a way that gives them the space to become the
people they to come. and i think that that is, i don't know the word for it, the most amid immense contribution to america in its most perilous time that i can think of. imagine the great depression, without eleanor roosevelt. imagine world war ii without eleanor roosevelt. because without eleanor, there would not have been fdr in the white house. >> we are running so short on time. you talk about the white house years, but especially her public role. and i'm gonna have to lead a talk about the post presidential years. but david, get us a word or two about what she meant to the country during those years in the white house and how she communicated. >> i'm going to quote a lead that because the leader said something quite wonderful about
women in the white house which is that the white house eats women. and eleanor after the white house, after eleanor the white house was never the same. women were a part of a. eleanor was a proxy. she was a proxy for people where people came to the president, eleanor came to you. i think one of the most important thing she did right away was she made the first lady a mobile, suffrage, part of the institution. if you are in the middle of his country in june of 1933 and life seemed pretty bad, and you heard overhead a plane and you looked up and saw that in that little wing it machine the first lady of the united states was going to california, that was a little glimmer of hope. something was going right. things might have worked out after all and who was she anyway? eleanor brought herself to people, but she also brought
out of people something that i think you see in figures like muhammad ali, you see in figures like perhaps mahatma gandhi. people wanted to be their best selves around her. when she saw them connected with them, they were on their best behavior but also she brought out of them a feeling that they could give something. not just to her, but to their communities, to the country. i think eleanor also, in her size and inter easy way that she had with people, having gotten out of her own shyness, having brought her voice which we think of as being a high fluting thing. it was actually quite modulated and wonderful when she's quite close up with people. she brought people into a feeling of closeness to something that was before that moment utterly foreigner something enormous. she brought it down to size,
she was as much of mainstream as she was of the white house. and i think this is something that you don't see again for a long long time in first lady dumb. she also made sure that people understood that they did have a voice in washington, and that she did bring. that she literally was practical, pragmatic. her uncle had given us some of a pragmatic place. she and franklin could be disinterested, they could be pragmatic. they tried things, they experimented. they were willing to try again and again and again to see if it worked. if it didn't fit that, well there's an underlying problem, let's look at the problem. there was a continuous nurse in her that people often criticize eleanor for not having followed through or not coming to conclusions. i found it difficult myself thinking, oh i've got to bring this to a conclusion. well sometimes she didn't bring things to a conclusion. she didn't move on to the next thing. and that motion, that sense of forward motion, a continuous
optimism of hope, pragmatism, and challenging the slow walking of a briefing in washington, made her when you see peoples descriptions even how she walk to the white house, the repetitive, the movement, they continue as this. you really get a sense of how forward she made this previously utterly paralytic almost, job. this is an odd photograph that we are looking. at her sitting down. that's exactly what she wasn't doing most of the time. so i think eleanor did was she created an entirely new version of a woman. of a first lady, and of the presidents wife. we think now of the first lady there's some tradition now that she has won. kozma about my has the, mrs. bush as literacy, michelle obama had nutrition. eleanor was not, she was
holistic. she was not, she was in the equal opportunity first lady. she had many constituents and constituencies and causes. and above and beyond that, she also had a voice that was a real voice with real opinions and her column, my day, was just extraordinary in that way. it was a syndicated newspaper column that appeared every morning. no first lady had ever done anything like that. from 1935 until her death. she connected to people as a neighbor, as a concerned citizen, as a friend, as first lady, in a voice that was so familiar it would be a voice that you would want to respond to, you want to do something, want to contribute. she had a continuous nests in writing, and her appearances in the newsreel. you saw so much more of the first lady, you heard her, you felt her presence, in ways that didn't repeat hers itself four
years in fact. >> ali why don't you talk about the white house -- this is a quote here from david's book. fdr had -- except eleanor who told him he was wrong. she was his antenna and i noticed that he usually followed her advice. fdr had complete faith in her judgment inter billet-y to observe. just maybe a few words about eleanor's white house word. years >> i think a lot of people talk about her observation, they don't talk about her understanding of policy and how to get it through. and if you look at some of the landmark pieces of legislation that came out of the white house. especially in the two sections that the new deal. in the first 100 days fdr puts the economy act forward and fires all of the women who are
married to federally employed men. eleanor leaps to her pen, as blanche would say, and in the same paper side by side tells her husband he is wrong. he backs down. the women get their jobs back. their problems with the social security act, eleanor goes in behind the scenes and tag teams with francis perkins to get part of the social security act through. if you look at the national youth administration, which is the first form of americore, this is totally eleanor and put food. if you look at women in the dccc camps, that is food. if you look at the federal theater projects, the federal writers project, the federal dance project, the whole role of government in preserving peoples voices in art, combatting fear. that is totally eleanor roosevelt. if you look behind the scenes to organize democratic senators
who were very leery. the fairway agent standards act, which gave his minimum wages and maxim hours. eleanor's integrity involved in that. when there is the major debate over the world court, and should the united states be involved in the world court, who does the white house send out to debate the two republican senators against it? eleanor roosevelt. and she had her own career, and with such a successful journalist, not just my day but monthly syndicated columns, book contracts, her first book is march 1933. it is up to the women. by the end of her time in the white house, her publications are paying her more money than fdr makes as president. >> let me bring up the side of fdr in his last days, and david
maybe you can just briefly tell the story of his death and her role in its aftermath. >> fdr died on the prime rule 12th 1945 in warm springs of cerebral hemorrhage while he was posing for a portrait that was being painted by a woman named madame shoe mull. his cousin lord delano, and lucy -- had reappeared from south carolina where she had been reappearing in this later white house years as he grew second of his life was coming to a clothes as the war itself was dragging on, l and fdr found some solace or some enjoyment and pleasure in remaining loosely facilitated by anna, eleanor franklin's daughter. i don't see an enormous, myself i don't see enormous significance in the fact that lucy was there and eleanor wasn't. eleanor was doing her own work. she was part of an entire,
probably the most important of the roosevelt administration's at that moment in terms of recognizing how things were about to go home with the creation of what fdr had made and dreamed of the united nations. she had some thoughts of our own about, that about almost everything. her main contribution to the country at this moment, which was a moment of terrible trauma. people losing their president of 12 years and then losing the president, their war leader were losing a they had a primal sense of loss of a of a father. people rock to their core. and when eleanor stepped forward and made a very firm and clear statement about how the country was going to move forward, and one of the first things she did when she saw
harry truman who was summoned from, she herself was brought back from a top she was giving and a sense of what was happening. she saw the present with that, she was in washington at the selma tory pub. she came back to the white house and she was seven from -- the senate. and harry truman came upstairs and there was mrs. roosevelt, and there was anna roosevelt, and several of roosevelt's assistance and so forth. and she said forward and she said harry, the president is that. and harry truman looked at eleanor roosevelt and said, mrs. roosevelt, what can we do for you? and she said harry, what can we do for you. you are the one who is now in trouble. and i think in the transfer from that moment forward for the next few days, she got out of the white house in record time, everything that she did was for harry truman as president of the united states. one of the more likely
presidents ever to step into the job. he was sworn in that afternoon and by that time eleanor was on her way to warm springs. she had, i want to say very quickly, she had married dozens of roosevelts. she was practically the family undertaker. eleanor had been called upon from her earliest days to bury her relatives. she was constantly visiting cemeteries and making sure grow gravestones were properly placed and so forth. she was as pragmatic and as realistic about the event of someone's death. i think she also feel very strongly that was most important now was carried forward on her felt her husband's legacy. but also the transfer of power to harry truman which was, as i said, unlikely, was as much was as important as anything to do with the memory of franklin
roosevelt himself and moralizing him. she saw through from from warm >> she did a dignified job with his funeral, which she saw through from warm springs up to washington and into that white house, and then on to hyde park and the rose garden. she created a figure of dignity and a figure of lasting courage that people remember and spoke about for years. >> we are getting into the last-minute, which is too bad. there's so much talk about in the post presidential period and post white house years. that was one of the most fascinating parts of the book, but allida, tell us, the role she faced as a world statesman and states woman. >> we'll, briefly put, the last letter that she writes when she is leaving the white house and with this. for those of us who lived in
franklin's shadow, we must wonder what we can achieve under our own momentum. within two weeks, people have asked her to be secretary of labor, run for the governor of new york, the head of the most preeminent private coaches in the united states, run what would be the first major liberal political packed, and to be a political director of the union. she says, no. she wants to speak with her own voice. and december, truman calls her to appoint her to the united nations because she has become his major critic. he appointed her to the un. they get her out of the country, because he is basically
clueless on wage, and price, and rent controls. she turned him down. her son and her secretary basically say, are you flipping kidding me? you've been in war zones twice. you've spent five weeks in the pacific. he flew on on pressurized aircraft and blew out your eardrum. you have walked the corridors of hospitals. you know all of that major leaders of the world, and you are not going to take this flipping job? so, she calls him back. she takes him. she goes over there. are thin vandenberg and the boys, as she calls them -- she is the only woman on the delegation. they appoint her two committee three, the committee on social, humanitarian, and cultural concerns, thinking that she won't cause any trouble there because they are both concerned with a bomb. they have totally forgotten about refugees, refugees
becomes the major issue. in the first session of the general assembly. eleanor becomes the point person out there, out debates the great russian debater. and, then is unanimously appointed by the entire body of the un, on 51 nations, to chair what will become the un commission on human rights. the united states opposed, but had to be convinced to support her. out of that comes with her negotiation, the single most important political document of the post war era, which is the universal declaration of human rights. now, why don't make that claim? it issues models for more contributions and more state governments that our own constitutions and bill of rights. it hasn't been used in every single piece and reconciliation,
civil war negotiation over the past 40 years. it was used in iraq. it was used in afghanistan. it was used in pakistan, liberia, brazil, peru, and in it, although it is the last article that is negotiated out of the 30, it is the article that has been adopted into international law, even by the conservative united states supreme court. that is article one. all human beings are born free and equal. they are endowed with reason, and should treat one another in the spirit of brotherhood. okay, as i look at my watch, i have a minute. i will try. honest to god, time, to tell this story in a minute. it takes her three years, more
than 300 meetings that lasted more than 30,000 hours. she meets with every member, every employee, diplomat, career service, and janitorial and food service and the un to get their buy in for this document. in order to negotiate it, she had to work with members of 18 countries, who don't agree on god, government, marriage, childhood, private property, the right to travel, what's the purpose of citizenship is. they agree on nothing other than, by god, they beat the germans. and so, if the countries didn't like the delegates, they would send somebody else. just like, you know, musical chairs, of who is going to negotiate this. but, at the 11th hour, she gives this article one.
that is the first time in the history of the world, that men, women, and children, of all races, all regions, all ethnicities, all religions, are treated equally in a covenant. she also makes a faithful decision because she wants this to be legally binding. for two years, she worked on a bill, but she realizes, that's not going to happen. and she says, the greatest thing. she says, lawyers will debate three years were to put a camera. so, what we have to have, as we have to have a vision for the world to hold, to be a counter force to the holocaust, the bomb, 60 million refugees, and jim crow, and the united states. that decision worked because it
takes more than 25 years to get the covenants on political and civil rights, social and economic right, but the declaration is there, informing governments and building movements. >> david mentioned that she received a standing ovation when she walked into the general assembly. >> it's the first standing ovation in the history of the united nations, and let me just say one thing about her ability to negotiate. she treats the soviets, even though she is obsessed -- with them. there is no word to describe it other than that. even in my day, which is now a syndicated throughout europe, she is taking on the russians in her column as she is negotiating with them. but, they see who she is. she understands how to negotiate with them, and she
convinces the soviet lard to abstain, not to oppose, but to abstain. that is a mark of fierce, fierce negotiations. forget diplomacy. this is power politics to the nth degree. >> so, let's see the last slide. i want you to tell us more personal story. we have a few slides of mrs. roosevelt in her later years. she tips her head over the democratic party. she endorses adelaide stevenson in the 50s, but grudgingly endorses john f. kennedy because she is a little worried that she -- here she is on the set of a program called prospect of mankind, a monthly tv program
taped at brandeis university. let's see, the next slide, alison. interesting slide with a cartoon that david mentions, a book of the envoy saying, of course i know who that is. it's mr. roosevelt pointing at the statue of liberty. >> tom, can i say one thing about that cartoon? >> first of, all it's a little girl. not a little boy. >> right, sorry. >> the second thing is, this was released but the day after he says to joe mccarthy, if you want to call me, i will come. that's why her block does this cartoon. it's not a saint, sweet eleanor cartoon. it is like, you want me to go to congress and defend and stand up to joe mccarthy when not one democrat will?
when jackie kennedy runs away? call me. i will come. that's with that cartoonist. that cartoon was at the top of her stairwell, in her home, and she saw it every night. she understood exactly what that meant. we >> thank you, alan, or for explaining. >> you picked up what we are seeing in this picture? >> well here, i thought we were going to be in the white house with president kennedy announcing the peace corps on prospects of mankind. we are actually in london. this is mrs. roosevelt in the center. on the rioters have paul ennobled, one of the producers. on the, left was my mother, who was one of the producers on prospect of mankind. , notably the only woman here. there is a russell behind, and
a group of men here. this is a typical day on the set, although they have to be in england for this particular broadcast, but my mother spoke frequently, when i was a child, about eleanor, and i think one of the reasons eleanor roosevelt was an enormous present in my household -- i kind of thought, actually, we were related to her, although so did david gessen and other people who had roosevelt icons on their kitchen hanging where their mothers and grandmothers and hung them. the thing that was most important to me, about writing about eleanor roosevelt, and looking at eleanor roosevelt, and listening to allida describe the true history of eleanor roosevelt, and i turn everybody to the works of allida black. you are missing something if you have not included those on
your syllabus. the important thing here, is that -- i thought. i was born in 1957. we all thought we understood american history, but we now know we didn't, and we are now rewriting history, and you, you know, eleanor roosevelt wanted to expand democracy to include more people. she wanted my mother on this program. she wanted a woman on this program. we did not have an inclusive, multi racial democracy during eleanor roosevelt 78 years of life from 1884 to 1962, and in till she was 36 years old, america's democratic institutions were only four white males, let's say, and almost all the power was held by rich, white men, let's say. eleanor did not even live to see the voting rights act in 1964, for what that's worth now. hearing today and why eleanor speaks to us today she did not see the united states outlaw lob mob violence and lynching. but what we are hearing today
and my owner speaks with today's about this by for the survival of democracy. and it is about not just that, it is about the right to vote, of course, which is a central one. but it's about gender equity, and about patriotism and what that is. and about american's place in the international world. and eleanor still stands for which she stood for then, fearlessness, compassion, service, dedication, hard work. i think which is towns were even more though, is the idea of change. and of accepting and reaching for change continuously and fearlessly. and this is why i think we are going to keep hearing the story told again and again in its, in the suggestion that you could ever fitter even into an hour and saying that there is so much more to eleanor and i commend you. back to the works of a lead to black, and i also commend people to understanding eleanor
in an of herself as a person. not just simply as a political figure, but also as a political figure. she has so much to give us. >> tim we end with an eleanor quote? >> okay, well let's go to the next slide if we can. but let's just. >> oh my suitcase, sorry. okay. >> so we will just go for another two or three minutes. we are giving just an endorsement to one of our co-sponsors the franklin d. roosevelt library museum. there is this lovely picture of the that is well known, i'm henry turning the corner you actually see the suitcase this is actually how it is displayed at the fdr library museum. it is a wonderful institution where david italy have both spent hours doing research. >> and i am a trustee, i just want to say. but this picture was taken in
1960 on hr amok in laguardia. after eleanor had basically brow beat john kennedy into agreeing to come to a civil rights gathering at abyssinian baptist church in harlem. which is where he says that he will abolish federal discrimination and federally financed -- with one stroke of a pen. she traveled without secret service, she carried her own luggage. that is her case that she gave to marine pore. her great secretary when eleanor died. eleanor goes. the sea case goes to her to chicago where she spends almost six days in and out of black churches and labor halls. jack hannity becomes president
because he wins illinois by 220 summoned thing thousand votes. he was behind until eleanor went to chicago, because nixon had the better civil rights record. he wins chicago by the black vote, and the labor vote, that eleanor receives because bobby went after hoffa. and jack voted to weaken the civil rights act. so this suitcase encapsulates everything. but what she would say to. >> give us your quote. >> okay because this is what david is saying, and it is, democracy is only as strong as its weakest link. >> beautiful. >> and the last sentence she ever wrote, not for publication
was this. staying aloof is not a solution. it is a cowardly evasion. >> very nice. david, do you have a final word and then i will close this up? >> i strongly recommend that everyone if they ever have the chance to visit the rose garden where franklin and eleanor roosevelt ally in rest. it is a shocker to find eleanor roosevelt there in her mother-in-law's garden, and yet at the same time there's something quite lovely and wonderful about seeing them both together there forever. i have never failed to walk into the rose garden without being terribly moved by these two purposeful lives that were joined. i think in a sense almost unlike any other couplet can think of in a shared idea about the people. and about doing things for the people and for the people and with every sense that a
complete solution could be found, or some kind of solution could be found, to help people build better lives in america. and therefore build a better america. but primarily, to help people build better lives. that is the exceptional, i think what it is exceptional about the roosevelts. and it's not american exceptionalism, it is about their consideration of human individuals as individuals, but also allows the people. >> and with a simpler more personal quote, you have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you lead with courage and with the best that you have to give. david, alicia. you gave us the best you have to give tonight. thank you for sharing this hour with us, we think of you who have been watching this virtual forum and we wish you a good night.
c-span.org/history. >> hello. welcome to another edition of at home with roosevelts. i'm paul sparrow, the director of the franklin r hello welcome to another edition of at home with the roosevelts. i'm paul sparrow director of the presidential library and museum in new york. we are recording this session on september 17th, which is constitution day