Searching For Eleanor

Sunday, October 11, 2020

This date in 1884 was Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday. I’m reading a recently published biography of ER but have finished too little, don’t have many new insights into her evolvement. She went from an unhappy childhood to the role of married (and suppressed) house fra, and finally found success as a respected international icon.

We know that from her birth, she was estranged from an emotionally distant mother but was very close to a charming alcoholic father. By the time Eleanor turned nine, her mother had died from illness and her father was about to commit suicide. She grew up an “almost orphan” but among plentiful and wealthy Roosevelt relatives. Some took the role of overseeing ER’s care and education. Her life story is complicated by the family’s great affluence, and among them very strained relationships, and for ER herself high feelings of personal insecurity.

Throughout their Roosevelt childhoods, ER and her cousin Franklin had an Uncle Ted who was president of the United States. Their familiarity with presidential power and associated activities influenced Franklin’s political direction, and facilitated Eleanor’s assistance in his career path. As Franklin moved into major politics he also contracted polio. This forced ER from the primary role of mother to their five children and began her transition into public figure. She took the campaign role of Franklin’s surrogate.

That’s as far as now it’s possible for me to share an “inside Eleanor”. Like many others, I wish better to understand her inner self, her life path, and how she mustered enough courage against many odds to evolve from frightened youngster to world leader.

Beside the book I’m referencing, Eleanor, by David Michaelis, there’s an earlier three-volume, highly acclaimed biography by Blanche Wiesen Cook. Maybe the version I’m now reading will give me enough courage to tackle a whopping three volumes about ER. If so, I’ll be up for it.

Dear Friends: This isn’t enough, but I so wished to write about ER on her birthday. Diana

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