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Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1: 1884-1933

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Celebrated by feminists, historians, politicians & reviewers everywhere, Blanche Wiesen Cook's Eleanor Roosevelt presents an unprecedented portrait of the towering female figure of the 20th century. This volume begins with her harrowing childhood, describes the difficulties of her marriage & explains how she persuaded Franklin to make the reforms that would make him famous Celebrated by feminists, historians, politicians & reviewers everywhere, Blanche Wiesen Cook's Eleanor Roosevelt presents an unprecedented portrait of the towering female figure of the 20th century. This volume begins with her harrowing childhood, describes the difficulties of her marriage & explains how she persuaded Franklin to make the reforms that would make him famous.


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Celebrated by feminists, historians, politicians & reviewers everywhere, Blanche Wiesen Cook's Eleanor Roosevelt presents an unprecedented portrait of the towering female figure of the 20th century. This volume begins with her harrowing childhood, describes the difficulties of her marriage & explains how she persuaded Franklin to make the reforms that would make him famous Celebrated by feminists, historians, politicians & reviewers everywhere, Blanche Wiesen Cook's Eleanor Roosevelt presents an unprecedented portrait of the towering female figure of the 20th century. This volume begins with her harrowing childhood, describes the difficulties of her marriage & explains how she persuaded Franklin to make the reforms that would make him famous.

30 review for Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1: 1884-1933

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    The early years of Eleanor Roosevelt read much like a Charles Dickens novel. She was unloved and uncared for. Her mother shunted her aside as a nuisance that interfered with her posturing in upper class society. She also found her daughter physically unappealing. Her mother died suddenly when Eleanor was 8 years old. Her father was a compulsive drunkard absent much of the time. Fortunately her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt (brother to her father), was a far better role model. After the death of her The early years of Eleanor Roosevelt read much like a Charles Dickens novel. She was unloved and uncared for. Her mother shunted her aside as a nuisance that interfered with her posturing in upper class society. She also found her daughter physically unappealing. Her mother died suddenly when Eleanor was 8 years old. Her father was a compulsive drunkard absent much of the time. Fortunately her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt (brother to her father), was a far better role model. After the death of her mother she was shuttled to and fro among relatives. Up to the age of 15 Eleanor had self-esteem problems. Then her relatives decided to send her off to school at Allenswood in London, England. Allenswood was a school for girls where the curriculum was entirely in French. Here Eleanor flourished – and this was the commencement of the real Eleanor Roosevelt that many came to know and admire. Allenswood encouraged young woman to be independent, to have a viable role, and to question the values of the world around them. Unlike at home, Eleanor was popular and well-liked by both students and teaching staff. She listened to and cared for those around her. Unfortunately all good things come to an end and Eleanor had to return home for her “coming of age” – to attend chaperoned parties and meet the right man. In a sense she did – she met Franklin Roosevelt and made history. The author presents this era in a large panorama of events, trends, and the people surrounding the life of Eleanor Roosevelt. Her marriage to Franklin with its many highs and lows is well delineated. They had five children (and one who died shortly after birth) who were born in a period of 10 years. Neither Eleanor nor Franklin was well-suited or prepared for parent-hood (more on this later). And neither were they that ready for marriage as well. Eleanor was an intense person who formed real friendships. Franklin was garrulous, but evasive. Their marriage became very strained when Eleanor discovered love letters that Franklin had written to his secretary (Lucy Mercer) in 1919. But their marriage was re-built. After Franklin became paralyzed with polio below the waist, further stress was added – but the marriage and family endured. Page 316 (my book) Eleanor and Franklin were infrequently together after 1923... Their lives simply went in different directions. They were pulled by different interests, attracted by different people...Their marriage became only one of several vital centers in their lives... they shielded the many dimensions of their lives behind a tapestry of genuine devotion and family ritual. The author shows clearly the political growth of Eleanor during the 1920’s. She would adeptly underplay her role, possibly so as not to interfere with her husband’s political future. She became a very effective speaker under the guidance of Louis Howe, a dedicated Roosevelt aide. She was more and more in demand as writer and speaker; particularly with the growing woman’s movement. She enjoyed the give and take of politics, mingled easily with reporters, and learned compromise. We are also introduced to the growing number of friends in the expanding life of Eleanor Roosevelt – like feminist Nancy Cook, bodyguard Earl Miller, and journalist Lorena Hickok. Eleanor was always evolving, never afraid of change. Her friends were initially from her own social milieu (upper class) – but over the years this changed, with the likes of Earl Miller and Lorena Hickok. This strained her previous friendships – particularly those in the upper crust! There are many details tossed at the reader in this first volume and since I am a Roosevelt aficionado I didn’t mind. A family relationship chart would have helped. An issue I had was the disparagement of Sara Roosevelt (mother of Franklin) as the notorious and invasive mother-in-law. The author is very negative toward her and gives her little credit. She was the backbone of Eleanor and Franklin’s lifestyle. She looked after her grand-children when Eleanor and Franklin were frequently absent. Unlike Franklin and Eleanor she knew how to parent and operate a household. Her income and beautiful residence at Hyde Park gave Eleanor a security which she never had from her own parents. When the marriage of Eleanor and Franklin was threatened in 1919 with Franklin’s affair, she was instrumental in helping them weather the storm. She was always there for them and her grand-children. If anything, Franklin should be criticized - for not being assertive with his mother, for being a lackadaisical parent, and being emotionally unsupportive to Eleanor. Another book giving an alternate viewpoint is Sara and Eleanor: The Story of Sara Delano Roosevelt and Her Daughter-in-Law, Eleanor Roosevelt by Jan Pottker. Nevertheless this is an enthralling first volume of an extraordinary woman who is on the move. Page 16 It was not power over others that she sought. Her lifelong capacity to identify with individuals and groups in need, mistreated, misunderstood, or despised had its origins in her own struggle...Eleanor Roosevelt was a woman of principle who understood the vagaries of politics and competition...She personally carried her commitment to liberty, individual freedom, equal rights, civil rights, and human dignity into tiny villages and hamlets as well as into the citadels of government authority.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Eleanor Roosevelt was a very interesting woman, and volume 1 of her biography is fairly well-written and gives loads of details about her life, perhaps too much. The length was very daunting, and I am a quick, determined reader. Some of the information in this book could have been deleted and still represented her life well. There were also times where the same information was repeated in a slightly different way in more than one chapter. Many times I personally did not agree with Eleanor Roosev Eleanor Roosevelt was a very interesting woman, and volume 1 of her biography is fairly well-written and gives loads of details about her life, perhaps too much. The length was very daunting, and I am a quick, determined reader. Some of the information in this book could have been deleted and still represented her life well. There were also times where the same information was repeated in a slightly different way in more than one chapter. Many times I personally did not agree with Eleanor Roosevelt, but enjoyed discovering more about her. I was able to finish the book, and found it an interesting way to get to know and understand a former first lady.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Carlson

    Excellent book all about Eleanor Roosevelt. Everything you ever wanted to know about her and her family, and of course, all about Franklin's family as well. This book is so detailed, it is Book 1 of 2. I always wondered if they were related how and why they would marry. It is all explained in the book that there were two separate families of Roosevelts, each not related to the other. This book is very detailed in all circumstances. You learn all about Eleanor, from her childhood to every member Excellent book all about Eleanor Roosevelt. Everything you ever wanted to know about her and her family, and of course, all about Franklin's family as well. This book is so detailed, it is Book 1 of 2. I always wondered if they were related how and why they would marry. It is all explained in the book that there were two separate families of Roosevelts, each not related to the other. This book is very detailed in all circumstances. You learn all about Eleanor, from her childhood to every member of her family; all her cousins, etc., right down to family friends. This book takes us through the courtship of her and Franklin, to their marriage, to when he gets elected to the White House. This is Volume 1. I learned so much about Eleanor. I have always loved her quotes which is what sparked my interest in her in the first place. She volunteered for a lot of different causes and was quite active in many of them. Eleanor is truly a woman to look up to for all she stood for. She 'is' part of our countries history. She stood up for so many women's special interest groups that we truly owe her a lot. Without her, I don't believe we would be where we are today had it not been for her. Eleanor was a woman of great circumstance. There has not been another wmnan comparable to her since. I do have great respect for this history changing woman.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susanne Clower

    I'm glad I'm reading this so soon after finishing a biography of FDR. Both authors act as their subjects' champion. Thus the FDR bio depicts ER as mostly unsupportive and self-absorbed (after the Lucy Mercer incident), while the ER bio expresses outrage at FDR's casual negligence and his dismissal of his wife's accomplishments. At the same time both books acknowledge the firm partnership that the marriage became. For myself, both FDR's and ER's life is inspiring. I'm particularly glad to be read I'm glad I'm reading this so soon after finishing a biography of FDR. Both authors act as their subjects' champion. Thus the FDR bio depicts ER as mostly unsupportive and self-absorbed (after the Lucy Mercer incident), while the ER bio expresses outrage at FDR's casual negligence and his dismissal of his wife's accomplishments. At the same time both books acknowledge the firm partnership that the marriage became. For myself, both FDR's and ER's life is inspiring. I'm particularly glad to be reading about ER at this point in my own life.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    The first volume of a trilogy on Eleanor Roosevelt takes her from birth up until she became First Lady in 1933. Blanche Wiesen Cook focuses extensively on Roosevelt's messed up childhood, and rightly so because it damaged her severely and ill-prepared her for the troubles that she was to face later in life. She was someone born into high society but not really wishing to be a part of it. She romanticized an alcoholic father and suffered at the hands of a frosty mother. The early death of both pa The first volume of a trilogy on Eleanor Roosevelt takes her from birth up until she became First Lady in 1933. Blanche Wiesen Cook focuses extensively on Roosevelt's messed up childhood, and rightly so because it damaged her severely and ill-prepared her for the troubles that she was to face later in life. She was someone born into high society but not really wishing to be a part of it. She romanticized an alcoholic father and suffered at the hands of a frosty mother. The early death of both parents caused her to be sent from one home to another, always being treated as someone else's child, someone extra that needed to be cared for. Roosevelt suffered from insecurity all of her life, and it stemmed from her disjointed and unhappy childhood. Cook details her courtship with Franklin Roosevelt, and the subsequent domineering of her mother-in-law Sara Roosevelt. Cook shows how Eleanor, finally freeing herself from some of the insecurities that had plagued her childhood years, regressed under Sara's smothering of Franklin, and that once again she felt like she had no home of her own. Franklin comes across here as callow and shallow; that seems to be the universal historians' opinions of his early, pre-polio years. She also writes of her wedding to Franklin, and how President Theodore Roosevelt (Eleanor's uncle) stole the show; this almost seemed like a microcosm for Eleanor – left behind and forgotten, even on the one day in her life that she should have been the center of attention. His daughter Alice was chosen as a bridesmaid; Cook strangely does not explain why even though she writes about how Alice and Eleanor did not particularly care for one another. The book does slow down a bit after FDR contracts polio, as he and Eleanor move in different directions. Yet, oddly, this is the time that Eleanor becomes very active with various women's political groups, and turns into a nationally recognized leader concerning social reform for women and children. Cook does a good job detailing her important friendships with Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerman, among others, but comes close to submerging the reader in a hailstorm of names and committees (on page 339, in a single paragraph, she lists the names of twenty-one women that ER worked with – this is a bit much!). If the intent is to impart upon readers that ER was very busy, Cook is successful. What is even more amazing is that while ER was engaged in numerous committees and leagues, she still managed to help keep FDR's political name alive as he continued to try to walk again. The busier she was, the seemingly better she functioned and felt. The narrative then moves much more towards Eleanor's intimate relationships with Earl Miller and Lorena Hickok. While there is no actual direct proof of sexual liaisons between Roosevelt and these two, the fragmentary evidence remaining, coupled with the reminiscences of contemporaries, makes it plainly obvious that ER was romantically involved with both of them. Despite at this point ER being in her mid-40s, she was still longing for someone to love her and be devoted to her, as she had been to so many other people. FDR, for all of his failings in his relationship with his wife, did not criticize her for these relationships nor seem to make any serious effort to put an end to things. Cook is not salacious, looking for juicy details; nor does she try to paper over what clearly were pivotal relationships that ER had. Her handling of this part of ER's life is measured and professional, just like the book is overall. Reading this today, in 2018, makes me wonder what Roosevelt would say today were she still alive. What would she say about Hillary Clinton's run in 2016? Or about the recent spate of sexual harassment allegations that have been lodged against so many powerful and influential men? Or the fact that women are still fighting for equal pay? The last issue was a concern back in ER's time period, and although initially she was reluctant to support equal pay as she thought that it would, in the end, harm women, she did change her mind and support an Equal Rights Amendment. I cannot help but think that 1) she would be proud of all of the women who are serving in high elective offices or corporate boardrooms, and 2) how disappointed she would be to see that so many women still face discriminatory, and at times predatory, treatment in our society. Grade: B+

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shay Caroline

    After seeing the PBS series about the Roosevelts, I wanted to find a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt that would tell me about the human being more than the public figure, and this was the book I was looking for. However, though it is well written, extremely well researched, and informative, I have to say it was very hard to get through, and I had to set it aside for a while when I was half way done; I just didn't want to know THAT much about anybody, and Blanche Cook never met a detail she didn't After seeing the PBS series about the Roosevelts, I wanted to find a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt that would tell me about the human being more than the public figure, and this was the book I was looking for. However, though it is well written, extremely well researched, and informative, I have to say it was very hard to get through, and I had to set it aside for a while when I was half way done; I just didn't want to know THAT much about anybody, and Blanche Cook never met a detail she didn't like. She appears to be writing for posterity, which is fine--but I really didn't care that ER had lunch with this one and that one, who was married to some other one, and what organization each one was from, and what they had to eat and every word that was said. It wore me out, quite frankly. ER herself was clearly an incredible woman, even more so for having overcome so much in her life: her adored father's alcoholism, the early death of both her parents, Franklin's betrayal of her with Lucy Mercer, and having to live in the fishbowl of public life when she very often would have liked to go her own way. She was a woman of great courage, compassion, foresight and dignity. All of that is shown here. The feminist viewpoint suits the subject and Cook brings to life a flesh and blood Eleanor, not just some classroom cut-out. My favorite chapters were near the end of the book, when she describes ER's close relationships with Earl Miller and Lorena Hickok. Like Janis Joplin, ER seems to have been a woman of prodigious talent but also, a hungry heart. Even though ER was a mold breaker who showed that a woman's place doesn't have to be in the home, I still found it extremely odd that Cook could go into such teeth-grindingly minute detail about a great many things, but had very little to say about ER's relationships with her five children. Daughter Anna gets a handful of pages, while the sons get barely a mention beyond going off to Groton boarding school at the appointed time. Call me quaint, but I don't think you can know a woman very well without knowing how she is with her children, and Cook barely goes into that at all. Great subject, tireless biographer, but dear God, I thought I would never get finished with it. (And this is only Volume 1, events through 1933). I'm glad I read it, but I'm glad it's done; I can't really recommend it except to the truly dedicated.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This was a fabulous book that covers the life or Eleanor Roosevelt up to the day she officially becomes First Lady. This is history writing at its narrative best as it not only tells the story of Eleanor, but it tells the story of the country and the people around her at the same time. The author was fair in her praise and criticism of Eleanor, but she clearly was not a fan of Franklin and seemed to take every opportunity to take a shot at him throughout the book. Really looking forward to the n This was a fabulous book that covers the life or Eleanor Roosevelt up to the day she officially becomes First Lady. This is history writing at its narrative best as it not only tells the story of Eleanor, but it tells the story of the country and the people around her at the same time. The author was fair in her praise and criticism of Eleanor, but she clearly was not a fan of Franklin and seemed to take every opportunity to take a shot at him throughout the book. Really looking forward to the next two volumes in this history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I have loved reading about the Roosevelt family for years. Perhaps I was drawn to a woman who stepped away from the shadow of men, thought and acted for herself during a time when this was uncommon - especially for a married woman. Despite the fact that chronologies seem linear, stories often are not. I really liked this book, but occasionally was befuddled by the time. The title designates the period for the book, but that did not keep later dates from creeping in to finish a story or relationsh I have loved reading about the Roosevelt family for years. Perhaps I was drawn to a woman who stepped away from the shadow of men, thought and acted for herself during a time when this was uncommon - especially for a married woman. Despite the fact that chronologies seem linear, stories often are not. I really liked this book, but occasionally was befuddled by the time. The title designates the period for the book, but that did not keep later dates from creeping in to finish a story or relationship. I look forward to reading the subsequent volumes of Eleanor's story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Top Eight Things I Learned about Eleanor Roosevelt: 1)Incredibly traumatic childhood 2)Ran her own school while FDR was governor of New York 3)Had a furniture making factory 4)Big time woman's rights advocate 5)Teddy Roosevelt's niece (he gave her away at her wedding) 6)Was an anti-semite before WW2. 7)He cheated, she offered a divorce, he declined, married in name only since that day. 8)The two loves of her adult life were Earl Miller and Lorena Hickok. Top Eight Things I Learned about Eleanor Roosevelt: 1)Incredibly traumatic childhood 2)Ran her own school while FDR was governor of New York 3)Had a furniture making factory 4)Big time woman's rights advocate 5)Teddy Roosevelt's niece (he gave her away at her wedding) 6)Was an anti-semite before WW2. 7)He cheated, she offered a divorce, he declined, married in name only since that day. 8)The two loves of her adult life were Earl Miller and Lorena Hickok.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    It's a rare individual for whom I could stand to read a three-volume biography but I think Eleanor Roosevelt deserves one. Her life was so full, so involved and dynamic and controversial than any less would simply not be doing her justice. In many ways Eleanor's life can very easily be divided into three parts this biography takes - her early life and developing political awareness, her years as wife of one of America's most prominent politics and subsequently President, and the years after FDR' It's a rare individual for whom I could stand to read a three-volume biography but I think Eleanor Roosevelt deserves one. Her life was so full, so involved and dynamic and controversial than any less would simply not be doing her justice. In many ways Eleanor's life can very easily be divided into three parts this biography takes - her early life and developing political awareness, her years as wife of one of America's most prominent politics and subsequently President, and the years after FDR's death, as the grand dame of American politics. She is still the most controversial and talked-about of First Ladies, loved and loathed in equal measure, who in many regards set the tone for all the First Ladies who came after her. Before her First Ladies were ornaments, hostesses, who rarely involved themselves in politics. But afterwards, a political role was expected for the First Lady - indeed, it is no doubt because of Eleanor Roosevelt blazing the trail that First Ladies now have their own offices and chiefs of staff and are expected to get involved in women's issues. Well, apart from Melania Trump, but let's not go there... However, this book deals with Eleanor's life up to FDR's election as President, some 40+ years. They were not easy years for Eleanor, but with the benefit of hindsight it is clear that the trials and tribulations were necessary in order to shape the woman she became as First Lady. It is hard to see how else a woman born into such privilege and wealth could have emerged as the great feminist and radical champion of the poor and downtrodden during the Depression years. I've really got no complaints or criticisms for this book, and in many ways it's difficult to review each volume in isolation, because each forms part of the whole. My one tiny nitpick is the author's decision to refer to Eleanor both as Eleanor and ER - it's hard to really see the logic of this. It's not as though there were multiple other Eleanors in her life that might cause confusion, and Cook uses both terms in the same paragraph and even sentence. It doesn't detract from the hugely enjoyable read, but it's a curious choice and one I couldn't help but find jarring at times.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Well this was a hard one to read in audio I had to check it out from the library three times to get through it and I'm not sure how well it would have gone if I hadn't read it before. I'm glad I did even if the woman's voice wasn't annoying at times. Well this was a hard one to read in audio I had to check it out from the library three times to get through it and I'm not sure how well it would have gone if I hadn't read it before. I'm glad I did even if the woman's voice wasn't annoying at times.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Awallens

    If you had told me this book was so fascinating I wouldn't have believed you. But I read it in a day. What a life, and I have two more volumes to read. It's interesting to read about what happened in the 1920s, and see the parallels to today. Fascinating! If you had told me this book was so fascinating I wouldn't have believed you. But I read it in a day. What a life, and I have two more volumes to read. It's interesting to read about what happened in the 1920s, and see the parallels to today. Fascinating!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Such an incredible book. Such depth and truth to this amazing woman who overcame so much. Cook has way of pulling you into Eleanor's life and making you experience everything with her. She gives you enough detail to be involved, but doesn't weight you down in pointless correspondence or stories. A great biography for anyone wanting an honest account of Eleanor's pre-White House years. Such an incredible book. Such depth and truth to this amazing woman who overcame so much. Cook has way of pulling you into Eleanor's life and making you experience everything with her. She gives you enough detail to be involved, but doesn't weight you down in pointless correspondence or stories. A great biography for anyone wanting an honest account of Eleanor's pre-White House years.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I love Eleanor Roosevelt. I am inspired by her courage, her energy, her strength, her compassion. These books are a little hard to get through though, because Blanche Wiesen Cook is so interested in every detail about everyone that Eleanor Roosevelt ever looked at in her entire life, that it is hard to get be drawn in. I finally started just skimming through parts.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Janie

    This is basically a huge encyclopedia (book number 1 of 2). I tried to read it cover to cover and didn't get very far before I fell asleep. I am a huge fan of this influential woman and a fan of biographies, but this is excruciating detail about every moment of her life told in a very dry and unwitty manner. Find another book! This is basically a huge encyclopedia (book number 1 of 2). I tried to read it cover to cover and didn't get very far before I fell asleep. I am a huge fan of this influential woman and a fan of biographies, but this is excruciating detail about every moment of her life told in a very dry and unwitty manner. Find another book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Exhaustive detail is exhausting.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    My mother, born in 1914, loved Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but she always loved Eleanor Roosevelt more. This Volume I of a trilogy sheds a good deal of light on my mother's deep and unwavering respect for "ER," as the author refers to her throughout the book. More importantly, it brought history alive to me. Blanche Wiesen Cook has spent years researching the life of Eleanor Roosevelt, and this first book, covering the years 1884 - 1933, published in 1992, reflects that careful study of letters, a My mother, born in 1914, loved Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but she always loved Eleanor Roosevelt more. This Volume I of a trilogy sheds a good deal of light on my mother's deep and unwavering respect for "ER," as the author refers to her throughout the book. More importantly, it brought history alive to me. Blanche Wiesen Cook has spent years researching the life of Eleanor Roosevelt, and this first book, covering the years 1884 - 1933, published in 1992, reflects that careful study of letters, archives, interviews, and previously documented works about ER. Her style immediately draws the reader in, weaving small moments into the larger story of ER's complicated life. Her discussion of ER's beliefs and actions, even when they might seem contradictory, was forthright and her analysis, even-handed; her belief is that future generations will ask questions and offer new interpretations. My book is covered with post-it notes because there were so many passages and parts I wanted to reread, reviewing aspects of history that have faded for me in the 21st century. What stands out to me are the similarities of some of the issues of the 1920's that Americans continue to wrestle with in 2017. The focus on isolationism, an elitist attitude protecting the wealthy, a focus on economic results, and a seeming lack of interest and compassion for the poor and for minorities are as relevant today. Will we stand for social justice? Cook comments, "Men enter politics to pursue their own careers; Women are motivated by a desire to improve the daily conditions of life." To read of the sadness of ER's earliest years with the loss of her mother and father, the alcoholism that pervaded and haunted her family, her mother-in-law's controlling behavior that dominated most of her adult life, interfering with her marriage and her relationships with her children, and her focus above all on responsibility, discipline and self-control that permeated her life and career is impressive and a model for all. "Happiness does not come from the seeking, it is never ours by right." WWI changed ER's world; social calls were replaced by a focus on the Red Cross and women's and family issues, but the culture within which she was raised left her passive about anti-Semitic attitudes. Following WWI, the battle of the future was politics and culture with women demanding the vote. Self-described as a feminist, fighting for women's rights, ER was an important part of the League of Women Voters and the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, a fight that ripped the women's movement apart, one of the many "history lessons" Cook succinctly provides. FDR held a progressive vision of the future but neither he nor ER recognized the sweeping changes in Europe following WWI including the struggle between socialism and capitalism, the emergence of fascism, and the intensity of racism and anti-Semitism. This again serves as an important history lesson provided by the author. Cook skillfully details the marriage ER and FDR carved out, a relationship that has been the subject of so much speculation. He needed her skillful observations and intuitive nature on the campaign trail, and despite their love for one another, they forged different paths, and she had a very separate life parallel to her role as the Governor's wife in Albany, mother, teacher and associate principal at Todhunter School, and manager of the furniture factory she and friends had developed. Another controversial topic that Cook takes on is the myriad of relationships, some male, some female that ER shared with bright, strong-willed, compassionate people, many committed to similar or the same causes, and the breaks that developed. A teacher and prolific writer, some of ER's thoughts on what makes a successful marriage, academic expectations for her students, understanding an opposing point of view, and collaboration have as much relevance today as when she wrote them. "To appreciate the struggles that Eleanor Roosevelt faced enables us to understand the struggles we continue to face, the political alternatives available, and the fact that on the road to political decency and personal dignity there have been no final victories." I am on to the second book soon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Krenzel

    For many Americans, Eleanor Roosevelt is more a myth than an actual person. In the Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. there is a whole floor devoted to American presidents, but just a small wing devoted to our First Ladies, or more specifically their inaugural gowns. While visiting the museum, I picked up a poster of Eleanor Roosevelt, with a nice quote that reads something like, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." Other than my poster, the only thing I knew abo For many Americans, Eleanor Roosevelt is more a myth than an actual person. In the Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. there is a whole floor devoted to American presidents, but just a small wing devoted to our First Ladies, or more specifically their inaugural gowns. While visiting the museum, I picked up a poster of Eleanor Roosevelt, with a nice quote that reads something like, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." Other than my poster, the only thing I knew about Eleanor Roosevelt was what my grandmother, who grew up during the Depression and Roosevelt years, had told me: "She sure was ugly." When Eleanor Roosevelt’s letters to Lorena Hickok were revealed to the public in 1978, and questions about the true nature of their relationship arose, author Blanche Wiesen Cook, a historian and women’s studies professor, was intrigued to answer the challenge of determining who Eleanor Roosevelt really was. In her book, "Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One, 1884-1933," Cook promises to give readers a fuller view of Eleanor Roosevelt – not just the mythic character, but the actual story behind the woman, an independent power in her own right. "Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One, 1884-1933" is, in essence, a feminist reading of the life and times of Eleanor Roosevelt, telling her story chronologically up to 1933, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt becomes President of the United States. Eleanor Roosevelt’s childhood, as would be expected, is crucial to understanding her identity. Although she grows up in a privileged family in New York – her uncle Theodore is President of the United States – her childhood is "filled with disappointment, alcoholism, and betrayal." Eleanor Roosevelt’s mother casts Eleanor aside as ugly and too serious. Although her father is an alcoholic, Eleanor adores him, as he encourages her to be courageous and bold and wants her to be self-reliant and self-fulfilled. Both of her parents die before she turns 11, leaving Eleanor to be raised by relatives who mostly conform to the ideals in place during the 1890s. It is not until she is sent to Marie Souvestre’s school in Europe that she is first "given permission to be herself." Marie Souvestre is an unconventional feminist and her school is unusual in that it encourages girls to be independent at a time when education is considered to be dangerous to a woman’s mental health. Marie Souvestre’s role in Eleanor’s life is second only to her father's, as Marie Souvestre appreciates Eleanor’s talents and encourages her to discover and develop her capabilities. Upon graduation, though, Eleanor Roosevelt faces the realities of her time, as she is torn between the new self-sufficient world she has discovered through her schooling in Europe and the traditions of her mothers and relatives in New York. Ultimately, Eleanor Roosevelt accepts her prescribed role as a woman, goes courting, and secretly becomes engaged to her cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to the chagrin of his possessive mother Sara. Eleanor becomes increasingly dependent on Franklin, feeling "absolutely lost" when he is away. After they are married, Eleanor is forced to move in to his family home with his mother; as a result, she is never able to have her own home and instead relies on her mother-in-law for everything, as she essentially runs their lives and is the loudest voice in raising their children, leaving Eleanor without a role in her own family and without "self-confidence and ability to look after [herself:]." Whereas, to be loved by Marie Souvestre had "meant to display an independent spirit with individual flavor, and a playful imagination," to be loved by Sara "meant to become fully like Sara." It is here that Eleanor loses her identity, mimicking Sara’s views, including "flip, class-bound arrogance and egregious racism." It is not until 1918, when the "bottom drops out" of Eleanor Roosevelt’s world, that she reflects on her life and determines what she wants of it. While previously Eleanor has had a romantic view of her marriage, upon discovering Franklin’s letters from his mistress, Lucy Mercer, Eleanor Roosevelt becomes dejected and depressed and develops what the author characterizes as anorexia. After a period of reflection and introspection, ultimately she resolves to design herself an "independent life" that serves to meet her own needs and reclaim her separate identity. After 1923, Eleanor and Franklin live essentially separate lives, as Eleanor accepts Missy LeHand’s role as his "second wife" and develops her own separate circle of friends separate from his. While Franklin works toward rehabilitating his legs after developing polio, Eleanor works on her own career and becomes a national figure in her own right, including an important role as an educator, owning and teaching at a progressive school called Todhouse, and encouraging a new generation of female students just as she had been encouraged by Marie Souvestre. Finally, Eleanor seems to complete her personal journey as a woman through her romantic relationships with Earl Miller, her bodyguard, and Lorena Hickok, an esteemed reporter from the Associated Press, who both champion Eleanor Roosevelt and promote her best interests, giving her personal fulfillment. Through these relationships, she is no longer alone, but has the support system she will need to face her next big challenge – the White House. In telling the arc of Eleanor Roosevelt’s journey to becoming an independent woman, "Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1" is what it claims to be – a life and times of Eleanor Roosevelt through 1933. Although the writing style is dry and the book starts off slowly, it ultimately succeeds in explaining who Eleanor Roosevelt was – her struggles to find her own identify and to put herself in a position of power where she doesn’t need her husband to define her own self-worth. But because the book ends at 1933, we learn more about who Eleanor Roosevelt is and less about why she is such an important historical figure. Also, because this book is necessarily about Eleanor as an independent person, she emerges as a fully-fleshed three-dimensional figure, while Franklin comes off as a flat, ordinary, two-dimensional character. As a result, the book sparks even more questions than it answers. Why did Eleanor marry Franklin? What was the true nature of their partnership? What were her greatest accomplishments? And why should we care about Eleanor Roosevelt? While I had not originally planned to, I now intend to read "Eleanor Roosevelt: The Defining Years, Volume 2" by the same author, as well as "F.D.R." by Jean Edward Smith and "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin to help answer these additional questions and learn not just about who Eleanor Roosevelt was, but why she mattered.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Eleanor Roosevelt would definitely have been our first woman president if she were born later. However, we were lucky to have her as an activist, first lady, representative to the United Nations and great American. This first volume of the trilogy follows ER from her birth to moving into the White House. From her rich, but difficult childhood, through her wonderful experience at a British school, she learned to overcome adversity. Many biographies of ER don't mention her charisma, which really w Eleanor Roosevelt would definitely have been our first woman president if she were born later. However, we were lucky to have her as an activist, first lady, representative to the United Nations and great American. This first volume of the trilogy follows ER from her birth to moving into the White House. From her rich, but difficult childhood, through her wonderful experience at a British school, she learned to overcome adversity. Many biographies of ER don't mention her charisma, which really worked to her advantage. Plus she had a great ability to listen to people and empathize. She made it a point of knowing what it was like to be poor, working in Settlement Houses on the Lower East Side. She was active in the suffrage movement and the fight for women's rights--later she fought for better working conditions for all Americans. If you like biographies and being inspired, you'll want to read this one. I can't wait to read the next two...although I'll put them off since anticipation is half the fun.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jason Kinn

    We named our daughter after Eleanor Roosevelt, and this book does not make me regret that decision. ER overcame terrible abandonment and betrayal to become one of the leaders in New York State politics in the 1920s. She demonstrated kindness to others throughout her life, not only through her charitable personal actions but in her advocacy for policy that would redistribute some degree of wealth or provide some protection from the excesses of capitalism. She was a complex character. On the one h We named our daughter after Eleanor Roosevelt, and this book does not make me regret that decision. ER overcame terrible abandonment and betrayal to become one of the leaders in New York State politics in the 1920s. She demonstrated kindness to others throughout her life, not only through her charitable personal actions but in her advocacy for policy that would redistribute some degree of wealth or provide some protection from the excesses of capitalism. She was a complex character. On the one hand, she didn't spend that much time around her five children, preferring to let them be raised by helpers and private schools. They turned out pretty terribly, judging by traditional markers of success and stability. On the other hand, she was very loyal to people throughout her life. Even after being emotionally betrayed by FDR in 1918-19, she spent countless hours as his nurse the early 1920s. She also helped her friends meet their life goals -- for example, she opened a furniture factory on her property just to do a friend a solid. The author's introduction to this book is thought-provoking. One of the motivations of writing this book was Cook's desire to show ER as a whole person, including her sexuality. It is an unremarkable theory that sexuality is part of human existence, but ER's sexuality had never been fully explored before Cook's books. In part that is because ER and her female lover Hick deliberately destroyed almost all of their correspondence. I feel like sometimes the author is a bit too quick to excuse ER's casually racist or anti-Semitic words. However, Cook promises that in volume II she will deal with ER's evolution. It is a bit difficult to artificially stop at 1933 without a full exploration of how her thought changed on race (and Jews). This book is an intimate biography -- if you're looking for a lot of details about World War I or how ER fits into the historical context of the time, this book is a good tool but does not in itself provide that context. The book does not even discuss FDR that much -- that historical territory has already been harvested.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maryellen Donahue

    I remember reading a biography about Eleanor Roosevelt as a kid. I am glad to have finished this more grownup version. Five hundred pages later...glad to have learned more about her and those around her.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    I loved this book, especially the author's writing style. I loved this book, especially the author's writing style.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bailey

    Thought it was extremely interesting, but a bit dry. Took me a really long time to finish. I am eternally grateful, however, because I never realized what an amazing woman ER was.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Women's National Book Association of New Orleans

    The Women's National Book Association sent this book to the White House today (March 6) in honor of Women's History Month: https://www.wnba-centennial.org/book-... From the Women's National Book Association's press release: Cook’s three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt’s influential and inspirational life is a remarkable accomplishment. Cook worked on Roosevelt’s biography for well over 25 years and presents a grand biography not of a remote icon, but of an indomitable woman who welcomed life The Women's National Book Association sent this book to the White House today (March 6) in honor of Women's History Month: https://www.wnba-centennial.org/book-... From the Women's National Book Association's press release: Cook’s three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt’s influential and inspirational life is a remarkable accomplishment. Cook worked on Roosevelt’s biography for well over 25 years and presents a grand biography not of a remote icon, but of an indomitable woman who welcomed life, as she put it, with “an unquenchable spirit of adventure.” Volume 1 follows Roosevelt from her birth until she steps into the role of first lady in 1933. Cook captures Eleanor's troubled childhood, her marriage and life with Franklin before his election to the presidency, and her career as a champion for women's rights and social reforms.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Knotts

    A magnificent book about a magnificent person. I had the pleasure of hearing Blache Wiesen Cook at Roosevelt House, where Sarah Roosevelt tormented her daughter-in-law, Eleanor. Ms. Cook is as wonderful a speaker (channelling Eleanor as she does) as she is a writer. Both hearing her and reading her book are life changing. I learned from this book that Sarah Roosevelt was a Unitarian, of a very judgmental and racist sort. The book makes clear that the terrible challenges that both Eleanor and Fra A magnificent book about a magnificent person. I had the pleasure of hearing Blache Wiesen Cook at Roosevelt House, where Sarah Roosevelt tormented her daughter-in-law, Eleanor. Ms. Cook is as wonderful a speaker (channelling Eleanor as she does) as she is a writer. Both hearing her and reading her book are life changing. I learned from this book that Sarah Roosevelt was a Unitarian, of a very judgmental and racist sort. The book makes clear that the terrible challenges that both Eleanor and Franklin had to face made them the amazing leaders they became, with Eleanor becoming by far the more visionary. The ideas and sentiments in this book are needed now more than ever. Facism has receded far enough into history that we've forgotten it and the war and devastation it brings. We seem doomed to repeat these tragedies again. We need look only to these wonderful volumes to find the roadway out of facism, racism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and other forms of hate which destroy so much which is good and precious.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is an excellent portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt- it includes her quirks and her mistakes and her flaws, but still shows her as an amazing role model and pioneer of feminism. The work she did was amazing, especially considering the environment of the 1920's and 30's and society's attitude toward women in politics. I can't help but wonder what her impact would be if she were born today and had more opportunities for education and participation. But her perseverence despite the hardships she fac This is an excellent portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt- it includes her quirks and her mistakes and her flaws, but still shows her as an amazing role model and pioneer of feminism. The work she did was amazing, especially considering the environment of the 1920's and 30's and society's attitude toward women in politics. I can't help but wonder what her impact would be if she were born today and had more opportunities for education and participation. But her perseverence despite the hardships she faced is very inspiring. Not only was she persecuted for her looks and for acting like a normal person, the FBI had a file on her for being a "communist"! I'm really excited to read Volume II of this biography and learn more bout her.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shawna

    An interesting book about an admirable woman who lived in strange, dysfunctional world. Surrounded by wealth and privilege, Eleanor never knew the love of her mother, and her father was an alcoholic whose family kept him away from his children for their own safety. Still, she idolized her father. She married into Franklin's family and inherited a domineering mother-in-law who never allowed her to be in charge of her own household or children. She endured Franklin's infidelity and stayed to care An interesting book about an admirable woman who lived in strange, dysfunctional world. Surrounded by wealth and privilege, Eleanor never knew the love of her mother, and her father was an alcoholic whose family kept him away from his children for their own safety. Still, she idolized her father. She married into Franklin's family and inherited a domineering mother-in-law who never allowed her to be in charge of her own household or children. She endured Franklin's infidelity and stayed to care for him when he became an invalid. She was a champion for the poor and worked hard to make the world a better place for them.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Fitzpatrick

    ER is an inspiration!!! I feel like I should write a review to explain my 2 star rating. First I want to say that I can really appreciate all of the effort the author put into this. Endless hours must have been spent researching and capturing the fine details displayed in the book. However, it took me 3 plus years to get through the book. Each chapter would start by capturing my interest but I would lose interest by the end off each and have to force myself to continue to the next. I'm not sure ER is an inspiration!!! I feel like I should write a review to explain my 2 star rating. First I want to say that I can really appreciate all of the effort the author put into this. Endless hours must have been spent researching and capturing the fine details displayed in the book. However, it took me 3 plus years to get through the book. Each chapter would start by capturing my interest but I would lose interest by the end off each and have to force myself to continue to the next. I'm not sure what the issue was - if it was the length of the chapters, or the arrangement of the book, or just me? I don't plan on reading the second book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I bought this book because I was in a leadership program and we were to read a book on a leader -- I remembered that my mom had read a book about Eleanor when I was young and she used to go do talks pretending she was her. Not sure if this is the same book or not - as this one was long and factual. I mostly skimmed it but will keep to read again if and when I retire

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    The information for this book, the first in a series, comes from letters and documents recently declassified. The insight afforded by these very private documents really sheds light on her early life and her relationships with family and friends. It also helps to see the incredibly complicated family life she led. I'm very much looking forward to the next book in the series. The information for this book, the first in a series, comes from letters and documents recently declassified. The insight afforded by these very private documents really sheds light on her early life and her relationships with family and friends. It also helps to see the incredibly complicated family life she led. I'm very much looking forward to the next book in the series.

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