The “Roosevelts” are a political Dynasty the likes that we will probably never see again in American history. From the time President Theodore Roosevelt got into politics in the late 1890’s, to the time of Eleanor Roosevelt’s death in 1962 they were a dominant force whose policies, contributions, and aura were the face of America throughout the world.
Eleanor Roosevelt, who died at seventy-nine, outlived her uncle Teddy, who died at sixty, and her husband FDR, who died at sixty-three. Eleanor was the favorite niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, and if one were to ask who she was most like it was, in my opinion, her uncle Teddy. They possessed limitless amounts of energy, fought tirelessly for progressive causes, and believed that since they were lucky to be born rich they owed their country and the less fortunate much more, and they both left behind a written and oral history of their thoughts and ideas that historians are still and forever finding and reviewing.
David Michaelis biography, “Eleanor,” is a comprehensive history of this extraordinary woman whose childhood was anything but normal. Her mother died when she was five years old and her father Elliot, who she adored, died from alcoholism at age fifty. She lived with different relatives and her grandma on her mother’s side until her late teens. At a very young age, she possessed many of the prejudices of her relatives calling blacks and Jews by repugnant nicknames, but all this would slowly change as she visited the drenches during World War 1 and sat beside wounded soldiers and it would really take off during the husband’s long presidency and never let up. Whereas, her husband lacked empathy, she made up for it in a way that even FDR was hopeless to do anything about it.
She made it known that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War 2 was unconstitutional and Un-American. That the segregated US army represented everything, we as a nation were fighting against in World War 2. She was appalled by the lack of sympathy showed by her husband’s administration and both political parties when it came to the Nazi extermination of the Jews, and our country’s unwillingness to take in what amounted to nearly nothing when we could have taken in millions of Jews who died in concentration camps.
After her husband’s death her crusade for a United Nations that kept countries from going to war was unrelenting if not futile, but that did not stop the Soviet representatives and other countries unfriendly to the US from getting up and applauding this amazing woman’s efforts. She fought tirelessly against segregation and the Jim Crow south, for the rights of women and fair wages, and went after Senator Joe McCarthy and his committee on Un-American activities.
What I have written here is just a small part of this woman’s life that the author Mr. Michaelis’ writes about. He writes about the many intimate relationships her husband had with other women, and in turn, her many intimate relationships while married, and after the passing of FDR. He also writes about the strange relationship between her husband’s mother, Sara, and Eleanor.
It’s as though she lived three lives and I can honestly say she drastically help transform America for the better and she is undeniably one of the most important Americans our country has ever produced.