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Eleanor Roosevelt

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J. William T. Youngs

Eleanor Roosevelt:

A personal and public life

J. William T. Youngs, New York, 2006

As a child, Eleanor felt she was the ugly duckling. Insecure and shy, she lost both of her parents as a young girl. Her mother, Anna Hall, died of diphtheria along with her brother Elliot Jr. Two years later her father died. Elliot Roosevelt died of illness, alcohol, and despair. He missed his family. Eleanor was shipped to stay with her strict and proper grandmother. Despite the family trying to make Eleanor feel at home, she continued to feel lonely and empty. It wasn't until she was sent to boarding school in England at the age of fifteen when she established a since of self confidence among other girls with the help of a mentor Mlle Marrie Souvestre. Her marriage to her fifth cousin Franklin Roosevelt increased her insecurities and took away her one source of confidence, her volunteer work at the settlement house. Eleanor bored six children. One died as an infant. She stood by Franklin and was interested in whatever interested him. Franklin became ill. Eleanor became his eyes and ears. She traveled and talked to people he governed. She then found out about his affair when she discovered love letters from Lucy Mercer. He was apologetic and they both decided to stay in their marriage as a political couple. Eleanor opened a new path to stand apart from Franklin. She no longer gave herself solely to his wants and needs. Franklin was sworn into presidency in 1933. Eleanor at his side she began her non traditional role of the first lady. Both of their busy schedules kept their marriage together giving them something to talk about. Franklin passed and Eleanor continued to live a full life working in the United Nations. Eleanor then died in 1962 of a deadly disease.

A major issue the author raises in this book is the fact that Eleanor's life is increased with loneliness. Eleanor was left with no guidance as a young girl when both her mother and father died. She marries Franklin and immediately realized intimacy was absent when Franklin spent time with another woman on their honeymoon. The role of a politician's wife left her empty because Franklin did not have time for Eleanor. He did not give her the love she needed. The role she took as the First Lady kept her so busy she didn't have time to contemplate on her own problems. And last Franklin's death left her in despair. Although the two where not close. Eleanor shared many years with him and felt as a part of her was missing. I think Eleanor lived a life full of activity and helping others to receive satisfaction and to avoid her personal problems.

Eleanor was not the traditional First Lady of the White House. She was entering a role of a woman she grew up to despise. She let the public know she wasn't going to be the ordinary sheltered white house first lady. She scheduled interviews with the press and made herself available to the public. She overturned formal conditions by trying to do things for herself like answering the door, and making lay workers feel as if she where the same as them. She also went against the norm and bought a Buick sports car instead of the traditional Lincoln. She wanted to live a normal life and not to be held up in royalty. Many people today associate Eleanor with Hillary Clinton. I think this is true. They both had leadership roles and enhanced their husband's career. A smart woman standing behind a president is powerful because of the partnership that is formed.

Eleanor and Franklin were an exceptional political team but lacked the bond of marriage. I think Eleanor did



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