Eleanor Roosevelt

Article excerpt

Blanche Wiesen Cook discusses the lesbians and the social causes she found in Eleanor Roosevelt's life.

It isn't easy for Blanche Wiesen Cook to find a shady bench. Walking through Manhattan's Riverside Park--near the home she has shared for the past 30 years with dramatist and therapist Clare Coss--Cook views the benches occupied by the homeless. For some people, she notes, things aren't much better today than during the era she writes about in Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume 2, 1933-1938 (Viking, $34.95).

Like Roosevelt before her, Cook is a politically passionate woman who decries "the lack of social justice in these mean-spirited times. Today it's OK to say bigoted things about women and gays. We can see where we are by who it's OK to mock and lynch."

Although Cook quips that she "spent most of her vital youth with one dead general [Dwight D. Eisenhower]," writing about Roosevelt has taken up the past 18 years and has brought together all her interests: "social justice, women, lesbianism, and world affairs." Cook completed work on Eisenhower and began work on Roosevelt after publishing a critical review of Doris Faber's "looksist book" about the relationship between "dynamic" reporter Lorena Hickok and Roosevelt; the book dismissed the two women as ugly.

The second volume of what is sure to be the definitive three-part biography of Eleanor Roosevelt covers the early years of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency, when the United States was straggling to recover from the Great Depression. With a wealth of colorful detail and a vivid cast of historical figures, the book captures the first lady's battle for public health and education programs and her speaking out on behalf of those who were poor, black, rural, or homeless. …