The Three Graces of Val-Kill: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marion Dickerman, and Nancy Cook in the Place They Made Their Own

The Three Graces of Val-Kill: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marion Dickerman, and Nancy Cook in the Place They Made Their Own

The Three Graces of Val-Kill: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marion Dickerman, and Nancy Cook in the Place They Made Their Own

The Three Graces of Val-Kill: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marion Dickerman, and Nancy Cook in the Place They Made Their Own

Synopsis

The Three Graces of Val-Kill changes the way we think about Eleanor Roosevelt. Emily Wilson examines what she calls the most formative period in Roosevelt's life, from 1922 to 1936, when she cultivated an intimate friendship with Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook, who helped her build a cottage on the Val-Kill Creek in Hyde Park on the Roosevelt family land. In the early years, the three women--the "three graces," as Franklin Delano Roosevelt called them--were nearly inseparable and forged a female-centered community for each other, for family, and for New York's progressive women. Examining this network of close female friends gives readers a more comprehensive picture of the Roosevelts and Eleanor's burgeoning independence in the years that marked Franklin's rise to power in politics.



Wilson takes care to show all the nuances and complexities of the women's relationship, which blended the political with the personal. Val-Kill was not only home to Eleanor Roosevelt but also a crucial part of how she became one of the most admired American political figures of the twentieth century. In Wilson's telling, she emerges out of the shadows of monumental histories and documentaries as a woman in search of herself.

Excerpt

I guess it is bred in me to love it.—Eleanor Roosevelt

The Roosevelts and the Hudson River Valley are intimately linked in every telling of their story, and to appreciate how much Franklin and Eleanor loved it we should visualize the setting that dominates this book. Then we can understand how that love of place provided essential comfort and solace in some of the best and worst of times for each of them. For Eleanor and her friends, a hidden corner of the Hyde Park estate gave them a home of their own at the same time it kept them close to FDR’s ambitions to become president of the United States. the place was essential to everything that Eleanor and Franklin became.

The Hudson River Valley, like human nature, both endures and changes over time. a sense of place endures, for what the seventeenthcentury Dutch settlers saw we can still see today—the broad river, sometimes ruffled by whitecaps; the high bluffs; gray skies, blue skies; the distant Catskills; and the interior creeks and marshes— all made more dramatic by a sudden flash of lightning in a summer storm, a sweep of cold wind, colors of spring and fall, sunrise, and moonlight. If we look back in time, we may also see a man on horseback, a family in a sleigh, a team of cutters hauling blocks to icehouses, a steamboat carrying goods to the city, a farmer in a field, a shopkeeper in a village, or, bending toward our story, a woman whose long stride carries her away from a manor house high above the river into deeper woods and a cottage with a fire burning in the grate. We have arrived at the setting for our story.

The town of Hyde Park, established by state law in 1821, encompasses land whose ownership dates back to the late 1600s, when Dutch businessmen granted deeds by the English Crown purchased . . .

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