A First Lady of Great Influence Eleanor Roosevelt's Public Role

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TITLE: Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume 2, 1933-1938 AUTHOR: Blanche Wiesen Cook DATA: Viking, 725 pages, $34.95

Review by Jules Wagman

Very few Americans were neutral about Eleanor Roosevelt, the first first lady to take such a public role in her husband's White House. This second volume of history professor Blanche Wiesen Cook's three-volume biography, covers the years of Franklin D. Roosevelt's early presidency, 1933 to 1938.

ER, as Cook refers to Eleanor Roosevelt, and FDR led separate lives that were also exquisitely intertwined. Each had separate circles of friends and advisers, some of whom overlapped. Her agenda, not inhibited by the competing forces that pulled at the president, was more far-reaching, and it was frequently in conflict with FDR's.

Her issues were housing, child care, full employment, education, racial justice, a world court and world peace. She wrote and talked about domestic issues -- at times infuriating FDR -- but international issues were off limits.

The author says that the ban on writing about international affairs arose from a deal FDR made with newspaper owner William R. Hearst. In order to win the 1932 Democratic nomination, Roosevelt agreed to Hearst's isolationist policies and Hearst tipped Texas and California FDR's way.

One of the first results was FDR's scuttling of the 1933 London Economic Conference, even as reorganization of World War I debts was being negotiated. …