Blanche Wiesen Cook
This unique encyclopedia is a wonderful introduction to Eleanor Roosevelt Roosevelt’s unprecedented, exhilarating, and ardent life. The power and wonder of her works and legacy, her friends, travels, and associations are generously represented by a range of scholars and activists, engaged students of ER’s enduring impact.
ER was convinced that governments exist for only one purpose: to make things better for all people. But, she advised, never depend on politicians to do anything about that. You have to be part of a movement, active locally and nationally, to put pressure on politicians. Emotionally driven by her own family’s torment, her childhood of tears and longing, surrounded by the bitterness and confusion of alcoholism and marital discord, ER always identified with people in want, in need, and in trouble.
Educated at Allenswood School near London, she was inspired by Marie Souvestre, the school’s famous headmistress, a great teacher who recognized and promoted young Eleanor’s many talents. ER wanted to go to college and return to teach at Allenswood. But her grandmother insisted that she remain home at eighteen to “come out” into society. In 1903 ER volunteered at the College Settlement founded by her girlhood friend Mary Harriman with other Barnard students. With Harriman, ER helped found the Junior League to promote social work among New York’s debutantes.
While ER endured the social whirl by night, she taught calisthenics and dancing to the needy children of New York City’s Lower East Side. That began her long relationship with the leaders of the social reform movement, notably, settlement house pioneers Florence Kelley, Lillian Wald, and Mary Simkhovitch; and the activists of the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL), who remained her mentors and friends. Through