Upstairs at the Roosevelts: Growing Up with Franklin and Eleanor

By Curtis Roosevelt | Go to book overview

11
The Chaste Eleanor Roosevelt

After four years as governor of New York State, FDR moved from Albany to Washington and took up the residency he had always wanted—the White House. Contemplating being first lady, my grandmother was not all that pleased: quite dismayed, in fact. She had had firsthand observations of the dutifully prescribed roles of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. What she wondered was whether she would be able to be more than a hostess, free to move beyond her White House social obligations.

Soon she had help formulating an answer. Lorena Hickok, a seasoned reporter assigned by the Associated Press to cover the new first lady, entered Eleanor’s life and quickly become instrumental in the making of her new identity as “Mrs. Roosevelt.” First off, Hickok suggested Eleanor begin holding her own press conferences, and for women reporters only—in sharp contrast to the president’s traditional all-male press corps. This practice proved a great success. As Hick anticipated, they brought invitations from across America, to visit and talk to groups, and to give both press and radio interviews. Next Mrs. Roosevelt began her daily newspaper column. Soon this new sort of first lady was on the go from morning to night. While one could see her fatigue from this strenuous schedule, it was plain that my grandmother

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