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Need Eleanor Roosevelt Bio Recommendation


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#1 MakarovaFan

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 05:03 PM

I'm looking for a Eleanor Roosevelt bio -- particularly info on her childhood. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

#2 dirac

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 05:22 PM

I'd recommend the multivolume biography by Blanche Wiesen Cook. It caused some controversy because Cook declared her belief that Eleanor had had a physical affair with her close friend Lorena Hickok, but although reasonable people can disagree Cook backs up her opinions and isn't sensation-seeking. There's a much older work, Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P. Lash, a personal friend of Eleanor's, which is chiefly about her and it's a beautiful book with great stories about her childhood and early years. (He wrote a follow up about Eleanor's widowhood that's also worth checking out although it's not as good.)

Geoffrey C. Ward's biographies of FDR have more focus on his personal life than other bios of the President and they are worth looking at, as well. Another of Ward's books, Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Relationship Between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley, had some information about Eleanor that was new to me (not about her childhood, though) and I would recommend checking that one out, as well. Hope this helps.

#3 richard53dog

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 05:01 AM

There's a much older work, Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P. Lash, a personal friend of Eleanor's, which is chiefly about her and it's a beautiful book with great stories about her childhood and early years. (He wrote a follow up about Eleanor's widowhood that's also worth checking out although it's not as good.)



I read the Lash volumes when they came out years ago. FDR Jr was also co author, probably the reason so much very interesting detail about Eleanor's early life was included. I found it very interesting and evocative so this one may also be a possibility for you. The second volume IS slightly less interesting but covers her years with the UN and other themes of her later years.

The Lash/FDR Jr volumes contain very little "controversial" material. Back in 1972, a lot of very private information wasn't necessarily included, or even thought appropriate to include in biographies. It was a very different way of writing about public figures. And Eleanor's son was included in the authorship duties which would have limited sensational details even more. So there is practically nothing about either Eleanor's or FDR's emotional relationships with others or other types of back office stories. Even Grandma(FDR Jr's grandmother, that is), Sara Delano, is given a fairly light treatment.

All that being said, I still think this version captures a lot of what made Eleanor tick. Much of the narrative is very vivid with detail, you often feel you are sitting in the room with her. The book states that Eleanor's private papers were used, which I'd imagine added much to the books.

#4 dirac

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 09:31 AM

Much of the narrative is very vivid with detail, you often feel you are sitting in the room with her.


Yes, very true.

#5 MakarovaFan

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 11:35 AM

Thank you everyone. I'll check the Cook book out of my local library.

#6 dirac

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 01:48 PM

Tell us what you think of it!

#7 dirac

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 10:08 AM

Bumping this up - MakarovaFan, if you did get to any of the books, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts!

#8 MakarovaFan

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 10:14 AM

Bumping this up - MakarovaFan, if you did get to any of the books, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts!


Hi dirac,

I have the Blanche Wiesen Cook biography and have focused on the early chapters since my interest is in her childhood. The story of her as a little girl and the relationship with her mother and adored father is heartbreaking.

#9 4mrdncr

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 12:03 AM

I remember reading the Lash books too. And later watching the biopic they did on US network (?!) television based on them--starring Edward Hermann and Jane Alexander. I think it later won a bunch of Emmy awards.

Makarova Fan, are you researching for yourself? I heard the other day, from a well-known PBS producer, about a planned bio of the family; (Not just FDR but ALL the Roosevelts), but knowing their level of research it could be a few years before the film is released.

#10 dirac

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 03:59 PM

Thanks for posting, 4mrdncr. I think there have already been long PBS shows, good ones, on TR, FDR, and Eleanor, so apart from Mrs. Longworth I should have thought the bases were covered. But then public television, at least in my area, never seems to lose its fascination with Kennedys, Roosevelts, and Windsors. They're the PBS equivalent of the Colbys and the Carringtons.

#11 4mrdncr

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 11:56 PM

Exactly the thought that went through my head when that famous producer (who shall remain nameless) told us what was planned over the next couple years for his production company (and consequently, PBS). I have seen the previously broadcast individual docs on each of the Roosevelts, and would think this new proposed series worthwhile only if a strong thematic thread was established througout it, or astounding new information was discovered and presented.

#12 dirac

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 10:26 AM

I forgot to add that, like 4mrdncr, I also remember seeing the "Eleanor and Franklin" miniseries with Herrmann and Alexander and although it's been years I recall it as excellent - I wonder if it's on DVD somewhere.

#13 carbro

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 10:56 AM

Yes, it is, and at bargain prices: -->click! If you want it, order now, because, as the page states, it has been discontinued.

I remember it too, especially the superlative acting. :angel_not:

#14 dirac

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 11:37 AM

Thanks, carbro. :angel_not:


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