Blanche Wiesen Cook has finished her 3 volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Historians in the News
tags: Eleanor Roosevelt, Blanche Wiesen Cook



In 1999, historian Blanche Wiesen Cook wrote a book about the woman she called “the most loved, most controversial, most hated, and most effective First Lady in U.S. history.” The book was the second volume of her three-part biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, and now, on the final volume’s publication, she still believes Roosevelt has held onto those superlatives.

But now more than ever, she concedes, Hillary Clinton is giving Roosevelt a run for her money.

“I think that Eleanor Roosevelt would recognize Hillary’s travails, her trials and tribulations,” Cook told TIME before the Tuesday publication of Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3: The War Years and After, 1939-1962.

The connections between the two women can be striking. Like Clinton, Roosevelt’s political origins involved missions to help women and children; she tried to improve living conditions for slum dwellers in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. She spent much of her life arguing for human rights, especially for women. She was disliked from afar by those who were uncomfortable with powerful women, but adored by many—especially those she met and listened to in person. “She would go into communities all over the world, and never told anybody, ‘This is what you should do,’” says Cook. “She always said, ‘Tell me: What do you want? What do you need?’”

After she learned of her husband’s infidelity, their marriage underwent a shift to become more a partnership of equals than a romantic union. “I think political [wives] just have to deal with [cheating],” Cook says. “And they do. But I think it strengthens them.” ...




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