Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933

by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Paperback, 1993




Penguin (1993), Edition: Reprint, 587 pages


A study of the complex and political figure of Eleanor Roosevelt begins with her harrowing childhood, describes the difficulties of her marriage, and explains how she persuaded Franklin to make the reforms that would make him famous.


(106 ratings; 4.1)

User reviews

LibraryThing member LizzieD
What a fascinating woman was Eleanor Roosevelt! Blanche Wiesen Cook's excellent biography (to which I would have given five stars had the omission of source for a rather disturbing quotation not made me question her research) allows ER to live on the page and often to speak for herself. For the
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most part, Cook presents the relevant material and allows the reader to draw her own conclusions.
ER was a daughter of the Oyster Bay Roosevelts who married a son of the Hyde Park Roosevelts. Her mother was cold to her; her father adored her and she him, but his alcoholism separated him from his family. Taken in by her grandmother after their deaths, she was eventually exposed to a superior teacher who taught her to expand and trust her brilliant mind. Her marriage to FDR was a love match which he betrayed in 1918, from which time ER learned to shape her life in order to be useful and loved as she was able.
The last two thirds of the book follows her on this quest and necessarily also introduces the ins and outs of the feminist movement of the twenties and the politics of New York and the nation.
ER herself emerges with the vulnerabilities of a child of an alcoholic and with the courage of an indomitable spirit. I'm very much looking forward to volume 2!
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LibraryThing member Girl_Detective
An engaging, easy-to-read bio of a fascinating person, and an intriguing glimpse into her unconventional marriage.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
I think it goes without saying that Eleanor Roosevelt was a fascinating person both in and out of the political arena. What astounds me the most is how Cook could write such a thorough biography despite so much of Eleanor's personal correspondence either lost or destroyed. I am in awe of what Cook
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could have done if she had everything ER had ever written. Here's what we do know - research has concluded that Eleanor had an unhappy childhood. She grew up shy and awkward. She a cold mother who died when Eleanor was eight and a father who was practically nonexistent. Research also supports her unhappy marriage to Franklin D. Roosevelt, a man who was clearly a mama's boy and did nothing to hide his adulterous indiscretions. All of Eleanor's political and humanitarian endeavors and alliances are carefully documented. All the facts about Eleanor Roosevelt as a historical icon are there. But what Cook is able to illustrate in meticulous detail is Mrs. Roosevelt's courageous, determined, caring personality. Once ER found independence she sought to better herself at every chance she got. She surrounded herself with men and women who would become lifelong friends. There is so much detail to Cook's biography that you feel as though you've just had a conversation with Eleanor herself about her life's work. My only complaint? As an "out" lesbian I felt Cook was trying too hard to find the lesbian angle with ER's relationship with Lorena Hickok, among others.
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LibraryThing member uufnn
From the dust jacket: "Eleanor Roosevelt is the most important woman in American political history, and in this definitive biography, ten years in the making, [the author] re-creates her in all of her roles--as a visionary, an activist, a political wife, and a woman, far more independent than we
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knew. No other First Lady has had a greater influence on the course of democracy in this century, and no other book about Eleanor Roosevelt captures the complexity of her character--her wit, her passion, her boldness, and her commitment to greater dignity and security for all women and men.

"Born into the American aristocracy and into a family ravaged by alcoholism and self-destruction, Eleanor Roosevelt learned, rather than inherited, her progressive views. 'Education ends only with death,' she said, and her life bears that out." This book has thorough note and a comprehensive index.
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LibraryThing member gbelik
Volume 1 of this 3 part biography covers ER from birth up through the 1932 election victory. I love this marvelous woman and was thrilled to know so much more about her. The author does not shy away from ER's personal problem with her mother-in-law and with her unfaithful husband; she tells of the
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importance of ER's relationships with the women in her life and with bodyguard Earl Miller. All-in-all, a wonderful biography.
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LibraryThing member ChazziFrazz
I picked up this volume and the second one as they looked interesting and I liked the idea of photos to give a little visual to such historic times. What I found was interesting but also a huge dose of historical information. A bit more than I was looking for, hence the long time to read the
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Eleanor Roosevelt was a complicated woman and a bit of a rebel. Born and raised in Victorian times (1884) with Victorian morals she found that she had to change with the turning of the century (1900). Having lived with negative criticism the majority of her life, the changes brought with the new century gave her the chance to become who she really was and be involved in what she felt were important issues and what she had a passion for.

She lived two lives - her public and her personal - and she strove to keep them completely separate, especially keeping her private life out of the public eye. This book gives a view of both worlds.

Blanche Wiesen Cook has done an excellent job of providing sources for her information and giving background on such a complicated person and time. I appreciate this as it gives me a more complete picture of the person and time.

If you are big on historical biographies this will be great. Filled with names, events, dates and more of what was going on in the world between 1884 and 1933. It takes you from Eleanor's childhood to FDR's election to President.
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LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Biography — 1992)


Original language


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Physical description

587 p.; 8.4 inches


0140094601 / 9780140094602
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