Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Ken Burns' produced a great PBS documentary on the Roosevelt family. I watched the multi-part doc with great interest. I love strong women, there is so much to be learned from them. So when I saw that Harper Collins was re-releasing Eleanor's autobiography , I took the opportunity to read it.
What an inspiring story. As a young girl, Eleanor was quite shy and had huge problems with esteem and confidence. She lost both her parents while she was still so young, and being bounced from relative to relative...boarding school is where she finally met a teacher that took an interest and Eleanor starting coming out of her shell.
Very interesting that she was a niece to President Teddy Roosevelt, and ended up marrying Franklin Roosevelt a 5th cousin. She bore seven children, with one baby dying as an infant. She spent most of her adult life relying on her mother in law for help with the children ( it seemed as though Franklin's mother raised the children) and living life as her mother in law saw fit, really.  Only when Franklin became involved in politics did Eleanor seem to get interested in a life of her own.
Her achievements were many. She was involved in civil rights, women's rights, under privileged children's rights, the war efforts...she also became the legs of her husband when he contracted infantile paralysis.  A great woman, long after Franklin's death she became involved in so many global projects, including the United Nations, appointed by President Harry Truman and appointed  to the Commission on the Status of Women by President John Kennedy. Inspiring.
Written in her own words, her own slant on history ( of which she became a great part) was a real view into the world of women in that time.
After I read the book and reflected on it, I was very struck by the fact that her children seemed to take a back seat in her life. Her mother in law raised them , and they were sent off to boarding schools at young ages. Now, some of this was what was expected of the wealthy..somewhat similar to the aristocracy of England. There were nannies and nurses and sending them off to live at school..I guess I was just taken aback  by how little time she spent with her children. As I said, this is all in her own words, and she wrote quite honestly.
Well worth the read, grab yourself this compilation of her three volume autobiography, great winter read.

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