Transformative First Lady
Maurine H. Beasley
Presiding in the White House longer than any other first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt championed the downtrodden as she traveled the globe, yet she was a maze of contradictions—an idealist who carried on a moneymaking career that depended on her position and a conventional-appearing wife and mother who found emotional succor from intense relationships outside her family. This book cuts through those contradictions to reveal how Eleanor operated, both in and out of public view, to advance the causes in which she believed by participating in the political process.
Although previous books have dealt with Eleanor Roosevelt, this is the first to focus on her White House years. Maurine Beasley, a scholar with extensive knowledge of Eleanor's life and times, provides a detailed examination of the innovative first lady that will enlighten those who think they already know her. Rich with detail, it effectively links her social activism from her early life, through the White House years, and to her work after FDR's presidency. From the ways in which Eleanor earned a living to the domestic arrangements in the White House, Beasley is an insightful and informed guide to the historical issues surrounding Mrs. Roosevelt's performance, describing how she took the ambiguous position of first lady and transformed it into an institution of the American political system.
“A thorough examination of a woman who pursued her own agenda and whose life still inspires.”
“Beasley excels at capturing the complex, dynamic partnership the Roosevelts forged, often at a high personal cost to both. . . . The best biography of Eleanor Roosevelt this reviewer has read to date. Highly recommended.”
—ChoiceSee all reviews...
“Thoroughly researched, not too loaded with fanciful speculation, and notable for offering a fresh view of Eleanor’s unorthodox world and the women and men she loved.”
—New York Review of Books
“Innovative and enlightening, Beasley’s unique portrait of this complex and popular, though controversial, first lady provides even Eleanor Roosevelt experts with fresh insights. How FDR’s wife utilized the media to further her own political agenda constitutes the book’s focus and reveals how Eleanor’s twelve-year White House tenure established the standards by which we evaluate all subsequent first ladies.”
—Barbara Perry, author of Jacqueline Kennedy: First Lady of the New Frontier
“Eleanor Roosevelt refused to be confined by tradition. This shrewd and succinct biography examines how she overcame her own insecurities to become America’s most independent first lady and worldwide human rights activist.”
—Donald A. Ritchie, author of Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932See fewer reviews...
Beasley leaves no stone unturned as she casts fresh light on Eleanor's relations with Franklin, the people around her, and the causes she championed. She explores how personal relationships led Mrs. Roosevelt to hone political skills that redefined the position of the first lady for years to come. And as she enlarges our understanding of Eleanor's use of media to disseminate her political views, Beasley illuminates her complex network of personal relationships, finances, contributions to New Deal programs, and extensive publicity commitments.
Here is a book that will reward general readers interested in Eleanor's historical importance and inform specialists looking for judicious appraisals of her words, her deeds, and the controversies that surrounded her. Anyone interested in the enigma that was Eleanor Roosevelt will discover here a rich trove of essential information for understanding how this dynamic and troubled woman succeeded in transforming the institution of the first lady during a dozen years of activism and commitment.