Review Detail

Roosevelt against the background of her time.
Overall rating
 
4.7
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
4.0
Learning Value
 
5.0
Eleanor Roosevelt has always been one of my favorite historical figures; my daughter is named Eleanor, since it's a good, solid name if she ever wishes to become president or a corporate bigwig. I'm always looking for new books on this fascinating historical figure.

Roosevelt's difficult childhood, the way people treated her because of her looks, and the enormous amount of work she did on behalf on all manner of groups of people are all fascinating topics. I am not surprised, given the recent increased interests in women's issues, that there is a new biography of her. This aptly discusses her background, including her marriage to Franklin and her experiences of motherhood, but also discusses the wide range of social issues for which she fought.
Good Points
I learned a lot of things I didn't know, and thought that the way Cooper talks about some of the more difficult, adult issues was well done. It is mentioned that Franklin had affairs, but the discussion centered on how this affected Eleanor's life, as it should. I hadn't known about her mother-in-law, Sarah, and how overbearing she was, and there was just enough coverage of that topic to make sense of some of Eleanor's later actions. Her relationship with her children was rather sad, but not terribly unusual for the time. I didn't know that she taught, or that she enjoyed it so much! Had circumstances been different, perhaps that would have been her career path.

It is difficult to judge the actions of people 90 years ago. There is a mention that, mainly to spite her mother-in-law, Eleanor replaced that household staff with all African-American employees. She was publicly brought to task for using the word "darky" in her writing; it had been used by a relative in what she had assumed was a term of endearment, and when someone corrected, she apologized and asked for a better term. She was always a champion of the underdog, which makes perfect sense, so her interest in the Civil Rights movement is not surprising.

I'll definitely purchase this book for my school library, and it gives a nice overview of the state of what life was like for many groups in the early part of the 1900s. Seeing what Eleanor's views of how other people treated different groups was somehow illuminating, since despite being a product of her time, she does seem to have many modern sensibilities.
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