Sunday, March 22, 2009

Was Eleanor Roosevelt a Lesbian?

Up the Hudson River Valley--so much history here!

Checked out FDR's estate in Hyde Park, "Springwood" which was his childhood home and where he raised his family with Eleanor and his domineering mother, Sara. I've got to say it wasn't all that impressive. Springwood is kind of homey-kitsch. At one point, the Roosevelt's hosted Queen Elizabeth and served hot dogs along with the diplomacy, and I can just imagine the English queen twisting up her nose and thinking: "Ugh. New Money."

It's scarily timely right now in 2009--seeing what FDR was handed by Hoover (depression!), and how he dealt with everything from creating Social Security, the FDIC, WPA, CCC, the list goes on and on. It was so impressive, and no more less so when seeing he did it while paralyzed from the waist down with polio he got at the age of 39.

The FDR library, also on the property, has so much information you could spend several days and not take it all in. You knew FDR was big into sailing and the navy and ornithology, but did you know that FDR was a champion (medal-winning!) at the "Running High Kick"? Ok! Yeah, I guess that was big back then. I found a fun pic of a winning running high kicker from 1895 here.

FDR did his running high kick to a height of 7 foot 3 inches! But he complained of neck and pain because after you run and kick high, you just...fall down on your neck. Perhaps that's the reason the running high kick nose dived into obsolescence?

But then let's get some trivia on Eleanor. She's "First Lady to the World" and a landmark humanitarian. She had a "cottage" about two miles from the main house called Val-Kill. It was where she went to find solace, and her favorite place to be.

When I was reading about it at the library, I ran into the pictures of these friends of Eleanor Roosevelt. They are "Miss Dickerman" and "Miss Cook". Take a look at these ladies. What comes to mind?

Now take a look at this stone cottage where they lived. Tell me your gaydar is not going haywire? What if I also told you that this stone cottage was Val-Kill---- the cottage and favorite place of Eleanor Roosevelt? And that they (all 3) started a furniture making business there together?!

Upon further research on the internet---Yes, Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook were politically active, volunteers with the red-cross, suffragettes, and..."life partners". Eleanors closest friends. I don't want to prematurely say that the "First Lady to the World" was a lesbian, BUT: maybe this is the reason FDR had an affair? Maybe this is the reason Eleanor didn't divorce him during the affair? Or when the affair re-gnited later on? Maybe that's the reason for the First Lady's predilection for sensible flats??!

Was Eleanor Roosevelt drinking from the furry cup?

A little more sniffing on the internet and it's all there. For starters, she had a personal assistant named Malvina but who everyone called "Tommy". Then there's the journalist named Lorena Hickok whom Eleanor called "Hick". There are over 2300 letters between the two with surprising revelations, like this one from Eleanor to Hick, dated 1933: Oh! I want to put my arms around you. I ache to hold you close. Your ring is a great comfort to me. I look at it and think she does love me, or I wouldn't be wearing it.

Was one of the most celebrated women in 20th century history a lesbian? Is this common knowledge? If so, why isn't it spoken about in the documentaries I've seen, and barely even implied at the FDR library? Today in 2009, the gay is still totally disguised information unless you're able to walk in there and look at two photos, read between the lines, and start asking questions.

5 comments:

Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

Can't give you actual citations, but I think several recent bios of Eleanor Roosevelt have acknowledged these relationships of hers, so that aspect of her life hasn't really been a secret. And I have the impression that her marriage to FDR was, if not arranged, at least more of a dynastic deal than a romance. Also, Eleanor grew up in an era and social environment where "dear friendships" between women were not necessarily considered beyond the pale. Combine all this with her physical appearance (pace Eleanor) and it's not surprising that she might have turned elsewhere than her husband, or other men, for true affection.
Don't know if that adds up to the "clinical" definition of a Lesbian, or not.
Of course, none of this detracts from her well deserved reputation as a great humanitarian and advocate for progressive causes, such as women's rights and civil rights.
This dates me, but I actually heard her speak when I was a high school senior. Could only understand about one word in five because I was at the back of my school auditorium, there was no microphone, and at that stage of her life, her voice was high and screechy. (Sorry again, Eleanor). But I'll not soon forget seeing one of the major figures in 20th century American history in person.

Anonymous said...

Actually I thought that was common knowledge. At least people are always joking about her having been a lesbian.

Casper

Anonymous said...

I've always considered it one of those "wink wink, nudge nudge" common knowledge things. All the evidence is there, it just seems that no one wants to put it into the "official" history. I've read a lot on the same tack about Lincoln.

I suppose you have to be dead a couple thousand years (read: Alexander the Great) before history will admit you can be a great historical figure and "the gay".

Sancho

Jesse Archer said...

There's a column in this!

Anonymous said...

Jesse, I appreciate your interest in ER. I was always interested that she produced 6 children in spite of her less than ideal marriage, probable sexual preference...and that she was as "homely as a mud fence". This an unkind quotation from a member of my family when I as an ever-so-small child. One child died in childhood, leaving James, Anna, Elliot, FDR Jr. and John. All the sons were exceedingly handsome, especially Elliot who was married to a beautiful movie/TV star, Faye Emerson. The most memorable fact about all their marital histories is that all of them were married and divorced multiple (as many as 4 or 5) times. Interestingly, several of them became Republican in their various unsuccessful, political endeavors, ending up in California. The death of a neighbor of mine, who died from smoking in bed, put our little street briefly on the map as she had been married to James Roosevelt. In spite of it all, Eleanor was possibly the greatest humanitarian of them all. Movienut