If Only Eleanor Were Here

February 06, 2008

As I was waiting in the bookstore checkout line last night, casually eavesdropping on a Clinton vs. Obama debate the folks behind me were having, I spotted the book Eleanor vs. Ike, by known beltway insider Robin Gerber (of Katherine Graham’s biography fame).

The book is a novel, albeit based on historical fact, with the premise, what if Eleanor Roosevelt had run for president in 1952 against Eisenhower? I remember reading a book of Mrs. R’s column, “My Day,” for a university class and thinking at the time that since so many years had passed since World War II, why wasn’t a woman in the White House? And now, here it is 2008, and the pundits are still asking, Are we ready for a woman?

The fact that Eleanor (I feel she would have let us call her that nowadays) was such a strong advocate for women’s equity issues, that research by AAUW’s own Eleanor Roosevelt Fund has more than once has triggered a national debate on girls and education, makes me wonder what she would think of women’s role in politics today. What do you think?

Now on to chapter 1, page 1, of Eleanor vs. Ike

By:   |   February 06, 2008


  1. Mary Kate Black says:

    Hillary Clinton is Eleanor Roosevelt reincarnate. Eleanor was criticized unmercifully for her teeth, loving black people, loving Jewish people, traveling around for Franklin, and for speaking out. She was accused of being a lesbian because she had women friends, for having a separate residence – for being Eleanor. If she were here today, Eleanor would be speaking out, traveling around and having receptions at her house for Hillary.

  2. HK says:

    I’ve also read various sources that say she was raised to be submissive to men and wasn’t even necessarily for woman suffrage (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eleanor/peopleevents/pande01.html) but in her later years, she obviously took a leading political role in her own right and supported other women in their efforts.
    I found this NYTimes article from 1996 http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A05E2DF1F39F931A15752C0A960958260
    entitled “Hillary Clinton is no Eleanor Roosevelt” that says, “Unlike Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Roosevelt never claimed an independent career, and never touted herself as a feminist. She opposed the Equal Rights Amendment her entire life…” suggesting that perhaps she wouldn’t agree with Hillary running for president. Though the article was comparing both of them as first ladies and Roosevelt progressed a lot since she was first lady. And it’s always tough to make judgments about how people would act outside of their own historical context. If Roosevelt was a contemporary of Clinton, perhaps she would have run for president herself. Who knows?

  3. Elizabeth Bolton says:

    Newsweek recently ran an article about Eleanor Roosevelt and her political prowess, loosely comparing her to Hillary Clinton and suggesting that she desired and held a lot more power and sway than she let on.


    Too bad we “weren’t ready” for a woman president in 1952.

  4. Sandy Kirkpatrick says:

    I’m currently reading a fascinating analysis of this very question, entitled: “Rethinking Madam President: Are We Ready for a Woman in the White House?” edited by Lori Cox Han and Caroline Heldman (2007).

    In the wake of yesterday’s “Super Tuesday” election extravaganza, the chapter by Georgia Duerst-Lahti on “Masculinity on the Campaign Trail” is particularly fascinating and illuminating. After reading it, you gain a whole new perspective and awareness as you listen to and read media coverage of campaigns!

  5. DaveKirkwood says:

    In a speech at the Minnesota History Center, Allida Black provides insight on Eleanor Roosevelt’s power in advancing equity during the 1960 Democratic nomination for the presidential race.

    An interesting “listen” while your doing e-mail.


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