In The Footsteps of Eleanor Roosevelt

I have been researching the life of Eleanor Roosevelt for a new middle-grade novel I am writing set in the 1930s. Although Eleanor didn’t live in an era of computers and the internet she might be considered a forerunner of today’s bloggers. In a way, those of us who blog online daily are following in Eleanor’s pioneering footsteps.

When famed photographer Yousuf Karsh took Eleanor Roosevelt’s picture in 1944 he had her pose with a pencil in hand to indicate that in addition to the many other roles she played in life she was also a writer.

From December of 1935 until September of 1962 Eleanor wrote a syndicated column called My Day in which she chronicled her daily life. Her articles were published six days a week and appeared in some ninety different newspapers.

Although she began in 1935 by writing about the activities of her family and the interesting people she met, later her daily entries also offered her ideas about issues like prohibition and the growing popularity of televisions. She didn’t shy away from expressing her opinions about America’s entry into World War II, the development of the atomic bomb, the Cold War, American Civil Rights, anti-Semitism and space travel.

Eleanor continued writing her column after she and her husband Franklin Roosevelt left the White House, after the former President died, and during the time Eleanor served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. She only stopped writing her daily reflections a couple of months before her death.

I am in the process of reading all of the columns published in September and October of 1936 which is the time period pertinent to my manuscript.

Eleanor’s topics during those two months range from taking one of her children to the dentist to have their wisdom teeth extracted to her observations about the futility and carnage of the civil war raging in Spain.

One day she may eloquently defend the need to encourage young people to be critical thinkers and a few days later describe how she had to heat water in a frying pan on a family camping trip because she’d forgotten the kettle.

She may offer a serious and critical review of the latest book she is reading in an entry, and then talk about her trepidation watching her young granddaughter riding a rather large horse.

Eleanor Roosevelt at work at her typewriter

One thing I noted in the September 1936 columns was Mrs Roosevelt’s difficulties trying to make sure her typewriter came with her wherever she went so she could write her daily columns. She probably would have appreciated today’s laptop computers.

Long before daily blogs became popular Eleanor Roosevelt was writing a daily blog of sorts for the newspaper.

Eleanor kept up her ritual of a daily entry for nearly thirty years.

I’ve been writing my blog What Next for just over a decade now. I wonder if I will be able to match Mrs Roosevelt’s record.

Other posts……….

Writing Is the Way I Think and Remember

The Joy of FreeLancing

Pandemic Pastimes

2 Comments

Filed under History, Writing

2 responses to “In The Footsteps of Eleanor Roosevelt

  1. I really enjoyed hearing more about Eleanor. It really struck me that she had her daily column and shared her daily life. It seems I am always struggling to some degree with how much to share and what is appropriate. My thought after reading your blog, “maybe some of us are called to write about the everyday experience of being human where we are, it would be overwhelming if everyone did it, but not everyone does it.” I am sitting in an air bnb on the harbor in Victoria. So thankful for my laptop. Eleanor was committed lugging her typewriter around!

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    • Thanks for this Kathy. It offers a good perspective. Lucky you are in Victoria. My brother moved there during the pandemic and we went in October. It was a lovely place to explore even though the weather wasn’t ideal for our visit. I can hardly wait to make a return trip.

      Like

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