My Day: The Best of Eleanor Roosevelt's Acclaimed Newspaper Columns, 1936 - 1962
from “My Day” The Best of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Acclaimed Newspaper Columns, 1936-1962, David Emblidge Editor; Introduction by Blanche Wiessen Cook, Da Capo Press, 2000
In a contest to determine who among all of Eleanor Roosevelt's colleagues and friends admired her most, probably Adlai Stevenson would have won. Adlai and Eleanor shared certain habits of mind and character. Both were passionately rational; both were doggedly loyal to one another and to the liberal cause; both had a certain distaste for the hurly-burly of backroorn politics, yet both had what so many politicians lack completely: vision. Stevenson and Roosevelt shared a sense that the world community in their time had sunk lower in terms of moral turpitude and had risen higher in terms of aspirations to achieve peace and fairness than ever before. Each struggled to reconcile the extremes of the century they called their own (the Holocaust, for example, on the one hand, the realization of civil rights, on the other). Eleanor Roosevelt and Governor Stevenson vibrated to the same string. In his capacity as UN ambassador, and as her friend, Adlai delivered the eulogy for her in the UN General Assembly. Paraphrasing a Chinese proverb Eleanor herself loved to quote, he said of her: "She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness. Her light has brought warmth to all the world. "
"My Day" was but one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s many productive activities. A truly full portrait of Mrs. Roosevelt shows her not only as writer but also as mother, presidential adviser, social reformer, diplomat, world traveler, political activist, philanthropist, philosopher, gardener-knitter-homemaker, and lifelong student. Like all great heroines, the story of her life enlarges the scope of our own. Here indeed was the fully realized person Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman had sought after in their transcendentalist calls for true Self-Reliance. Eleanor Roosevelt was, if anything, fully awake and alive.
Her biographer and friend Joseph Lash perhaps summarized best why Mrs. Roosevelt was so singularly impressive. Reviewing her years of devoted, indefatigable work for so many good causes and on behalf of so many individuals, Lash remarked that “many of her fellow workers of those days have yielded to age, disillusionment, conformity and comfort." Not so with Mrs. Roosevelt, said Lash, for even in her last busy days Eleanor remained as much as ever "the tribune of the dispossessed and the keeper of the country's conscience."
© David Emblidge, 2000