Eleanor & Franklin

"Nobody really does anything alone. We need all the friendship, all the support, we can get."

-Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn By Living, 1960

Eleanor had indirect influence on American policy for twelve years through her husband Franklin Roosevelt. He seemed to consider her his equal and his confidante. As Anna Rosenberg said, “[Franklin] would never have become the kind of President that he was without her”2. As Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “they made an extraordinary team. She was more earnest, less devious, less patient, less fun, more uncompromisingly moral; he possessed the more trustworthy political talent, the more finely tuned sense of timing, the better feel for citizenry, the smarter understanding of how to get things done... But they were linked by indissoluble bonds and they drew strength from each other”3.

Furthermore, Eleanor's direct influence on the President came through "the Eleanor basket": a small basket that sat under Roosevelt's night table in which Eleanor placed "memoranda, communications, and reports for the president to read-a sort of private post office between husband and wife."4 She persuaded him to take a more active stance on civil rights, on integrating the armed forces, and many other issues that she thought needed addressing.

It was Eleanor who kept Franklin involved in politics, when, after being stricken with polio in 1929, was forced to retreat from public life. Under the persuasion of her friend Louis Howe, she kept Franklin's name alive as a contender in the Democratic Party by joining women's division of the Democratic State Committee. And while it was Franklin's name that she was spreading, it was her ideas and beliefs that she was discussing.5

"I think that sometimes I acted as his conscience. I urged him to take the harder path when he would have preferred the easier way. In that sense I acted as a spur, even if the spurring was not always wanted or welcome." -Eleanor Roosevelt "My dear, I don't care if the President runs for the third or fourth term as long as he lets you run the bases, keep the score and win the game." -NAACP head Walter White to Eleanor Roosevelt

Home | During Her Time | Modern Influence