Saturday, November 25, 2017

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn (2016), 404 pages

Eleanor Roosevelt's early years were tough, with an alcoholic father (Elliott, brother to Teddy Roosevelt) and a mother who didn't seem to have maternal feelings towards her. Both parents were dead by the time she was ten years old. Extended family who took her in didn't provide the warmth that Eleanor craved.

Lorena Hickok's early life in South Dakota had its challenges too, with physical abuse from her father that her mother was unable to protect her from, and her mother's death when Hick was thirteen. Only fourteen when her father remarried, Hick was informed by her stepmother that she'd better find another place to live. Hick spent some years struggling for survival, working in various homes and boardinghouses until she was invited by an aunt to move to Chicago and go to high school. After some time in college, Hick became a writer for the Milwaukee Journal, then later for the Minneapolis Tribune and eventually for the Associated Press.

Perhaps their early trials, when shared, helped cement the relationship that began when Hick met with Eleanor Roosevelt to interview her during Franklin Roosevelt's time as governor of New York. During FDR's first presidential campaign, they became close friends, corresponding regularly as well as traveling together. Later, Hick even had a bedroom in the White House. Their correspondence provides much of the framework of this book, in addition to information gathered from the the Roosevelt Library and other sources.

I learned not only about the lives of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, but about many of their associates, and about FDR and many of his associates as well, getting a insider's view of their era.

So, were Eleanor and Hick really lovers? It seems to depend on how you interpret their correspondence. Read this book and see what conclusion you come to!

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