Eleanor. By David Michaelis

P. 82. Auntie Bye to Eleanor. “ You will never be able to please everyone. No matter what you do, my dear, some people are going to criticize you. But don’t forget what they say upset you. Just be entirely sure that you would not be ashamed to explain your actions to someone you love and who loves you. And if you are satisfied in your mind that you are right, then you need never worry about criticism.”

P. 129. Louis Howe was Franklin’s proxy when Franklin had typhoid fever and was running for NY state senate. His strategy became known as the “blank check rescue” as Franklin trusted him so much even though Eleanor found Howe quite opposite in demeanor and attractability as a candidate. Howe’s main strategy, “was the old trick of turning the candidates weakness (unavailability, hauter, insincerity) toward strength (personal contact, authenticity, warmth). Rushing st things half-cocked letting his wnthusiasm run away with him, Franklin appeared too easily swayed. Louis’s air of authority, his acumen, and especially the deep focus of his intelligence, balanced Roosevelt’s impulsiveness and made Franklin’s arrogance read like youthful idealism.”

Like CLawton and I. 

131. President Wilson’s new secretary of navy was to select his new deputy. Upon recommending Franklin to Wilson first, he then got recommendations from Roosevelt’s colleagues in NYC senate. One, Elihu Root’s, “face took on a queer look … “you (do) KNOW the Roosevelt’s don’t you?” He’d seen T.R. “Ride in front.” It didn’t matter who was in charge – “being the lead horse in any team” was the Roosevelt way. Daniel’s replied that an assistant secretary of the navy with a mind of his own could only strengthen a chief wise enough not to fear his subordinate. But Root was vehement, “Every person named Roosevelt wishes to run everything and [will] try to be the Secretary,”

143. Upon Germany invading neutral Belgium heading toward France, the early WWI, FDR said, “A complete smash up is inevitable. These are history making days. It will be the greatest war in the world’s history.” He had the trick, already, of turning crisis and alarm into confidence and dash. …. (Similarly after resounding defeat for NY Senator he “huddled with Louis Howe about turning a senatorial defeat into an executives victory. FDRs heroic potential rested on his being THE Chief, not A lawmaker. He had fallen short, but not of the office he felt he had been born to assume. His eye was still on the prize. “It would be wonderful,” he told a friend, “to be a war President of the United States.””

175. “men and women alike had a powerful sense of being essential to Franklin, believing themselves to have been granted access to the real, hidden FDR Of struggle and need-when they were really only seeing Franklin Roosevelt bouncing people back at themselves, generating heat. For Eleanor, this was heat that itched in her hair. “I can’t forgive, “she would often say in later years, “but I cannot forget. “

202-3. Be aware of who is on the team. Perhaps who you’d lead, but maybe they carry MORE expertise in the specific content area than you. YOU may be the better leader (coach; point guard), they better with content/task (shooting guard).

203. Eleanor wanted to become an effective person, no longer a second fiddle type role. Her mother in law offered/liaised a position for her as treasurer on a board. Eleanor declined and took a harder, better role elsewhere. When her mother in law then got her an invite to a sewing circle of VIP ladies, a circle going back to Grant!, Eleanor “cunningly became a member. She would never get Mamas approval for any step toward her own independence, but she knew when to cut her losses and by attending the Monday Sewing Circle’s monthly meeting, she released herself and her conscience from obligation to the women she had spent fifteen years trying to please.”

215. Transformation – rising – dying and rising from the ashes of Franklin’s polio and her own uncertainty…..”I became a much more ardent citizen and feminist than anyone about me in the intermediate years would have dreamed possible.” We must not be limited by the past and those who can’t think/imagine (Glennen Doyle style) beyond … who can’t journey with us to our frontiers….

P. 217-18. After contracting polio, Franklin faced a number of choices. Sara, his mother, wanted to move him to “her” home, Hyde Park, where he could be in the library, “with his books and stamps and ship models arrayed around him Franklin could write a history of his naval hero John Paul Jones.” Certainly, “as a boy, playing his mother to get what he wanted, talking at a remove from the truth, Franklin had learned to keep inconvenient facts concealed. Recovery from paralysis meant being at one or two removes from loved ones. The new Franklin had no intention of being shut away upriver – sailor-suited into his mother’s clutches. “I am not going to be conquered,” he emphasized,, “by a childish disease.” No longer would he imitate, step-by-step his uncle Ted in ascending to power – nor would he be “his mother’s believed invalid. He had the chance now to let go of who he thought he should be.”

220. Upon his becoming a “cripple,” who surely couldn’t become President…”Yet few grasped as she did that Franklin always did exactly what he wanted. No matter what he was told, especially by the experts with whom he appeared to agree, he did things his way.”….she also understood, now more than ever, that if he was to be Franklin Roosevelt, he had no alternative to high office.”

219 – with his neurotic controlling mom, and his “always doing what he wanted” while appearing to agree with experts who said otherwise and his being so winsome…. WAS THERE EVER AN EIGHT MORE EIGHTISH?!?! And do “moms like that just make eights?

P. 224. Speak straight. Down to earth. With, “the unusualness of plain speaking.” …”Have something to say; say it, and sit down.” Louis Lowe’s advice to all, and particularly Eleanor as women were looked on as superfluous, and yet women listeners cut through BS faster then men and wanted just “facts, facts, more facts.” Also particularly to Eleanor because of her hearing-loss-induced voice exacerbated by nerves leading to high-pitch with odd giggling.

P. 228. At their best, neither Roosevelt, “fit into any system.” This is the way of 8s; iconoclasts; independents.

P. 233. FDR was a “horror” as he “slithered” across the floor with him arms, dragging his body during a fire drill. Subsequently, Eleanor would assess every room for fire exits and safety as, “her long service as accessory to Franklin’s youthful egoism, immature receptions, adult untruths – all would now gradually expire…”

Family – relationships, relations, emotional immaturity all over….from every single character…

P. 236. [Context: Winter of 1923, I think?,} …”the first primitive winter of Franklin’s recover, when the household on East Sixty-Fifth Street had split into hostile factions as sixteen-year-old Anna was egged on by Sara [Franklin’s mother] to wage war on her mother and Louis Howe {Franklin’s political right hand]. “The most trying winter of my life,” Eleanor called it.”

[Eleanor gave Howe the bedroom closest to Franklin’s to facilitate their daily check-in – previously this was Anna’s room. Sara “stepped in an whispered to her granddaughter that it was unfair that she should be banished to a tiny fourth-floor room when “that dirty little man,” as Sara still called Louis, had the run of hers.”

“Anna’s response was harsh, as a teenager’s might be. What angered her far more than Louis Howe taking over her bedroom was Louis Howe sending her harried and already neglectful mother out of the house and into a public life that, for now, only he could share with her.”

Here is a teenager,

wanting a mom who is absent/neglectful

a mom who is walking roads away from home,

and whose dad has been decimated by illness

and is consumed with not his teenager…

“Anna, along with Elliott and James, blamed Louis Howe for “moving mother into the spotlight of public life.” How was the villain who had persuaded Eleanor she had a “higher destiny than merely being a mother,” and now Anna could not count on her emotionally.”

“”She would be very loving and friendly, and then next moment when you’d think she still was loving and friendly, she’d be very critical, very demanding, very difficult to be with.”

“”As if,” reflected Anna, “some battle were going on inside herself.””

“Going silent was still Eleanor’s one weapon………..WRITE MORE B

P. 241-2. “Eleanor was now giving speeches everywhere…[amazing transformation from a speech-impediment with “giggles” generally not taken seriously and very frustrated with herself!] …”Our generation allowed dreadful things to happen, but the same things will happen in your generation, and you must by educated to meet these new problems,” she told her audience of three hundred twenty-one-year-olds that war would be their problem, too, because statesmen all to often missed their chance to keep the peace: “Somehow, they feel they might be looked up on as cowardly should they inaugurate such a movement.” After all, she submitted, “It is bornin every little boy to fight – to use his fists.” Women, therefore, must be the ones to use their heads. She advised “developing a world mind” to think globally…”

The below is adapted into the M=M+M philosophy of Still Creek: Magnified impact = much focus + many projects.

  • worked weekends at the League of Women Votes,
  • raised money for the Women’s Trade Union League’s new clubhouse,
  • and dug in deeper on new findings for the Consumers’ League.
  • As a legislative director of the bipartisan Women’s City Club of New York,
  • she stood-up for
    • child labor laws,
    • workmen’s compensation,
    • and the adoption of an amendment to the Penal Law legalizing the distribution of birth control among married couples.

P. 242. Between speeches, Eleanor:

  • …she made clean, practical arguments for
    • a literacy rate at least as high as tohat of Japan
    • for children released from factories to be sent tos chools
    • for mothers and bibes made safe from preventable falities.

MEANWHILE……So, here is a broken marriage in action???? Was this necessary in order for both of them to put all their energy into their impact…..does one really have to decide “who one will cheat – marriage or work?” (A. Stanley), or, instead, can marriage be both a focus-for-fruit where one works for impact as well as also, as a result, a source/root from which impact can spring?

P. 242. “Guilty about her new life in politics, she assured Franklin that she was the merest of stand-ins, as everyone awaited the star’s comeback. “I’m only being active till you can be again,” she disclaimed. “It isn’t such a great desire on my part to serve the world & I’ll fall back into habits of sloth quite easily! Hurry up for as you know my ever-present sense of the uselessness of all things will overwhelm me sooner or later!” She closed, “My love to Missy, & to you.”

A life mainly apart revealed glimpses of benefit to both: “I could see they had a good understanding,” observed the writer Gabrielle Forebush after dinner with the Roosevelts. “It showed int he way FDR looked at her and she at him, as they said good-bye. He was really proud of her and said something in her praise as she went out.” And when Sara pinned her stiff little smile on Eleanor’s back, say, “Yes, my daughter-in-law is so busy,” Franklin pushed right in with an appreciative word for his wife.”

P. 248. After polio, FDR could not portray weakness. His pre-polio behavior was, “impetuous, insubordinate,” fast. During his return/ascendency after polio, he was “mellow and unhurried. “He keeps smiling all day long,” reported the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which proclaimed FDR, “the brightest spot in the convention,” adding, “It is generally believed that were Mr. Roosevelt in good physical condition he would be nominated in short order.” He gave the famous “Happy Warrior” nominating speech that day at noon – eight crutch borne steps to the podium, aided by Jimmy’s rigid right arm. A misstep, a flailing fall, would have been the end of his public life. “I was afraid, and I know he was, too,” recalled Jimmy….One his hands found wood to grip at the rostrum, the world paused with him….” and he “drew down” the sun and “ignited a firestorm of sound and fury” during a speech which was a “miracle” or perhaps closer to “an hour or so stolen from his sickness.” [After which the delegates emotionally resonated with him].

In other words, FDR ascended to the presidency by:

  1. Initially being a full 8 – fast, impetuous, insubordinate.
  2. Experiencing the Wall.
  3. Leaning into being a Visionary Leader, not a “productive, self-strong” one, but one that appealed emotionally, etc.

He began to catch more flies with honey while inwardly leaning harder than even into being an eight, moving even faster, being even more impetuous and independent – so, being what people wanted/needed/would-only-stand-to-see, while inwardly leaning in harder than ever to being an 8.

“Before polio, he had smiled “from the teeth out.” NO, in public, his … smile makes the strain in his eyes … [his pipe/cigarette holder served his need] to smile through clenched teeth, and the holder enabled him to lift his chin and throw his head back, signaling a confidence and hope that recast him in the world’s imagination as a figure of Atlas-like strength. The big brave man who “beats the weight of his country on a smile.””

P. 267.

P. 253. “Her power [in the geometric relationship between Nan, Marion and herself], however, did not reach full strength until she could feel the charge of helping them get what they needed….” Eleanor bought, then took over/handed-over-to-Marion the Todhunter School. This was a full realization of Eleanor as a 2 on behalf of Marion who always wanted to do this, but needed the help/push/money/8, to get there. Eleanor built/equipped the furniture factory at Val-Kill including hiring workers, etc. This was a full realization of Eleanor as a 2 on behalf of Nan. “She revered Nan’s talent, her “inventive genius,” Eleanor called it. Building a furniture factory was Eleanor’s way of doing for Nan what Eleanor would have done for her if Nan could have been “the one and only great love” of her life. She needed to show Nan that despite her own ever-more-public service, she cared about the work and the privacy Nan loved so much. She needed the factory to justify … what sshe had “done” to Sara by moving out of the Big House…the “guilt she felt ove rthe fact that she had built her own cottage,” said Anna, “and hadd done so because she wanted to get away from Granny.””

On being a VP, Vice President, right-hand person to the leader:

P. 255. Both Franklin and Eleanor “each had a resolutely devoted cornerman – Louis Howe, master strategist, in the shadows when Franklin won, right out front when he lost; Malvina “Tommy” Thompson, Eleanor’s sharp-edged executive secretary, the choke-point in years to come, cutting off the stream of demands and requests so that Eleanor could function. Both…knew pain, sorrow, bitterness – the things that Franklin and Eleanor could not publicly acknowledge.”

On parenting, growing as a parent:

P. 255. “Her children vexed her no less. Instead of fewer problems as the grew older, it seemed their problems only became greater; and as Eleanor got older, she realized that there was littlethat she could do. She decided that the best place for her as a mother was as an uncritical presence inthe background. All she could do with the boys was to have them know that her love was unchangeable. “Life does about as much disciplining as poor human nature can stand.” [When Anna married the much older Curtis Bean Dall, for whom Sara orchestrated things to reveal his “true caste function: He was Anna’s husband, but he worked for Granny” as another co-signer for her money. Here, Eleanor, “didn’t try to do what other mothers would have done,” observed Esther Lape, “combatting the engagement indirectly by making other things more attractive. Eleanor never thought she could lead children’s lives for them” even though, “as time would prove, Dall was Anna’s vote for the power of Granny” [in the Sara VS Eleanor power struggle].

Note: DW does a tremendous job of parenting, guiding, holding-hands, letting children be free, as she embodies the best of “never thinking she could lead children’s lives for them.

P. 259. As FDR’s eventual (inevitable?) ascent to Governor of NY proceeded, “Eleanor knew Franklin needed administrative training. If he was ever to be president of the United States, experience as chief executive of the Empire State would be as critical as his apprenticeship at the Navy Department had been.” Planning for the Long Game.

P. 261. As Eleanor organized and led women’s movement-work “in forty-eight states and four territories” the work that needed to be done was “so vasty that the modesty of Eleanor’s office, as well as the energy that dynamized her executive habits, surprised people. Every day, from eight in the morning to midnight, she worked without limit, a far-sighted, highly intelligent, and loyal boss. She avoided power struggles…, while coordinating activates with hundreds of Democratic women, sending and answering mail, setting up and staffing committees, dispatching women leaders to regional headquarters, and giving luncheons, teas, and dinners at East Sixty-Fifth Street for visiting business and professional women. “Mrs. Roosevelt can do at least six different things at one time without getting her wires crossed” (261). The Vetter Hour.

P. 261. In contrast to an arrogant, removed, superior leadership style of her own boss, Belle Moskowitz, to whom “no one at headquarters felt they could even do enough to meet Belle’s exacting high standards. Eleanor, by contrast, became known as the colleague you worked with, not for. No unfair top-down decisions, Never a sharp word. She gave clear, definite answers to complicated questions and her instructions and orders were always explicit. She did not interfere in an assistant’s work, or dictate to subordinates. “Working together is her idea of working,” said one. [This may be the only path to the fruits of True Leadership, as:] “Unrewarded activity has a striking authority” (p. 262). [Also, fruit like: “a series of protegees who embodied Eleanor’s own society-to-politics crossover” (p. 262).

[As to her leadership style:] “She asked everyone in the room to consider … the fundamental issues of the presidential campaign …” “the three great processes that have to do with human progress. They are: think, feel, and act. “So far, we are still in the thinking process of the campaign. Before we begin to feel we must increase our knowledge so that we might look at the issues and judge them in a nationwide way [the Global Thinking of a leader – J. Driessner], not think about ourselves but the whole country and all peoples. With increased knowledge we will set our imaginations to work so that we will understand and feel that which we know.””

[Eleanor’s consideration of Global Thinking/Leadership can be seen in her reflections about Hoover as food administrator in the Wilson administration. He led, “the women of the nation at the time they needed to be led. Then, of course, the wonderful work in Europe. Feeding the people who needed to be fed. But she had always wondered, why had the Great Humanitarian never gone “any further back of what he had done?

[Go Further Back; Learn WHY]

He never learned the reason why the government had come to that state where we had to feed Europe. He never thought out a solution to the problem.” She contrasted Hoover’s “one-track mind,” his shallow indirection, with Smith’s broad-minded, direct approach to problems such as responding to the national crime wave by introducing new housing legislation. “He saw that no citizen growing up in a crowded condition could develop normally and be good.” Smith, declared Eleanor, “goes back to the roots of things.”

P. 265-266

[Meanwhile, as to her own development], “Eleanor had come to enjoy the way Al Smith embodied the freewheeling new politics of the twenties. He was not just the Happy Warrior; he was joyful in his takedowns, he got charmingly mad, and it rubbed off on Eleanor, licensing her to stop being afraid of her own aggression” (P. 263).

P. 264-265. [She would not interfere as Franklin chose, essentially, future Governor and Presidency over his own health and his family:} “I never interfere. I would not. It would seem to me I would have no more right to say Mr. Roosevelt could or could not run, than he would to tell me I could not teach. It is a terrible thing,” she said, “to interfere with other peoples lives. We all have the right to our own decisions: we all must live our own lives, no matter to whom we are related” (p. 265).

“As a member of the more broadminded Rockefeller-funded Housing Association of the City of New York, Eleanor championed better low-cost lodging among the poor and the aging.  She inspected tenement neighborhoods, making recommendations for upgrades and fought to see improvements enacted with or without Franklin’s gubernatorial endorsement.  In their new working partnership, she felt empowered by the squaring of their strengths: “I knew about social conditions, perhaps more than he did.  But he knew about government and how you could use government to improve things” (p. 273).

As Franklin moved toward inauguration, Eleanor became more and more active in social service/speaking/profile and less like the “tame, quiet, presidential-housewife,” leading to significant increase in vitriolic and very ugly criticism and comments. To which she responded as, “she took care to pitch her voice lower and to shut down the slide-whistle glissando-giggle that seemed to cause greatest offense. Personal criticism occasionally annoyed or hurt her, but she disciplined herself to the same indifference with which her first political guru, Auntie Bye, had taught her to turn from purely partisan attacks by depending on her own conscience. The trick was to look herself straight in the eye. “If you are honest,” said Eleanor, “you will always be your own most severe critic” (p 282-3).

“No one respects the funny guy. They like him. But no family/group respect the funny guy.

My “lower tone, stop glissando laugh,” step = I need to speak at a normal volume; don’t let them raise my voice; don’t over react to the gravely whisper or the weak voice.

I definitely need to stop; breathe; take a half-second to look myself in the eye, honestly, and BE my own most severe critic.”