Steve Neal has collected, in Eleanor and Harry, the correspondence between Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. The 254 letters were written between April 16, 1945 (four days after FDR's death), and mid-December, 1960 (23 months before Eleanor Roosevelt's death). While many of the letters are brief and quotidian, a good number of them concern large issues, both global and national, among them the restoration of post-war Europe; the Korean War; the role and effectiveness of the nascent United Nations (Roosevelt served the Truman administration as a member of the U.S. delegation to the General Assembly); the fraught, mercurial jostling of the cold war; and Democratic Party appointments. Though the two hardly saw eye-to-eye on all issues, their letters were unfailingly respectful. Neal provides a context for many of these letters, which he arranges chronologically. As well, he has written a brief introduction and epilogue, and a helpful, if basic, bibliography. --H. O'Billovich
From Publishers Weekly
Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman enjoyed a relationship unique in American history. Virtually strangers before the death of FDR, afterward the two became close friends and began exchanging letters on everything from their health and the weather to Democratic politics and global communism. Now, in this collection of over 250 of their letters ably edited and introduced by Chicago Sun-Times political columnist Neal (Harry and Ike), the full extent of their friendship finally becomes apparent. Truman, Neal makes clear, admired Mrs. Roosevelt greatly, calling her the "First Lady of the World." She, in turn, thought he was a "good man" and wanted to help him however she could. But the two also disagreed on many issues, and Mrs. Roosevelt was never shy about expressing her opinion. In her letters, she rebuked Truman for the "loyalty boards" designed to root out communists (he later agreed with her) and shamed him into investigating discrimination against Japanese-Americans. For his part, Truman staunchly defended his support of noncommunist regimes in Greece and Turkey (the beginnings of the "Truman Doctrine") and delicately asserted that she was too naive about Stalinist Russia. Yet Truman also trusted Mrs. Roosevelt immensely, and told her things he could tell few others ("The difficulties with Churchill are very nearly as exasperating as they are with the Russians," he wrote after the frustrating negotiations to end the war). On her end, Mrs. Roosevelt never hesitated to offer kindness and support. "My congratulations on your courage... you have done the right thing," she wrote to Truman after he fired General MacArthur. These are letters without parallel. As Neal points out, just try to imagine Jacqueline Kennedy and LBJ writing these letters, or George H.W. Bush and Nancy Reagan. This collection is a valuable contribution to early Cold War scholarship, as well as a fascinating window into two titanic figures in American history.
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