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Empty Without You: The Intimate Letters Of Eleanor Roosevelt And Lorena Hickok Paperback – September 20, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; annotated edition edition (September 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306809982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306809989
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In June 1932, pioneering newswoman Lorena Hickok was assigned to FDR's presidential campaign by the Associated Press. To her surprise, she found Eleanor Roosevelt taking special notice of her. As their friendship grew, Hickok's devotion to the future first lady so overcame her scruples that she sent drafts of her articles to the head of Roosevelt's campaign for approval. After the election, the women began the passionate correspondence--cheerful and diary-like on Eleanor's side, and stormy on Lorena's--presented here. As suggestive as these letters seemed when they came to light in 1978, they don't demonstrate conclusively whether the women had a sexual affair, only that they became, for three or four years, each other's "dearest." They kissed and caressed each other and dreamt of a life together away from Washington. What is more significant is that these years marked Eleanor Roosevelt's transformation from a supportive wife to an independent political force, and the letters show Hickok's advice and encouragement to be essential to that transformation. Only with Hickok's support did the first lady gain confidence for her remarkable achievements in race relations and expanded roles for women. Good footnotes supplement the text, but the bland introductory notes can be skipped in favor of the women's story in their own words. --Regina Marler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Having fought her way to the top of the news room, AP reporter Lorena Hickok refused to write women's page pieces on Eleanor Roosevelt when she was assigned to cover FDR's campaign for governor of New York in 1928. By the time FDR ran for president, his wife had become one of his most trusted political advisers, and it was inevitable that she and Hickok ("Hick") would meet. Their fascinating correspondence is a testimonial not only to a passionate (and at one time undoubtedly physical) relationship, but to both women's remarkable intelligence and humanity. Eleanor's letters record much: her daily routine; her role as mother; her love for Hick; and her unabashed views on politics, racism, poverty, war and women's roles. Eleanor redefined the role of first lady from model housewife to political adviser and, with Hick's help, she wrote articles and eventually her own syndicated column. For her part, Hick, fearing conflict of interest, gave up her job at AP and took a position in the Roosevelt administration as a relief investigator. But she missed reporting, and the long hours of travel also undermined her confidence in her relationship with Eleanor. The letters speak of botched attempts at privacy, disrupted plans and endless apologies from Eleanor, but their relationship endured, evolving from one of lovers to one of devoted friends. The editorial comments are minimal (mostly constrained to prologue, epilogue and notes highlighting the fairly obvious passages indicating a physical relationship). Still, on its own this collection provides not only a heart-wrenching and personal look at a friendship but also a unique view of a turbulent time in American history.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Candace Scott on March 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Those who denies the strong sexual overtones in these letters must be repressed or absurdly committed to the idea that Eleanor Roosevelt had to have been unequivocally heterosexual. Never mind that by the time she met Hickock, her physical relationship with FDR had been dead for over a decade, not to be revived. Had these letters been penned by a man to a woman, there would be no fuss, but because we're dealing with two females, the fur flies.
Eleanor and Hick loved each other, that's patently obvious from the letters. To me it seems quite apparent there was a sexual relationship as well... so what? FDR had Lucy Mercer in the 1910's and Missy LeHand was his "companion" from 1922-1940, but Eleanor should be relegated to permanent "lonely" status?
Even if you don't care about the gossip-y element of this book, it's moderately interesting from a social perspective, particularly if you are interested in 1930's history or mores. There are remarkably few references to Franklin Roosevelt in the correspondence, which might speak volumes for Eleanor's priorities at this time.
An interesting book, well edited and entertaining.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Earlier biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok often include vigorous denials about the implications of these letters. "It's not what it sounds like," we have been told. So it's refreshing to have these 300 letters collected and commented on by someone not afraid of homosexual implications. Editor Rodger Streitmatter also provides brief biographical and historical information to put the letters in the context of the times. * Streitmatter tries to let the letters speak for themselves, but perhaps he should have tried harder. He has prefaced most of the letters with an explanatory paragraph, and although these are mostly helpful, I became tired of having him point out the paragraph or sentence in which something particularly intimate or revealing would be said. * Streitmatter also has used the term "first friend" as an identifier for Hickok, parallel to "first lady." Not only does this seem a bit too cute, but also, from what we learn about Hickok, it's exactly the kind of designation that would have driven her up the wall. * Overall, though, the book is a revealing and well-balanced portrait of these women's relationship. Whether their relationship was physically sexual or not, it's clear from their letters that they loved each other.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an avid reader of all things Roosevelt, I was rather disappointed in Rodger Streitmatter's Empty Without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. The story of how Eleanor and Lorena (Hick) became such intimate friends (maybe even physically intimate) is a fascinating one. Hick was a hard-nosed AP reporter who had a successful 20 year career in a profession dominated almost exclusively by men. In the course of covering FDR's first campaign, she found a kindred spirit in Eleanor. Both women were needy: they both had tough childhoods, suffered humiliations and tragedies, and were deeply wounded by those they loved. They struck up a lifelong friendship, although the intensity of this relationship waned after the first 3 years. During the course of this friendship, they wrote each other almost every day, and sometimes more than one letter in a day. Hick also lived at the White House for some of this time.
What I found so disappointing about Empty Without You is that out of the many thousands of letters that Eleanor and Hick exchanged throughout their lifetime, Hick destroyed a good many of them-especially those letters from the beginning of their relationship when it was the most intense. There are not many surprises here, and those few that allow a peak at their level of intimacy have been extensively quoted in other Roosevelt books. Also, I found that the story itself is rather depressing. Hick gave Eleanor the knowledge and power to recast the job of First Lady so that Eleanor could better achieve her own political agenda. She encouraged Eleanor to give weekly news conferences with only women reporters invited. She also prodded Eleanor to start writing newspaper columns-monthly at first, and then her daily My Day column that ran for 27 years.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Margaret A. Moore on October 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
This well-edited book definitely preserves the intimacy of the relationship between ER and Hick. Regardless of your personal interpretation of their relationship, the book makes for fascinating reading. There are many "behind the scenes" details of the workings of the New Deal and other social and political events of the time. This book is nothing less than fascinating.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By abqbeach on December 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Eleanor Roosevelt has been an inspiration ever since I was a young girl, a terrific role model for political activists, humanitarians, and women and girls of all ages. But she is often portrayed in biographies (excepting Blanche Wiesen Cook's wonderful recent work) as a cold fish in her personal life. This is one of the reasons that any fan of ER should read these letters. ER is passionate, caring, needy, annoyed - real emotions from a real woman. We also get a look at Lorena Hickok - Hick - beyond the stereotypes, as a woman deeply in love and troubled by the lack of an exclusive relationship.
One problem I have with the book, though, is not letting whole letters speak for themselves, revealing more of the political discussions that seem to have been a big part of both women's lives and their attraction to one another. Were they lovers? They were certainly "in love," and regardless of where they drew the physical line, this book reveals foremothers any woman, lesbians included, should be proud to claim.
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