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
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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.
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