Saturday, February 26, 2011

Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage

I saw this new book, by Hazel Rowley, while I was in New York, but just bought it on Kindle last month. I've long been fascinated by Eleanor, who accomplished so much in an era when women were decidedly limited in what they were "allowed" to do by society at large.

Theirs was a fascinating marriage, seemingly built on a real love and affection for each other, not to mention an abiding respect for each other's opinions. That's not to say it was an easy marriage by any account. She had to contend with Franklin's overbearing and overprotective mother, who paid the bills and who was present for much of their marriage.

They both had to deal with Franklin's polio and resulting paralysis, which threatened everything - his life, his ability to earn a living, his political ambitions. It is amazing to think, in this era of cell phone cameras and instant access on the Internet, that the vast majority of the country had no idea that FDR was even disabled, let alone paralyzed to the point that he couldn't walk without leg braces and assistance. The family asked the press to keep it quiet, and, out of respect, they did. Such a thing would NEVER happen these days.

Both Franklin and Eleanor had multiple affairs; Franklin kicking things off with one that almost ended the marriage. Even after his paralysis, Franklin had emotional, if not physical, affairs with several women, including one, Missy LeHand, who lived and traveled with the family. Eleanor seemed to accept that this was a part of her husband's character.

She also had long-term relationships with both men and women. There's no record on whether they were more than emotional, but she traveled and lived with women who were known lesbians. She also had a close relationship with one of her bodyguards and did not react well when he decided to marry.

Both Franklin and Eleanor seemed to need more than they could get out of the marriage, as loving as it may have been.

She was truly distraught when Franklin died, and even more heartbroken when she found out that his former mistress, the one who almost caused them to get divorced, was with Franklin when he died. Even more heartbreaking was the realization that many people know Franklin had rekindled the relationship and they had hidden it from her.

I was impressed with how much Eleanor accomplished on her own, separate from her husband. She was a remarkable woman in her own right.

1 comment:

Just Mom said...

Makes you wonder if the amount of information we have access to today is as much problem as solution. FDR would never have survived in today's media slaughter.