At last, a firsthand look at the emotionally charged correspondence between Eleanor Roosevelt and “first friend” Lorena Hickok, believed by many to be the First Lady’s lover.
Streitmatter (Journalism/American Univ.; Mightier Than the Sword, 1997) has collected and annotated more than 300 of the perhaps more than 3,500 letters exchanged by Roosevelt and Hickok between 1933 and 1962, when ER, as she signed herself, died. The letters document that the relationship was not only “intense and intimate, but also passionate and physical,” notes the editor. Hickok destroyed many letters, explaining that the First Lady “wasn’t always so very discreet in her letters to me.” Hickok (a.k.a. Hick) was a talented and successful reporter for the Associated Press, assigned to cover Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 campaign for president. As she also began writing stories about Eleanor, the two grew close. When the First Lady moved into the White House, she began writing Hickok daily, and sometimes twice a day, often beginning “Hick darling” and concluding with words of longing: “I would give a good deal to put my arms around you and to feel yours around me.” Hick’s responses were less effusive, but still affectionate. She also advised the First Lady on how to put her stamp on the White House role, suggesting press conferences and the “My Day” column, and urging her to make the famous coal mine visit. As public and family demands on Eleanor accelerated, her relationship with Hick became more distant. But she remained loyal in Hick’s difficult later years, offering her financial and emotional support.
No graphic descriptions of sexual play, but the cumulative power of these ardent letters makes it hard to believe that Eleanor and Hick’s relationship was “entirely asexual,” as one of the Roosevelt granddaughters insists.