CASTING HER OWN SHADOW: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism by Allida M. Black

CASTING HER OWN SHADOW: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Eleanor Roosevelt receives her due as a leading influence on recent American liberal thought. Roosevelt spent much of her life laboring in the shadow of her husband, president of the US for an unprecedented 13 years. In the 17 years remaining to her after his death, when she no longer had to defer to his political requirements, Roosevelt reveled in developing what Black (History/George Washington Univ.) calls ""the expertise necessary to build a legacy of her own."" Black ably emphasizes the key points of that legacy, among them an enduring commitment to civil rights and women's issues, which Roosevelt had been pressing since the 1920s. Long a political activist and writer--her opinion pieces and journalism ran in such venues as Redbook, the New York Times, and the North American Review--Roosevelt had early on established a reputation of her own; Black makes the interesting claim that, thanks to her writing, Roosevelt was better known than her husband when he entered national politics, and she shows how Roosevelt maintained her own identity even as her husband's advisors urged her to keep a lower profile. Black's book is weakened somewhat by its organization, which focuses on themes at the expense of chronological development, but it is nonetheless a thoughtful study in Roosevelt's sophisticated political ideas, including her embracing definition of multicultural democracy well before such an idea became current. Black covers Roosevelt's work in dismantling racism, promoting full employment and worker's rights, and combating the excesses of the Red Scare era. She also quotes widely from Roosevelt's written work, reminding readers of her subject's commonsensical and good-humored approach to the issues of the day. In Black's useful account, Roosevelt resembles no one so much as Hillary Clinton, whose recent work as a politician and newspaper columnist recapitulates Roosevelt's own career--and who, as a political wife, has been similarly reviled and similarly admired for holding ideas of her own.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1996
Page count: 271pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.