THE ROOSEVELT WOMEN by Betty Boyd Caroli


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It was ideas and ideals that drove the Roosevelt women, particularly those influenced by the genes of Georgia belle Mittie Bulloch, says the author in this curiously engrossing overview of the Roosevelt XX-factor. As she researched an earlier book, First Ladies (not reviewed), historian Caroli was intrigued by the question of who provided Eleanor Roosevelt with models. Her mentor at an English boarding school is often given the credit, but Eleanor spent only three years at Allenswood, a brief respite in a life racked by early tragedy (the death of brother, mother, and father) and later turmoil (within a five-year span, the birth of her sixth child, discovery of her husband’s well-established affair with Lucy Mercer, and Franklin’s attack of polio). Caroli believes it was the influence of her aunts, cousins, and even her maligned mother-in-law, Sara, that set Eleanor on the path to becoming “First Lady of the World.” A chapter each is devoted to the primary exemplars, beginning with the matriarch, Martha (Mittie) Bulloch, who married a Theodore Roosevelt and moved to New York City not long before the Civil War, knowing she would face prejudice and misunderstanding because her family owned slaves. She toughed it out, giving birth to four children, including the future president Theodore and Eleanor’s father, Elliott. Mittie’s daughters Anna, known for her warmth, wit, and political acumen, and Corinne, also politically astute and in later life a sought-after public speaker, each receive a chapter, as do Eleanor and cousins Corinne Alsop, Ethel Derby, and Alice Longworth, Teddy’s tart- tongued daughter. Sara (Franklin’s mother) and Edith (Teddy’s second wife), although Roosevelts only by marriage, share a chapter where the author tries to correct Sara’s image as dominating and manipulative, and Edith’s as the perfect wife and mother. Great fun for Roosevelt buffs; filling in some gaps for those still unable to reconcile how the awkward, uncertain Eleanor became an international icon. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1998
ISBN: 0-465-07133-3
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998


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