On our recent trip East, we toured the Roosevelt homes and FDR Presidential Library Museum in Hyde Park, New York. The Hudson River Valley was dressed in rich autumn colors. The park rangers were friendly and knowledgeable. I felt right at home with the park ranger/retired child care provider who drove the tram to Eleanor Roosevelt's home, Val-Kill. Originally the structure housed Val-Kill Industries, a wood working and furniture making business she and two other women created to teach skills and provide work during the Depression. Some historians think Val-Kill was a model for FDR's New Deal programs. Later it became Eleanor's home. She had never been comfortable in the large Roosevelt home run by her mother-in-law, Sara. So she created this more modest place with relaxed comfortable furnishings in cozy spaces. Here she wrote, entertained family, friends, as well as the young John F. Kennedy. She also held picnics for local children from disadvantaged circumstances.
Just before traveling, I read Eleanor and Hick. The thoughtful well written history describes the public and private lives of Roosevelt and her friend, Lorena Hickock. Roosevelt was an advocate for peace, human rights, civil rights, and children's welfare. When a reporter asked her what America should do about racism, she replied, "we should face it." In 1939 she resigned her membership in D.A.R. because the group refused to let African American Marion Anderson sing in Constitution Hall. Then she arranged a concert for the contralto with a gorgeous voice at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She advocated for people living in poverty and stated that the function of government is to make life better for people. Truman appointed her as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations. She was an important member of the commission that wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document adopted by the United Nations. She traveled widely until just before her death in 1962. At times I wonder what else she could have done had she lived slightly later. However she used her position and resources to accomplish a great deal. Perhaps she lived in the time that was right for her.
Eleanor was also a prolific writer, publishing numerous articles and books. I am reading My Day, a compilation of syndicated newspaper columns she wrote from 1935 - 1962. The chatty columns range from an account of dinner indoors on a winter evening to social and political issues she wanted to present to her readers. For many years, she wrote this column six days a week. And she was a knitter. In one column she wrote about the progress made on a sweater while "sitting around in a hospital." Her son had just had four wisdom teeth pulled. Several photos and videos show Mrs. Roosevelt knitting while chatting with her husband or on a plane.
As I knit I continue to think about Eleanor. My mother who became a nurse just after WW2, admired and read about Eleanor Roosevelt. Now I wish I had asked her more about those books. I am sure she admired Eleanor's indominable spirit as I do. This week I finished the blue cowls. They need to be blocked and tucked away into the gift basket. Last night I cast on a shawl. I purchased the yarn last April on our trip to the East Coast. I have one more skein of sock yarn from last October's trip to Fort Worth. We hope next year brings more traveling to see our children. Until then, I am enjoying the autumn leaves. They are falling today after last night's heavy frost.
Linking, I hope, with Kat's Unravelers. What are you knitting and reading?