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October 11

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.


First Citizen of the World

Toscano Excommunicated for Speaking Out on God the Mother

London Bridge is Falling Down


QUOTES by Claire Booth Luce, Adlai Stevenson, Arthur Schlesinger, and Deborah Felder.

Posted 12-15-1999

First Citizen of the World

She was the antipathy of everything a woman was supposed NOT to be in our society.
      She was not pretty, in fact many called her homely. She was almost six feet tall, many called her a scarecrow. Her voice was high pitched, many called it unpleasant.
      She was not demure and retiring, deferring to the man of her life.
      She was the product of her time and class, starting off life as anti-Semitic and condescending to minorities.
      But she grew as a human being throughout her life and became the most admired woman in the world - and she is arguably ranked among the top women of the millennium.

Eleanor Roosevelt, born 10-11-1884, was the first wife of a President of the United States who dared live her own life rather than existing in her husband's shadow.
      Following her husband's death, she became still greater yet as a U.S. delegate to United Nations who almost single-handedly convinced UN members to support the Human Rights doctrine.
      She is credited with influencing her husband's most liberal presidential social reforms.
      For more than 20 years Eleanor Roosevelt served as the "eyes, ears and legs" of her husband Franklin Delano Roosevelt after he was crippled by polio. She campaigning for him for governor of New York and for the presidency. The she traveled around the nation and the world personally investigating and reviewing problems as his most trusted advisor.
      She was author, and humanitarian.
      She was a woman admired and recognized in almost every corner of the world - and yet she carried her own bags when she traveled.

      This is our favorite photo - taken at the Washington airport - that shows her leaving a cab and carrying her own bag into the terminal. Mind you, this is a woman born to wealth who had been wife of the President of the United States longer than any other, was Ambassador to the United Nations, and the guest, confidant, and friend of every major individual of the world. Photo from the Roosevelt Library.

Her participation as his spokesperson in political campaigns was critical to FDR's election as governor of New York and then his elections as President of the United States for a record four terms.
      In a 1939 Gallup poll, 68% of the American people approved of her active role in politics.

Her lifelong activism included the National Consumers League, Red Cross, League of Women Voters, Women's Trade Union League, Daughter of the American Revolution (which she quit when the DAR forbade black singer Marian Anderson from performing in their hall), American Student Union, and American Youth Congress. She was active in the birth control, in the woman's suffrage movement and dozens of other groups that aided women.
      ER chaired the 1961-2 Commission on the Status of Women and participated in dozens of others causes ranging from fair labor practices, to activism for Jewish refugees, to black civil rights.
      ER's My Day newspaper column reached 4.5 million readers daily.

      Two of the most influential women in the history of the world, wife of the President of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt at the beginning of her greatest influence and Jane Addams winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who changed the world through her social activism and the networking of forward-thinking women.
            This photograph has particular significance because ER was probably elected to receive the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize but died before the announcement. No Nobel prize is given posthumously so no peace prize was awarded in 1962.
            After President Roosevelt's death in 1945, President Harry S. Truman appointed Mrs. Roosevelt a delegate to the United Nations (1945, 1949-52, 1961), where, as chairman of the UN Commission on Human Rights (1946-51), she played a major role in the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
            Following its adoption, the UN members gave her a standing ovation and Truman called her the "the first lady of the world" although today in hindsight regarding her accomplishments, it would have been "first citizen of the world."

      Photo taken in 1933 and part of the Roosevelt Library.

ER's personal life was woman-centered. She wrote thousands of love letters (3,500) to Lorena Hickok, who actually lived with her in the White House. However, she, apparently, also had close relationships with men other than her husband.

Following her discovery in the 1918 that her husband was having an affair with her personal secretary, the Roosevelt marriage appears to become an impersonal partnership rather than a marriage. FDR, in fact, had numerous affairs through the years and when he died in Warm Springs, GA, he was with the widowed Lucy Mercer Rutherford who had come back into his life after a much earlier affair. The Roosevelt daughter Anna - one of six children - served as go-between sneaking her into the White House under an assumed name.

      Eleanor Roosevelt, second from left, is shown with two of her closest friends as well as Leonora Hickok on the far right at Val-Kill, her hideaway cottage that was part of the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park. FDR had given ER the property as her very own retreat and even constructed a noisy bridge to warn when people were coming to visit.
Our most recommended biography of ER remains that of author Blanche Wiessen Cook who interpreted ER as an adult woman "who insists of her right to self-identify ... a woman of consummate power and courageous vision (who) continues to challenge our sens of what is acceptable and what is possible.

      "In many ways Eleanor Roosevelt remains a bellwether for our belief system. A woman who insists on her right to self-identity, a woman who creates herself over and over again, a woman of consummate power and courageous vision continues to challenge our sense of what is acceptable and what is possible. To this day, there is no agreement as to who Eleanor Roosevelt was, what she represented, or how she lived her life.
            "Her friends and her detractors have made extravagant claims of goodness and mercy, foolishness and naivete. She has acquired sainthood and been consigned to sinner status. Many of us, especially those of us born daughters in a world that encouraged daughters to sit along the sidelines of action, are drawn to her because of her vision and her commitment to an activist's life.
            "She continues to haunt our memories and inspire our days, because she never gave up on life; she never stopped learning and changing. She worked to transform our world in behalf of greater dignity and more security for all people, for women and men in equal measure..."

      "John Edgar Hoover kept a running record of Eleanor Roosevelt's every word and activity from 1924 (when she supported the United States' entrance into the World Court and that 'un-American" body the League of Nations as well as being active in the first birth control movement) until her death. Indeed, ER's vast FBI file is one of the wonders of modern history."
      -- Blanche Wiesen Cook in Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume One 1884-1933, New York: Viking Press. 1992.
            The second volume, Eleanor Roosevelt 1933-1938, New York: Viking Press, 1999 is now available.

The second volume also brings out some unsavory parts of ER. Eleanor Roosevelt, born to wealth and raised in the cotton batting of Anglo-Saxon superiority was ORIGINALLY not race conscious, in fact used terms like "darkies" and uttered various slurs about Jews. Blanche Wiesen Cook said she wrote part of the second volume "curled in agony. I didn't want to finish the book."
      As the product of wealth and privilege both ER and her husband carried the prejudices of their class and the times. But both changed - both developed. ER first. Perhaps the place of Lorena Hickok in herstory is not whether or not she was a sexual partner of ER's but how she broadened ER's perspectives and awakened the compassion that made ER the most admired woman in the world.

If you want to decide for yourself what the relationship between ER and Hick was, read Without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok (collected) by Rodger Streitmatter. New York, 1998: Free Press. It presents only 300 of the 3,500 letters ER wrote to Hick but it is said to be a fair representation. However, his claim that his volume presents the "first" public view of the letters is false.

Doris Faber's The Life of Lorena Hickok, ER's Friend is also recommended although Faber is obviously in a state of shock. Faber is the one who discovered the ER letters to Hickok that had been stuck away in a box with state papers, etc. It was the first public awareness of ER's secret inner life. It also contains a very good biography of Hickok who, after all, was a highly honored and one of the highest paid news reporters of the day.

ER's autobiographies are This Is My Story (1937) and On My Own (1958).

Recommended biographies include Eleanor and Franklin (1971); Eleanor: The Years Alone (1972) by Joseph P. Lasch; Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of American Liberalism (1987) by Lois Scharf. The Lasch books are "accepted" types of biographies, depending on the public persona; good for dates and facts.

ER was so complex and so much of her hidden from our view that no one author has been able to fully portray her.
      One revealing remark by Blanche Wiesen Cook in an interview perhaps sums ER up the best: "What impressed me most in my research," said Blanche Wiesent Cook, "is how far she came ...Some of her early letters to her mother reflect that she was a casual anti-Semite and bigot ...She could have lived the comfortable, cloistered life.
      "But she experienced suffering early on. Her father drank himself to death at age 32 and her mother gave up and died at age 29. Eleanor could've retreated and no one would blame her. But she turned that into compassion, first for her family and those she loved and then into compassion for the whole world."

      Four presidents mourn at the funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt, from left, John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower. Just in view behind Truman is then vice-president Lyndon Johnson who would become president following Kennedy's assassination.

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Toscano Excommunicated for Speaking Out of God the Mother

Margaret Merrill Toscano, a Utah Mormon feminist, was honored by the Utah NOW in 1993 for her courage for lecturing on the goddess tradition and the role of God the Mother within the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) theological framework despite threats of church disciplinary action. She was excommunicated. This is an excerpt from that moving speech. The full text is posted in the WOAH library:

"I could not expect to be a member in good standing when I had spoken out on issues which he said were embarrassing to the Church, on issues such as women's right to the priesthood and the importance of female deity.
      "I told him that I could not be silent, and not simply because I feel strongly that women will always be second-class citizens in the Church so long as they are denied priesthood and God is spoken of only in male terms.
      "More important for me was the issue of silence itself. More fundamental was the question of freedom of conscience and speech. I could not and would not be silent because to do so would reinforce what I see as the major problem in the LDS Church today: an oppressive and legalistic authoritarianism which is not only contrary to the basic tenets of Mormonism but which also destroys the climate of freedom and grace that is necessary for individual growth and the flourishing of an open-minded and loving religious community."

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London Bridge is Falling Down

"London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down,
"London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady."

The hidden meaning of this cute little ditty popular with children for hundreds of years has been obscured through the passage of time. The "my fair lady" doesn't refer to a Broadway musical but to the bones of a virgin girl. It was customary to bury a dead virgin (sometimes killed for the occasion ) in the foundation of bridges and buildings as well as the walls to keep them upright. It's all part of the virgin cult that appears in every patriarchal culture a female virgin has supernatural powers that are beneficial to a man or a community at her death. (Obviously NOT beneficial to the women involved.)

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B. 10-11-1758, Anna Warner Bailey - U.S. hero. AWB was a the favorite "feminine" woman heroine of the American revolutionary war who was lauded in story and song from tavern to every place men gathered.
      According to legend/history, she searched a battlefield for her uncle in 1781, found him dying, rushed home to get her aunt and baby and transported them to the side of the dying man. As Mother Baily, she is also to have donated her petticoat as wadding for cartridges in the War of 1812.

B. 10-11-1871, Harriet Ann Boyd Hawes - U.S. archaeologist. HABH gained world renown by being the first archaeologist to discover and completely evacuate a Minoation site that dated from the early Bronze age. During 1897 she was a volunteer nurse during the Greco-Turkish war and again during the Spanish American war. During World War I she nursed Serbian soldiers at Corfu and later organized and led a Smith College Relief Unit to France.

B. 10-11-1891, Rose Peabody Parsons - president (U.S.) National Council of Women 1956-59.

B. 10-11-1902, Frances Lillian Ilg - U.S. pediatrician, educator, and co-founder and director of the Gesell Institute of Child Development. She co-authored more than 20 books with either Dr. Arnold Gesell or Dr. Louise Ames Ph.D. She also wrote a newspaper column on Child Behavior with Dr. Ames who was .an officer with the institute.

B. 10-11-1905, Jane Sherwood - U.S. radio star of the very popular radio show of the 1930s and 40s, Easy Aces.

B. 10-11-1939, Maria Bueno - Brazilian tennis player who was one of the world's top seeds from 1958 to 1968. She won three Wimbledons (1959, 1960, 1964) and four U.S. singles (1959, 1964, 65, 66). MB also won 12 grand Slam doubles. Her remarkable performance was even more astounding when one realizes she suffered from hepatitis 1961 to 1963. She was voted the Associated Press Female Athlete for 1959.

B. 10-11-1950, Patty Murray - U.S. Senator from Washington State. Elected in 1992 and reelected in 1998, both times as an underdog (according to the media).
      PM ran for elective office after being told that she was a nobody, "just a mom in tennis shoes" when she attempted to lobby state government. Her first office was with the state legislature during which she campaigned in tennis shoes.
      An amazing coalition builder, she then took on the favorite, very rich Republican for the Senate and beat him in spite of a small campaign budget. It wasn't much different in 1998 and again she beat the money overwhelmingly. The media consistently underestimates her popularity and effectiveness because they deal primarily in "king of the hill" type stories for headlines while the patient, coalition type building of commitment by commitment is ignored as "unexciting."
      A feminist, she fought for the Family and Medical Leave Act and other bills that aided women's financial positions.
      She hasn't tried for a national platform, staying regional and emphasizing service to her constituents, to her state - and to women.

Event 10-11-1963: After almost two years of work, the final report of the President's Commission on the Status of American Women, is presented to President Kennedy and on 11-01-1963, Kennedy creates a Citizen's Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Although its executive secretary is Catherine East, the advisory council's membership will be primarily men. Pres. Kennedy was NOT a supporter of women's rights.

Event 10-11-1987: more than 200,000 lesbians, gays, and supporters rally in Washington for more Federal money to combat AIDS.

Event 10-11-1991, Anita Hill testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee charging Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexually harassing her. The way AH was questioned on TV roused the resentment of women nationwide and probably caused one of the most important political changes in decades. Angry women went to the polls the next election in record numbers and for the first time in U.S. history, women's votes carried elections.
      There was not a single woman on the U.S. Senate judiciary committee that questioned AH. Women resented not only the way she was questioned, but also that questions that were obvious to a woman's view were never voiced.
      For example, when AH was accused of reading a book that contained a certain phrase about hair, was it not possible that Clarence Thomas who was known a devotee of pornography (as brought out in an earlier judicial hearing) had read that book and did actually quote the phrase? Why wasn't he asked?

Anita Hill said one year later:

"I regret in many ways that it [my testimony] was manipulated or misperceived. And I have my moments when I just wish that I could go back to the way things were before. But that's not realistic.
      "When I think of what has happened in a larger sense, beyond myself, then I would not change anything." "I am really proud to be a part in whatever way of women becoming active in the political scene.
      "I think it was the first time that people came to terms with the reality of what it meant to have a Senate made up of 98 men and 2 women."

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      "No woman has ever so comforted the distressed or so distressed the comfortable."

      "She would rather light candles than curse the darkness and her glow has warmed the world." (This now appears in Bartlett's.)

At her memorial service, Stevenson asked, "What other single human being, has touched and transformed the existence of so many?" Born of wealth and privilege, ER walked "in the slums . . . of the world, not on a tour of inspection . . . but as one who could not feel contentment when others were hungry."

      "Her liberation was not an uncovenanted gift. She attained it only through a terrifying exertion of self- discipline.... If her mastery of herself was never complete, if to the end of her life she could still succumb to private melancholy while calmly meeting public obligation, this makes her achievement and character all the more formidable."
            -- Above quote from the forward to Joseph P. Lash's Eleanor and Franklin.

"Historians and columnists have called Eleanor Roosevelt 'the most liberated American woman of this century' and 'the most influential woman of our times.' To her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, she was 'the most extraordinarily interesting woman' he had ever known. She did not claim to be a feminist, yet she was the personification of the strong, independent, liberated woman. She used her influence as first lady and private citizen to advance the cause of human rights, and in doing so, became the conscience of the country and the most important public woman of the twentieth century.
            --Felder, Deborah G. The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time. New York: Citadel Press, 1996.

    ER's statue on Riverside Drive, New York City. Stop by, she's still listening.

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