Eleanor Roosevelt steps off an airplane at Berry Field for a brief stop in Nashville. Photo from the NPL Special Collections Division digital collection.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a prolific writer and published many newspaper and magazine articles throughout her life – before, during, and after her time as first lady. Starting in August of 1933 – having been the first lady of the state of New York, and just after entering the White House as first lady of the United States – Eleanor Roosevelt began writing her first regular column for a popular magazine, Woman’s Home Companion.
According to a statement by the editors in the August 1933 issue, the objective of the column, which ran for two years, through July of 1935, was “strengthening further the bond between the White House and women citizens everywhere.” All these columns can be read in the Woman’s Home Companion, located in the Periodicals area on the 3rd floor at the Main library.
Eleanor began this series with an invitation to readers – the title of her August 1933 entry was “I Want You to Write to Me.” Sometimes the column addressed personal issues that she received in letters, but more often, Eleanor addressed social issues, usually explaining why they would be of interest to women or what women could do about them.
Some examples with quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt:
From October 1933, “Setting Our House in Order” – Discusses how women can use their power as consumers to influence manufacturers to offer fair wages and adequate working conditions to their employees. “Therefore, if groups of women will get together and agree that in shopping they will go to their local stores and ask under what conditions the things they are buying are produced, telling their shopkeepers that they would far prefer to buy goods that carried a label assuring them that these goods were made under conditions which precluded any sweat-shop work, that will help the manufacturers. If this happens frequently enough in all communities, the storekeepers and manufacturers will listen to public opinion . . . We may sit at home and pathetically ask what we can do, but if we do nothing about the present conditions we shall be to blame. Only as we take up our responsibilities can conditions improve.”
From February 1934, “Too Old for the Job” – Addresses the difficulties of older people in the work force, women in particular. “It is not because we are sorry for the people who are thrown out of a job at forty or forty-five that we are writing this article. It is because we feel that industry, business and the professions are going to suffer a serious loss when they begin to deny themselves the valuable work which people can and should do at least up to the age of sixty, if their health is good.”
From November 1934, “Let Us Be Thankful” – “I often wonder if some of the things which we ought to be thankful for at Thanksgiving time are the possibilities which open up before us to help our fellow human beings. We may feel that we ourselves are badly off, but when we discover that someone is in need of something that we have taken for granted, then our eyes are opened. We realize that we have a new thing to be thankful for, that we can be of help in our community . . . Let each of us this Thanksgiving Day count over our unusual blessings wherever we may be living.”
From April 1935, “Woman’s Work is Never Done” – Offers some solutions for the problems encountered in domestic service, for employers and employees. “I hope increased leisure and constantly new inventions are going to make housework for women as easy and as rapidly done as possible, but we shall still have to face the fact that a great many women do run establishments in which they employ a number of domestic servants and that many more are going to employ one maid or a part-time maid. the more we can educate ourselves to the point where we shall recognize the dignity of this labor and go into it from choice rather than from necessity, the easier it will be to raise it from the type of unsatisfactory work which it is now, where nobody knows exactly what her job is, either as employer or employee.”
From July 1935, “Tree Worship” - “Tree worship is as old as civilization itself and perhaps there was a good reason for this, for it you worship a thing you preserve it and the ancients knew well that trees were necessary to the lives of human beings . . . If we want to keep our water supply, prevent soil erosion and still have fertile land to cultivate, we shall have to reforest much of the land which we have denuded. Every village will have to inculcate into its children a lot of the ancient tree worship in order that we may be wise husbandmen of one of the greatest assets of the future prosperity of our nation.”
Eleanor Roosevelt named honorary citizen of Nashville by Mayor Ben West. Photo belongs to the NPL Metro Archives digital collection.
Eleanor Roosevelt later went on to write a daily newspaper column called, “My Day,” that ran in papers across the country for many years. She also contributed another monthly magazine column to Ladies’ Home Journal called “If You Ask Me.” To read more of Eleanor Roosevelt’s writing or learn more about her, check out these titles:
Eleanor Roosevelt’s My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt (a collection of her newspaper columns)
You Learn By Living by Eleanor Roosevelt
Tomorrow is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt by Eleanor Roosevelt