Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt’s marriage is one of the most celebrated and scrutinized partnerships in presidential history. It raised eyebrows in their lifetimes and has only become more controversial since their deaths. From FDR’s lifelong romance with Lucy Mercer to Eleanor’s purported lesbianism—and many scandals in between—the American public has never tired of speculating about the ties that bound these two headstrong individuals. Some claim that Eleanor sacrificed her personal happiness to accommodate FDR’s needs; others claim that the marriage was nothing more than a gracious façade for political convenience. No one has told the full story until now.
In this groundbreaking new account of the marriage, Hazel Rowley describes the remarkable courage and lack of convention—private and public—that kept FDR and Eleanor together. She reveals a partnership that was both supportive and daring. Franklin, especially, knew what he owed to Eleanor, who was not so much behind the scenes as heavily engaged in them. Their relationship was the product of FDR and Eleanor’s conscious efforts—a partnership that they created according to their own ambitions and needs.
In this dramatic and vivid narrative, set against the great upheavals of the Depression and World War II, Rowley paints a portrait of a tender lifelong companionship, born of mutual admiration and compassion. Most of all, she depicts an extraordinary evolution—from conventional Victorian marriage to the bold and radical partnership that has made Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt go down in history as one of the most inspiring and fascinating couples of all time.
They were cousins, fifth-generation, once removed. Their common ancestor, Claes van Rosenvelt, had emigrated from Holland around 1650 and settled in New Amsterdam, as New York City was still called at that time. On American shores the family name, which meant “field of roses,” had been changed to “Roosevelt,” but the descendants still pronounced the first syllable “rose,” in deference to their Dutch heritage. However the name was pronounced, there was no ambiguity about its standing:
“Here is the most consequential love story of the twentieth century, told with verve, swift narrative drive, and clear-eyed fondness for the lovers. 'Clear-eyed' because Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt’s marriage was as difficult as it was momentous: How many husbands have ever had to suffer being nagged about the fate of Yugoslavia? How many wives have had to endure the deflections and evasions of a dissimulator as artful as FDR? Hazel Rowley tells a tale as full of betrayals as it is of a fundamental fidelity, while detailing a partnership so powerful that it has shaped the lives of all of us who read about it today.” —Richard Snow, former editor of American Heritage and author of A Measureless Peril
“A distinguished biographer’s fresh take on the marriage of the Roosevelts, the most dynamic couple ever to occupy the White House . . . A focused account of a complex marriage that continues to fascinate.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Franklin and Eleanor is a fascinating read, rich with insight and detail. Here is a political marriage that rose above politics; a partnership that was driven as much by idealism as by ambition; and a friendship that survived despite all. Hazel Rowley is a wonderful writer with a gift—rare among historians—for entertaining her readers.” —Amanda Foreman, Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
“Theirs was one of the great marriages in history, one that reshaped the lives of millions in their own time and beyond. In Hazel Rowley’s engaging new book, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt come alive anew in all their complexity, humanity, and greatness.” —Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship