The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

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The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary

[picture: Esther Lape and Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington, DC, 1924]]Edward Bok was a multimillionaire in the mid-1920s, having retired from his lucrative career as publisher and editor of the Ladies' Home Journal. Bok was interested in current events and international relations, and wanted to use his money in the service of peace. To accomplish this, Bok created a prize worth $50,000 and asked for submissions that would detail how the United States could contribute to the maintenance of international peace and how it could remain aloof from another war in Europe. The individual with the best plan was to be awarded the prize (half to be paid when the judge selected the plan and the final installment given when Congress adopted the plan), but when Bok approached Professor Esther Lape to judge the contest she refused unless she could also work with her friends ER and Narcissa Vanderlip. Bok agreed, and the three set to work evaluating submissions and selecting other members for the "Jury of Award." Eventually this group of prominent citizens decided on a simple plan by an academic named Charles Levermore who called for membership in the World Court and cooperation with the League of Nations.

The 1920s were a self-involved era in American cultural life, and this extended to the realm of U.S. foreign relations where isolationism was a popular attitude. Because of the large amount of money associated with the prize, the amount of attention it had gotten in the press, and the shockingly internationalist tone of the winning submission, many members of Congress were suspicious that the outcome had been fixed to influence public opinion. Congressional hearings were held at which ER appeared with Lape in defense of the jury's decision; both performed so well that the investigation promptly ended soon after their testimony. The incident provided the future first lady with her first experience of being scrutinized by the public for having adopted an unpopular viewpoint. It was a pattern that would continue to be repeated throughout the remainder of her life.
 


Sources:

Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume One, 1884-1933. New York: Viking Press, 1992, 342-346.

Lash, Joseph. Eleanor and Franklin. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1971, 282-284.