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

The George Washington University

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
Questions and Answers about Eleanor Roosevelt

Question: What political and professional activities did Eleanor Roosevelt engage in while FDR was governor?

Answer:

[picture: Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Cook, Caroline O'Day, Marian Dickerman in New York, 1929]ER resigned from the offices she held in the Democratic Party when FDR became governor of New York to protect FDR from possible political embarrassment; however, she continued to exert her influence in the party and within the powerful network of women with which she was now allied. She retained complete editorial control over Women's Democratic News even though her name was removed from its masthead. She helped secure Frances Perkins' appointment as secretary of labor and worked to have more women appointed to government positions. Convinced that former Governor Al Smith wanted to run the party, she persuaded FDR to keep his key aides at a distance. She remained active in labor issues, working with the WTUL and supporting the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) when they struck a popular Fifth Avenue hatmaker. At FDR's request she represented him at Democratic Party gatherings around the state and accompanied him on inspection tours of hospitals, prisons, and other state institutions. Also, at FDR's request, she served as his emissary when he wanted to rein in the Tammany Hall machine.

She continued to write, lecture, and help run the Val-Kill furniture factory. She also continued the teaching she loved at the Todhunter School. She spent the first few days of each week teaching in Manhattan, returning on Wednesdays to fulfill her role as the governor's wife. Because of her growing reputation as a person interested in helping other people, ER received many letters asking for assistance. She began a habit that would continue throughout FDR's governorship and presidency: she referred the letters to an appropriate government official or agency, often answering many of them herself, or occasionally passing them on to FDR with a note asking his advice or recommending action.