Fireside Chat: Was Eleanor Roosevelt a Feminist? 11/6


When her husband came out for women’s suffrage in 1911, Eleanor Roosevelt proclaimed herself “somewhat shocked as I had never given the question serious thought.” She was never a member of the Woman Suffrage Party, yet she was an avid supporter of the Women’s Trade Union League and the League of Women Voters. In the 1920s she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, led by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. In her first book, Its Up to the Women, published in 1933 as her husband assumed the presidency, Roosevelt wrote that she was not interested in the abstract idea of equality with men. It did not really improve women’s ability to change society. So, was Eleanor Roosevelt a feminist? Or something else?

 

About the speaker: CYNTHIA M. KOCH is Historian in Residence and Director of History Programing for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation at Adams House, Harvard University. She was Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York (1999-2011) and subsequently Senior Adviser to the Office of Presidential Libraries, National Archives, Washington, D.C. From 2013-16 she was Public Historian in Residence at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY where she taught courses in public history and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her most recent publications are “They Hated Eleanor, Too,” “Hillary R[oosevelt] Clinton,” “Demagogues and Democracy,” and “Democracy and the Election” are published online by the FDR Foundation http://fdrfoundation.org/.

Previously Dr. Koch was Associate Director of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture and Community, a national public policy research group at the University of Pennsylvania. She served as Executive Director (1993-1997) of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was Director (1979-1993) of the National Historic Landmark Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, New Jersey.


His Bravery Unsung, Varian Fry Acted to Save Jews


The American journalist Varian Fry in 1967. He helped artists like Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp escape the Nazis during World War II

In June of 1935, two years after the German government falsely portrayed the burning of the Reichstag as a Communist plot to overthrow the state and just at the moment that it had banned all but “Aryans’’ from serving in the military and made homosexuality a crime, Varian Fry, a young Manhattan editor who was preparing to take over a magazine called The Living Age, traveled to Berlin.

About one month into his stay, he witnessed a night of gruesome rioting in which Jews were kicked, bloodied and spat on, leaving him to provide one of the earliest accounts of Nazi cruelties in the American news media. Relaying his observations to The Associated Press, Fry remarked that the police “nowhere’’ seemed “to make any effort whatever to save victims from this brutality.’’ Occasionally, he said, “they attempted to clear areas for motor traffic,’’ or to keep people from congregating in front of beloved cafes, but “that was all.’’ The crowds — made up of people young and old, well-bred-looking and common — chanting “‘The best Jew is a dead Jew,’” he continued, conducted themselves as if “in holiday mood….’’

Read more in the New York Times


Trump’s Global Democracy Retreat


Under the leadership of Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson, the State Department is considering a mission reform that includes the abandonment of democratic assistance and human rights. The current mission statement reads, “The department’s mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”

Dropping the words “just” and “democratic” would be fully consistent with the transactional realism that has characterized Mr. Trump’s rhetoric.

And such a change might reflect a growing feeling that most of the programs to support democracy abroad and the importance of democratic ideals are wasteful, inefficient, unappreciated or even damaging. In America, the public (especially Republicans) has increasingly favored nationalism and isolationism, according to some polls, in which the United States focuses on its own problems, with many wary of global humanitarian engagement….

 

For more, read the article in the New York Times


The Unraveling of Roosevelt’s World


In the 1940s, after two world wars and a depression, Western policymakers decided enough was enough. Unless international politics changed in some fundamental way, humanity itself might not survive much longer.

A strain of liberal idealism had been integral to U.S. identity from the American founding onward, but now power could be put behind principle. Woodrow Wilson had fought “to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles.” Keeping his goals while noting his failures, the next generation tried again with a revised strategy, and this time they succeeded. The result became known as the postwar liberal international order….

Read more at Foreign Affairs!