Eleanor and Hillary

Fri, 09/02/2016 – 8:38am

By JIM MCDIARMID

Querying friends and acquaintances about the 2016 presidential contest confirmed my conclusion that people are more interested in momentary circumstances than in historic context. My path to this notion went from John Galbraith’s recollection about Eleanor Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson’s wife, who essentially ran the United States during Wilson’s incapacitation after his disastrous stroke, and ended at Anne Firor Scott’s scholarly observations.

Anne Scott was Duke University’s W. K. Boyd professor of history and was awarded the Medal of Freedom during the Obama Administration. She knows women and history. She is herself a remarkable woman. I am familiar with people who know her but I cannot say if she has a favorite in the current race.

Disinterest in context is common in months just prior to a national election. Maybe it’s especially so during the current cat and dog fight. Indeed when I mentioned the comparison or contrast between prominent women such as Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt I was mostly met with blank looks as if their experiences weren’t important considerations.

Surprised by this I looked at some related literature such as the memoirs of John Galbraith and David Halberstam to see if I was mistaken in my recollections. I’m convinced that both women were similarly loved or hated because of their political leanings, their personalities and their relationships with powerful men. Obviously their separation by nearly three-fourths of a century complicates the pairing.

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