Lash traces Eleanor Roosevelt’s many causes and her diverse friendships in an enthralling narrative that shows her devotion to peace, racial justice, and equality in the White House. He offers excellent treatments of such episodes as her resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution when that organization banned the African-American singer Marian Anderson from Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. She was the president’s eyes and ears for twelve years as she traveled around the country and to the fighting fronts in World War II to help the morale of the soldiers and sailors overseas. Her advocacy of political liberalism made her a target for the president’s opponents and the object of much press criticism. By the time that Lash describes Franklin Roosevelt’s death in 1945, the reader understands how this unusual political marriage survived the strains put upon it to become a productive partnership for both Eleanor and Franklin. The account of the end of their life together is a moving section of the book.
Lash’s book remains the best introduction to the life of Eleanor Roosevelt for teenage readers. His revelation of the impact of the Lucy Mercer episode on Eleanor’s development influenced all the subsequent biographies of her that appeared in the next twenty years. No one else has yet attempted the kind of comprehensive biography that Lash produced.
For the most part, Lash writes from Eleanor’s perspective. His portrayal of Frank-lin Roosevelt emphasizes the extent to which the president used his wife as one who, in her words, “served his purposes.” Readers may want to inquire whether there were ever grounds for Franklin to have become impatient with his wife’s...
(The entire section is 703 words.)