I just got back from the final public event of the season at Roosevelt House on East 65th Street. This was fortunate because it spared me from having to watch the Deflategate coverage, the avoidance of which is alway a plus but especially now as the sorry episode enters its Baroque phase. Anyways, Roosevelt House saved the best for last by hosting the authors of Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth. I have not read their book yet, but if the tonight’s discussion is any indication Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have written the most penetrating account of the relationship between these first cousins.
There was something that brought out the lesser aspects of the two when it came to dealing with one other. Part of it, as the authors and the moderator noted, was the similarities between them. Each were married to spouses who were unfaithful; each had controlling mothers-in-law; and each were cold & indifferent parents but warm & affectionate grandparents. At the same time they were extremely different. Alice was dismissive of Eleanor’s do-goodism for one thing. During the First World War, by which time the two were now women in their 30s, Eleanor and Alice contributed to the effort through the Red Cross. Eleanor was intent on doing all she could for any doughboy in need. Alice eventually gave up, famously claiming a case of canteen elbow. It was a sign of how things would go until Eleanor’s death in 1962.
If you interested in the life and times of the Roosevelts, this one is worth a close look.