The best books on Eleanor Roosevelt, her life and works: a small but inspirational sample of a wealth of choices

Nancy Woloch Author Of Eleanor Roosevelt: In Her Words: On Women, Politics, Leadership, and Lessons from Life
By Nancy Woloch

Who am I?

Eleanor Roosevelt loved to teach history and she must have been really good at it. As a historian with a specialty in U.S. women’s history, I love exploring the life and impact of Eleanor Roosevelt. It's a rewarding way to experience the early decades of the 20th century, to gain familiarity with the culture, issues, and politics of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and, while so doing, to meet up with an astonishingly talented group of writers and scholars who have made their own inquiries into Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and works. Studies of ER now constitute a thriving subfield in scholarship and publishing; it's a privilege to be part of it.


I wrote...

Eleanor Roosevelt: In Her Words: On Women, Politics, Leadership, and Lessons from Life

By Nancy Woloch (editor),

Book cover of Eleanor Roosevelt: In Her Words: On Women, Politics, Leadership, and Lessons from Life

What is my book about?

Acclaimed for her roles in politics and diplomacy, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was also a prolific author, journalist, lecturer, broadcaster, educator and public personality. Using selections from her books, columns, articles, press conferences, speeches, radio talks, and correspondence, Eleanor Roosevelt: In Her Words tracks her contributions from the 1920s, when she entered journalism and public life; through the White House years, when she campaigned for racial justice, the labor movement, and the “forgotten woman”; to the postwar era, when she served at the United Nations and shaped the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Entries convey Eleanor Roosevelt’s preparation for leadership, the skill with which she defied critics and grasped authority, her competitive drive as a professional, and the force of her message to modern readers.

The books I picked & why

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Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933

By Blanche Wiesen Cook,

Book cover of Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933

Why this book?

The irresistible first volume of Cook’s much-praised, magisterial 3-volume study of Eleanor Roosevelt’s eventful life. An expert narrator and historian, Cook follows ER through her difficult childhood, impactful education, challenging marriage, political training, and fascinating early career in public life, right up to the brink of becoming first lady in 1933. Sensitive, solicitous, and a triumph of biography.


Courage in a Dangerous World: The Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt

By Eleanor Roosevelt,

Book cover of Courage in a Dangerous World: The Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt

Why this book?

Historian Allida M. Black tracks Eleanor Roosevelt’s vast outpouring of political commentary from the 1930s onward by tapping the most vital sources. These range from entries in “My Day,” Mrs. Roosevelt’s inimitable syndicated newspaper column, to selections from letters, speeches, books, and essays. From the New Deal to the Cold War era, the writings reveal ER’s allegiance to democracy and internationalism, to civil rights and human rights. A rich collation for students and admirers, the book caters as well to general readers who seek connection with ER.


A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

By Mary Ann Glendon,

Book cover of A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Why this book?

Few diplomats of the late 1940s thought that Eleanor Roosevelt had much to offer the new United Nations, which had just begun after World War II. The former first lady, in the view of most experts, lacked preparation in foreign affairs; too voluble and too inexperienced, she might blunder into controversy. But they were totally wrong. As law professor Mary Ann Glendon so memorably shows, Mrs. Roosevelt as UN delegate became a star player on the international stage, the guiding spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and a much-admired “first lady of the world”.


You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

By Eleanor Roosevelt,

Book cover of You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

Why this book?

Eleanor Roosevelt became an expert on interpersonal relations. Her skill at advice-giving reached millions in her popular magazine columns. Toward the end of her life, Mrs. Roosevelt wrote an advice manual that conveyed her educational convictions, along with her behavioral precepts and positive outlook. As elsewhere, she focused on her own experience and on the all-important process of learning from experience, which she shared through anecdote and analysis. A lively bestseller of 1960, the book has appealed to readers ever since.


The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia

By Maurine Hoffman Beasley, Holly Cowan Shulman, Henry R. Beasley

Book cover of The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia

Why this book?

An inspired reference book, ideal reader’s companion, and invaluable guide to further investigation of Eleanor Roosevelt’s life, time, interests, passions, friends, enemies, and relationships. And most important, a perfect gift for any Roosevelt admirer! Even the most casual reader can open the pages at random, discover some fascinating entry, and become utterly immersed in one of ER’s experiences and absorbed in the contents of the book. Diversions abound! I cannot praise this unique and impressive volume too highly.


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