Last night Bossy watched the Ken Burns’ series on PBS, The Roosevelts, which is to say Bossy and her mother and her daughter were ignoring the show and talking about boys.
But when Bossy did turn her attention to the television, everything sounded vaguely familiar, as if Bossy had written a book about the Roosevelts herself. And then Bossy remembered she did write a book about the Roosevelts, dressed as a blog post answering the question: What if the Roosevelts were around today?
To help with that task, Bossy turned to Facebook.
You see, this was Franklin Roosevelt:
Franklin Roosevelt was a strong athletic man with an air of confidence and can-do charisma that stemmed from a sheltered, privileged upbringing. Partially responsible for shielding Franklin Roosevelt from distress or failure was his mother, Sara Delano:
Sara Delano married James Roosevelt who was recently widowed and nearly thirty years her senior. They had only one child, Franklin, due to a scare during childbirth. Her presence as a mother was always domineering, and Franklin learned it was easier to be stoic and keep his true emotions and thoughts hidden from general scrutiny.
For instance, when Franklin fell in love with his distant cousin, his mother wouldn’t know about it until the young couple announced their engagement. And the woman Franklin fell in love with was Anna Eleanor:
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, or Eleanor as she was called, was unlike any other woman Franklin had ever known, in all her guileless brilliance. Both Franklin and Eleanor had emerged from well-to-do-backgrounds but had a special commitment to social responsibility. They forged a partnership both at home — raising five children — and professionally, with Eleanor acting as Franklin’s trusted confidante and advisor as he rose up the political ranks.
Eleanor was happy in her role as wife and mother. It allowed her to escape the great sadness she felt in her childhood, most of which stemmed from an alcoholic father who was a colossal failure compared to his brother, President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt. In addition the always gawky and awkward and gangly and lanky Eleanor felt she could never measure up to the extreme beauty of her high society mother, Anna Hall:
Subject to fits of depression, everything in Eleanor’s adult life was going swimmingly until Eleanor discovered letters that proved Franklin was having an affair with her own social secretary, Lucy Mercer:
Eleanor was so devastated by her husband’s betrayal that she decided to stop having the sex she never wanted to have in the first place. For the rest of their married life, Franklin and Eleanor would sleep in separate bedrooms.
And speaking of things going swimmingly, it was in a lake, just a few years later, that the always virile Franklin Roosevelt contracted polio at the age of 39. In constant denial regarding his paralysis, Franklin received daily physical therapy and for a time retreated to Warm Springs, Georgia, where the mineral springs were known for their restorative power.
But Franklin didn’t recuperate in Georgia alone. No. By Franklin’s side was his near constant companion, his secretary Margaret Alice:
Marguerite Alice “Missy” Lehand was wildly in love with her boss. Having never married, she not only acted as secretary to the President, but devoted herself to fulfilling all the duties of a wife, like entertaining. Entertaining Franklin.
Eleanor was well aware of Missy’s constant companionship and supported her relationship with Eleanor’s husband since Eleanor herself was busy representing Franklin’s political platform across the country, being the more able-bodied presence compared to her husband, who never went out in public in the wheelchair he needed almost constantly.
But Eleanor didn’t mind her autonomous role as Franklin’s go-to guy, because Eleanor had a go-to guy of her own. And that go-to guy was a woman. Lorena Alice:
Lorena Alice Hickok was a journalist who met Eleanor at the Democratic National Committee headquarters where she was researching a story. The two forged an immediate friendship, where friendship equals they sent each other love letters.
And it was this cast of characters who, among a nation of others, were responding to Hitler’s march across Europe, leaving a swath of destruction behind him.
Will Franklin Roosevelt lead his country into war? Will he sleep with his secretary Missy? Will Missy have an emotional breakdown when she finds out Franklin was elected for a third term? Will Eleanor put her tiresome mother-in-law Sara in her place?
Anna saysSeptember 15, 2014 at 10:00 am
Nobody does American history better than Bossy.
bossysMom saysSeptember 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm
If you know any of us at all, you know this is true. But only during the Rough Riders part.
Little Miss Sunshine State saysSeptember 15, 2014 at 2:46 pm
I’ve been to that Warm Springs house. They haven’t changed a single thing since Franklin died. Same roll of toilet paper on the roll in the bathroom. That’s the ONLY thing I remember.
Olivia saysSeptember 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm
As your northern neighbour, Olivia is always fascinated by learning about American history. Canadians have rather boring leaders, except for Pierre Trudeau who once dated, among many others, Barbra Streisand. And then Pierre’s wife, Margaret, also almost 30 years his junior, ran off with the Rolling Stones . . . and now Pierre and Margaret’s eldest son is gunning for Prime Minister. Still – not nearly as interesting as those “Murricans”.
Catherine McP saysSeptember 15, 2014 at 4:16 pm
I have the series scheduled for DVR, but heck I’d rather have these people just play the parts!
Hil saysSeptember 16, 2014 at 6:25 am
Truth is stranger than fiction! I wonder if I can watch that special on pbs.org? It sounds neat, although you gave away the juicy parts!
I Am Saucy saysSeptember 16, 2014 at 11:50 am
Lynda M Otvos saysSeptember 21, 2014 at 7:09 am
Bossy, I have learned SO SO SO much from the inimitable KB. His documentaries are the stuff that history classes should be made of instead of the Pap they make us learn in school about treaties and pacts. I want the DIRT, thank you Ken Burns-again, for a winner. We’ve been stuck to the tube all week and then just for shits and giggles we watched all seven episodes in succession on Saturday. For other fun around here we waterboard. Only our friends tho.
Jenn @ Juggling Life saysSeptember 23, 2014 at 12:30 am
I enjoyed this much more than I would have the documentary. I like documentaries, but Ken Burns’ are just too long for me.
zidia saysSeptember 25, 2014 at 8:41 pm
Despite all the “musical beds”—and the sexual pairings–what an amazing social committment the entire family made and never lost sight of the importance of elevating the weakest of us!!
Lynn saysOctober 17, 2014 at 6:27 pm
See? This is what drives me nuts about your blog, Bossy. I come back in here a month later and there is a month-old post.
Jon saysOctober 28, 2014 at 9:45 pm
joan v hall saysJanuary 4, 2015 at 9:49 pm
I second comment # 12!