Opinions from the Archive: Eleanor Roosevelt and Her Cousin Alice

Click here to read an excerpt from Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer.

Plainspoken Eleanor

Excerpts from “On My Own” (five-part series) by Eleanor Roosevelt, The Saturday Evening Post, February 8–March 8, 1958
Eleanor Roosevelt

On Churchill

He was frequently at the White House during the tense years of the war and he and Franklin had many interests in common — not counting winning the war — so that they enjoyed each other’s company. They could talk for hours after dinner on any number of subjects. My husband, however, was so burdened with work that it was a terrible strain on him to sit up late at night with Mr. Churchill and then have to be at his desk early the next day while his guest stayed in his room until 11 a.m. I suppose I showed my concern about this at the time, and the prime minister probably remembered it when he said to me, “You don’t really approve of me, do you, Mrs. Roosevelt?” Looking back on it, I don’t suppose I really did.

On Khrushchev

I had a long talk with Khrushchev at his vacation home in Yalta. Like all men who have acquired power, you know he is ruthless. He appears to be a pleasant man who is articulate and quick, but basically he is shrewd and cautious.

On Nixon

I regard Mr. Nixon as a very able and dangerous opportunist, but since 1952 he has learned a great deal. He now knows the importance of gaining the confidence of the people. … This still does not make me believe he has any strong convictions.

On Kennedy

A friend of Sen. [John F.] Kennedy came to me with a request for support [for his 1956 VP bid]. I replied I did not feel I could do so because Sen. Kennedy had avoided taking a position during the controversy over Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s methods of investigation. … “I think McCarthyism is a question on which public officials must stand up and be counted,” I added.

Later, Sen. Kennedy came to see me. I told him exactly the same thing. He replied … that the McCarthy condemnation was “so long ago” that it did not enter the current situation. But he did not say where he stood on the issue and I did not support him.


Snarky Alice

Alice Roosevelt quotes excerpted from “The Sharpest Wit in Washington” by Jean Vanden Heuvel, The Saturday Evening Post, December 4, 1965Alice Roosevelt

On President McKinley

[Hearing of the assassination] my brother Ted and I danced a little war dance. Shameful! Then we put on long faces. … I was a very disagreeable young person — very disagreeable.

On Eleanor

On the night of Franklin’s election for president in 1932, Eleanor was found weeping in the hotel. When asked what was the matter, she replied, “Now I’ll have no identity.”

I don’t really believe that Eleanor came into her own until after Franklin’s death.

On Franklin

Always liked Franklin, was amused by him. We had a very gay time together. … He very possibly wouldn’t have emerged if my father [Teddy]hadn’t emerged, and my father might not have emerged if Czolgosz hadn’t killed McKinley. Who can tell? Were it not for Czolgosz, we’d all be back in our brownstone-front houses. That’s where we’d be. And I would have married for money and been divorced for good cause.

On Goldwater

[At] a birthday party in honor of Eisenhower, Goldwater assured us that when the Eisenhowers were in the White House no one did the twist in the historic East Room and no one had been thrown into a pool fully clad. I thought to myself: This is where I come in. … I mentioned that in 1905 I was on a steamer going across the Pacific; a canvas tank was rigged up on the deck. One day I appeared in a linen coat and skirt, and some friend dared me to go in like that. I said, “Let me take off my shoes,” and I dived in. I told Goldwater all this. His only response was a murmur.

On the Kennedys

They’re one for all and all for one among themselves, which is quite different from our family, who were completely individualistic. What an extraordinary upbringing they had. Everything was put behind the boys so that they could concentrate on power and success.