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Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1, 1884-1933 (Eleanor Roosevelt #1)

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,203 Ratings  ·  121 Reviews
Eleanor Roosevelt was born into the privileges and prejudices of American aristocracy and into a family ravaged by alcoholism. She overcame debilitating roots: in her public life, fighting against racism and injustice and advancing the rights of women; and in her private life, forming lasting intimate friendships with some of the great men and women of her times.
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Paperback, 640 pages
Published March 1st 1993 by Penguin Books (first published 1992)
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Secret Lives of the First Ladies by Cormac O'BrienEleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1, 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen CookAbigail Adams by Phyllis Lee LevinEdith Kermit Roosevelt by Sylvia Jukes MorrisFirst Ladies by Carl Sferrazza Anthony
First Ladies
2nd out of 60 books — 11 voters
John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinA People's History of the United States by Howard ZinnBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Best Non-fiction American History Books
243rd out of 1,236 books — 1,709 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Laurie Carlson
Mar 20, 2011 Laurie Carlson rated it it was amazing
Excellent book all about Eleanor Roosevelt. Everything you ever wanted to know about her and her family, and of course, all about Franklin's family as well. This book is so detailed, it is Book 1 of 2. I always wondered if they were related how and why they would marry. It is all explained in the book that there were two separate families of Roosevelts, each not related to the other. This book is very detailed in all circumstances. You learn all about Eleanor, from her childhood to every member ...more
Eleanor Roosevelt was a very interesting woman, and volume 1 of her biography is fairly well-written and gives loads of details about her life, perhaps too much. The length was very daunting, and I am a quick, determined reader. Some of the information in this book could have been deleted and still represented her life well. There were also times where the same information was repeated in a slightly different way in more than one chapter. Many times I personally did not agree with Eleanor Roosev ...more
Susanne Clower
Aug 10, 2009 Susanne Clower rated it really liked it
I'm glad I'm reading this so soon after finishing a biography of FDR. Both authors act as their subjects' champion. Thus the FDR bio depicts ER as mostly unsupportive and self-absorbed (after the Lucy Mercer incident), while the ER bio expresses outrage at FDR's casual negligence and his dismissal of his wife's accomplishments. At the same time both books acknowledge the firm partnership that the marriage became. For myself, both FDR's and ER's life is inspiring. I'm particularly glad to be read ...more
Shay Caroline
Mar 23, 2015 Shay Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
After seeing the PBS series about the Roosevelts, I wanted to find a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt that would tell me about the human being more than the public figure, and this was the book I was looking for. However, though it is well written, extremely well researched, and informative, I have to say it was very hard to get through, and I had to set it aside for a while when I was half way done; I just didn't want to know THAT much about anybody, and Blanche Cook never met a detail she didn't ...more
May 03, 2009 Megan rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Top Eight Things I Learned about Eleanor Roosevelt:

1)Incredibly traumatic childhood

2)Ran her own school while FDR was governor of New York

3)Had a furniture making factory

4)Big time woman's rights advocate

5)Teddy Roosevelt's niece (he gave her away at her wedding)

6)Was an anti-semite before WW2.

7)He cheated, she offered a divorce, he declined, married in name only since that day.

8)The two loves of her adult life were Earl Miller and Lorena Hickok.

Jul 12, 2007 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Such an incredible book. Such depth and truth to this amazing woman who overcame so much. Cook has way of pulling you into Eleanor's life and making you experience everything with her. She gives you enough detail to be involved, but doesn't weight you down in pointless correspondence or stories. A great biography for anyone wanting an honest account of Eleanor's pre-White House years.

May 27, 2008 Krenzel rated it really liked it
For many Americans, Eleanor Roosevelt is more a myth than an actual person. In the Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. there is a whole floor devoted to American presidents, but just a small wing devoted to our First Ladies, or more specifically their inaugural gowns. While visiting the museum, I picked up a poster of Eleanor Roosevelt, with a nice quote that reads something like, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." Other than my poster, the only thing I knew abo ...more
Nov 22, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it
This is an excellent portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt- it includes her quirks and her mistakes and her flaws, but still shows her as an amazing role model and pioneer of feminism. The work she did was amazing, especially considering the environment of the 1920's and 30's and society's attitude toward women in politics. I can't help but wonder what her impact would be if she were born today and had more opportunities for education and participation. But her perseverence despite the hardships she fac ...more
Tracy Fitzpatrick
Dec 22, 2013 Tracy Fitzpatrick rated it it was ok
ER is an inspiration!!! I feel like I should write a review to explain my 2 star rating. First I want to say that I can really appreciate all of the effort the author put into this. Endless hours must have been spent researching and capturing the fine details displayed in the book. However, it took me 3 plus years to get through the book. Each chapter would start by capturing my interest but I would lose interest by the end off each and have to force myself to continue to the next. I'm not sure ...more
Feb 10, 2010 Shawna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting book about an admirable woman who lived in strange, dysfunctional world. Surrounded by wealth and privilege, Eleanor never knew the love of her mother, and her father was an alcoholic whose family kept him away from his children for their own safety. Still, she idolized her father. She married into Franklin's family and inherited a domineering mother-in-law who never allowed her to be in charge of her own household or children. She endured Franklin's infidelity and stayed to care ...more
Sarah Cler
Aug 08, 2014 Sarah Cler rated it really liked it
Meticulously researched and detailed, a pretty riveting account of the first 46 years of Eleanor Roosevelt's life. Unlike with most biographies (in which I skim over the boring early years stuff), I was most fascinated/horrified by Eleanor's childhood. Cook does an amazing job of balancing fact and emotion, giving the reader a detailed account of events while folding in the essence of the human being behind the name. A detailed account of Eleanor's early years with Franklin was reassuring (they ...more
Oct 27, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
The information for this book, the first in a series, comes from letters and documents recently declassified. The insight afforded by these very private documents really sheds light on her early life and her relationships with family and friends. It also helps to see the incredibly complicated family life she led.

I'm very much looking forward to the next book in the series.
Aug 01, 2008 Lindsay rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Eleanor Roosevelt. I am inspired by her courage, her energy, her strength, her compassion. These books are a little hard to get through though, because Blanche Wiesen Cook is so interested in every detail about everyone that Eleanor Roosevelt ever looked at in her entire life, that it is hard to get be drawn in. I finally started just skimming through parts.
May 31, 2014 Janie rated it did not like it
This is basically a huge encyclopedia (book number 1 of 2). I tried to read it cover to cover and didn't get very far before I fell asleep. I am a huge fan of this influential woman and a fan of biographies, but this is excruciating detail about every moment of her life told in a very dry and unwitty manner. Find another book!
Mar 08, 2008 Meghan rated it it was amazing
I can't really explain it but ever since I was in grade school and read a book on Eleanor I've had this strange fondness for her. Maybe we were friends in a past life. At any rate I speed through both of Ms. Cook's books. I will admit to liking the first one more than the second volume.
Kathy Dobronyi
Mar 21, 2016 Kathy Dobronyi rated it really liked it
It's interesting that this period of U.S. history (1884-1933) still resonates today. The message of the Republican party to support big business at the expense of the American people is as true in 2016 as it was at the turn of the 20th century. Only Teddy Roosevelt had the foresight to take on big business. Unfortunately, at the same time he didn't have a problem with supporting wars in foreign countries.

Eleanor Roosevelt cared for what was best for the people of the United States. She cared abo
Oct 27, 2014 Linda rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. With my appetite whetted by "The Roosevelts" on PBS, I read this book in a couple of weeks. I found it extraordinarily well researched, thorough, and fascinating. I'm looking forward to starting Vol. 2.
The combination of Eleanor Roosevelt's remarkable life and Blanche Wiesen Cook's attention to detail make this a stunning - and at times, daunting-to-read - biography.
Apr 08, 2016 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intimidating large biography, I questioned getting Blanche Wiesenthal Cook's Eleanor Roosevelt Vol. 1 out of the library, but after 100 pages I was hooked. I knew little about ER to begin with. To me she was admired, a feminist, and married to FDR. This book revealed a much more complex character than I imagined. She had a difficult up bringing and came of age during a time when women were expected to get married and put aside their own interests for those of their husbands'. It was interesti ...more
May 27, 2013 Emily marked it as just-cannot-finish  ·  review of another edition
Exhaustive detail is exhausting.
Bruce Harpham
Apr 29, 2016 Bruce Harpham rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Bruce by: Ryan Holiday
Shelves: history, biography
Read this book after coming across it through Ryan Holiday's article on biographies (

There are great insights on how ER developed her career, overcame disappointments in family and navigated politics. The book is supported by excellent research and primary sources from many of the people involved. I also appreciate that the author points out when source material is missing or incomplete.
Jan 31, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
By default, like most Americans, I admired ER. Now, I think I adore her. The complicated nature of her history and relationships only adds depth to her many accomplishments and her strength of character.

Just as interesting as her personal history was the parallel story of women's rights and progressive politics, and her very early voice in these efforts. Especially in the light of our current election cycle, I truly enjoyed reading her words -- later reflected in some of FDR's statements and po
Feb 04, 2016 Chazzi rated it liked it
Shelves: bio
I picked up this volume and the second one as they looked interesting and I liked the idea of photos to give a little visual to such historic times. What I found was interesting but also a huge dose of historical information. A bit more than I was looking for, hence the long time to read the book.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a complicated woman and a bit of a rebel. Born and raised in Victorian times (1884) with Victorian morals she found that she had to change with the turning of the century (1900). H
May 26, 2012 Steve rated it it was amazing
I can't wait to read the next volume of Cook's biography. Eleanor Roosevelt was an incredible person, and we should read her writing and read about her as much or more than other 20th century American greats, such as her husband FDR and her uncle Teddy Roosevelt. Cook tells a compelling story of Eleanor's difficult childhood and adolescence, her mentors, her discoveries, her friends, her actions. I never knew about the wonderful school she co-founded (Toddhunter) and taught at for years, for exa ...more
Oct 06, 2015 Gail rated it really liked it
Volume 1 of this 3 part biography covers ER from birth up through the 1932 election victory. I love this marvelous woman and was thrilled to know so much more about her. The author does not shy away from ER's personal problem with her mother-in-law and with her unfaithful husband; she tells of the importance of ER's relationships with the women in her life and with bodyguard Earl Miller. All-in-all, a wonderful biography.
Mar 03, 2015 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
This seems like a good time to learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt, following the airing of the new Ken Burns Roosevelt miniseries and our trip out east, stopping at Hyde Park and Val-Kill. Having visited these sites of importance to the Roosevelts, it is easier to visualize some of the history. Eleanor is a complicated figure and there is much to admire. The biography covers a lot of ground, gives much detail. There is no analysis of whether Eleanor's progressive stance and accomplishments is a ...more
Diane Corradini
Nov 27, 2015 Diane Corradini rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
What a great biography - I knew Eleanor Roosevelt was ahead of her time, but didn't realize how much ahead of her time. Very interesting and very detailed in her correspondence, activities and relationships. In places it's a little too much detail (correspondence between her parents was a little too much detail for me), but the author was very thorough in her research of this fascinating woman. I really enjoyed reading this biography and it read very fast, even though its size is a little intimi ...more
Jan 01, 2015 Roger rated it really liked it
Older biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. This is volume #1 and goes up to 1933. Looks at lot of her personal relationships. Details her awaking from being a political wife to an activist in the issues that she found important. Interesting background and insights to Mrs. Roosevelt and her life. Will seek out volume #2.
Sharon Bonnem
Jul 13, 2016 Sharon Bonnem rated it it was ok
I normally love biographies, not sure why I found this one to be so plodding. Seemed like too much non-interesting detail was included. I stopped reading it after about 1/3 of the book, it is still on my Kindle maybe I will give it another try.
Kay Baird
May 18, 2010 Kay Baird rated it liked it
The story of a woman who emerged from her childhood training as a dutiful, retiring Victorian woman to become an independent person, passionately involved in publicly working for human rights. Although she consistently belittled herself, she was in fact one of the most powerful woman of her world. Furthermore, although the record has been purposefully masked, altered and destroyed, traces remain, which Cook has unearthed, of love relationships with other women, and with a much younger man. Cook ...more
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Blanche Wiesen Cook (born April 20, 1941 in New York City), Distinguished Professor of history at John Jay College in the City University of New York, is the author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One 1884–1933, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize winning biography of Eleanor Roosevelt....Ms.Cook, who is openly gay, is also the author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume 2 , The Defining Years, 1933–1938, and The ...more
More about Blanche Wiesen Cook...

Other Books in the Series

Eleanor Roosevelt (3 books)
  • Eleanor Roosevelt: Vol 2, The Defining Years, 1933-38
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3: The War Years and After, 1939-1962

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“And the purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” 5 likes
“And even when success comes, as I am sure it will, bear in mind that there are more quiet and enviable joys than to be among the most sought after women at a ball...” 0 likes
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