As I’ve said before, I usually read two of three lighter books — usually mysteries, and I’m a quick reader — then delve back into something that requires more serious and sustained attention. Right now my mystery story reads — I have two left in the series — are the Dublin Murder Squad books by Tana French. I have two more serious volumes waiting: The New Tsar by Steven Lee Myers, and Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn. On Sunday night I put the two murder mysteries and The New Tsar on hold and began reading Eleanor and Hick.
I’ve long been fascinated by Eleanor Roosevelt, and indeed my “Pam Klainer’s Day” blog is loosely influenced by her longtime syndicated column My Day, which appeared six days a week from 1935 until 1962 in 90 newspapers around the country. ER had a lot of identities: First Lady, activist, politician, diplomat. But she was also a prolific writer.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that she found one of the most important and loving relationships in her long life with Lorena Hickok, an AP reporter whom she met in 1928.
ER, as we know, had a complicated existence. Her lonely but privileged upbringing limited her to marriage within her social circle. Enter Franklin Roosevelt, and together they had six children — most of whom didn’t turn out particularly well. ER thought herself unattractive. Franklin had affairs; Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd was with him when he died, with the full knowledge of Franklin and Eleanor’s daughter Anna. ER must have found that yet another crushing, double-edged betrayal.
Eleanor had Hick.
I’m early in the book. I usually get in bed around 10pm, after I post the blogs for the next day, and read for the next hour or so. Sometimes, if I’m tired, “or so” can be as short as ten minutes. Last night I read beyond 11pm.
For a prominent woman with a public life to have a lesbian relationship while still married isn’t astonishing now, but it would have been then if anyone had described the love between ER and Hick honestly. They didn’t, even though Hick lived in the White House and the relationship was in plain sight for anyone who wanted to see.
My admiration for ER only grows, as does my appreciation for the complexities of life and love. ER and FDR stayed together, and each incorporated what they needed to experience passion. I think ER was a brave woman. Certainly nothing in her upbringing would have led her to see herself in relationship with a woman. She risked a lot, I suppose. If the equivalent of Breitbart News had existed in her era she would have been “outed” and in the most vicious way possible. But she fell in love with Hick, and Hick with her, and ER allowed herself that happiness. Journalists covering the First Lady turned a blind eye.
Looking forward to reading more about this more personal side of ER, a woman we all thought lived such a public life that we knew everything about her that was important to know.