Eleanor Roosevelt’s Autofabrication as Gendered Premediation of a Female Presidency
- 3 Downloads
Eleanor Roosevelt’s presumable modesty and shyness are among her most habitually applauded private characteristics, by academic historians and public educators alike, and yet she remains the most powerful American female political agent who has never run for democratic office. Eleanor Roosevelt was in fact often asked about plans to run for president and the possibility that the USA would have a female president. Polls about possible presidents included her name and counterfactual narratives in which a third Roosevelt presidency is imagined continue to fascinate, particularly in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s nightmarish presidential run in 2016. This article shows how Eleanor Roosevelt created a position of unprecedented soft power for herself, precisely because she hardly overstepped the implicit boundaries set for women. I will close-read Mrs. Roosevelt’s “My Day” columns and magazine articles against contemporary and later representations of her invisible power and powerful invisibility. I argue that what Eleanor Roosevelt herself once termed woman’s “casual unawareness of her value to society” was crucial in the construction of a feminine power position that enabled her to wield unusual influence, both as First Lady and as a public intellectual and diplomat, but also how presidential fantasies could never go beyond that status.