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Character List for Eleanor: Her Secret Journey Eleanor Roosevelt – Born in 1882 to Elliott (Teddy’s brother) and Anna Roosevelt, she was a shy girl who lost her parents by the time she was 10 and was raised by her maternal grandmother. She attended an English boarding school run by the progressive Mlle. Souvestre who encouraged the girls to think for themselves and to attack serious subjects seriously. Returning to the U.S. she was married to her distant cousin Franklin in 1905, given away by President Teddy. At the time of the main action of this play Eleanor and Franklin have been married for about 13 years and have 5 children, the youngest about age 2; it is 1917-1918, and America has just entered World War I. Eleanor is restless, unfulfilled by the duties of wife (the household duties are mainly taken care of by Franklin’s mother, who lives with them) and mother, which is compounded by her suspicion that her husband has been unfaithful. Through her volunteer work at canteens and as a result of conversations with Duckworth, a veteran who serves as her guide and assistant when she attends the peace talks in Paris, Eleanor realizes both the horrors of war (as much as any spectator can) and that she and Franklin must make others aware of them, to affect peace in the future. While he was alive Eleanor primarily worked as an advisor to Franklin, but after his death, his successor President Truman called upon her to serve her country as an ambassador to the newly-formed United Nations, which Eleanor accepts on behalf of herself and Franklin. Heard from but not Seen FDR – Born in Hyde Park, NY, to James and Sara Delano Roosevelt in 1882 Franklin earned his BA from Harvard in 1904 and his law degree from Columbia University Law School in 1907. He married his distant cousin Eleanor in 1905, while in law school. He was admitted to the NY State Bar in 1907 and was a partner at Marvin, Hooker and Roosevelt at the same time he served as a member of New York’s state senate. At the time of the play Franklin is Assistant Secretary of the Navy; he was so named in 1913. His superiors were sufficiently impressed by his abilities that he was part of the US contingent sent to negotiate peace at the end of WWI. (Yes, he has already had an affair with Miss Mercer.) Before his years as President Franklin was governor of New York, a position that is still somewhat considered a stepping stone to national office. Bernard Baruch – Born in 1870 to Simon (who had been a surgeon for the Confederacy in the Civil War) and Belle, he earned a BA from City College in 1889 and soon thereafter joined the NY Stock Exchange, where he became known for his financial expertise. In 1916 President Wilson appointed him to his Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense; Baruch also served as chair of the Committee on Raw Materials, Minerals and Metals as well as purchasing commissioner for the War Industries Board and a member of the commission obtaining war materiel for the Allies. He also accompanied Wilson to the peace talks following WWI as a financial advisor.


Subsequently Baruch advised many presidents as far as the country’s financial affairs; in fact, he coined the phrase cold war in describing the extremely strained relations and act of one-upmanship between the US and USSR following World War II. He died in 1965. Uncle Teddy – A New Yorker by birth (1858), young Theodore earned his Harvard BA in 1880 and a doctorate in law from Columbia in 1899 (he studied or received credit from a number of other colleges as well, and was granted a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in 1910). He was a member of the NY state legislature from 1882-1884 and a delegate at the ’84 Republican National Convention. After a brief stint at ranching in North Dakota he returned east, running for mayor of New York in1886 (he lost) and acting as a US civil service commissioner (1889-97) and president of the NYC police board (1895-7). From there he was selected to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, from which post he resigned to organize, with Leonard Wood, the Rough Riders, a cavalry unit formed to fight the Spanish-American War. Having mustered out of that unit in September 1898 he managed to be elected NYS governor, which post he held from January 1899 through December 1900, although he had been elected Vice-President to William McKinley in November 1900. (Breathtaking, isn’t it?) On McKinley’s assassination in September 1901 Teddy became the nation’s youngest president (Clinton is the youngest elected president); after serving out McKinley’s term he was elected in his own right (1905-09). Dissatisfied with President Taft, the Republican party’s nominee for the 1912 election, Theodore formed a Progressive Party more commonly known as the Bull Moose Party. While in office, both state and federal, Teddy was known as a champion of civil service and conservation (he was the impetus behind Yellowstone Park, among others, as well as designating that certain natural reserves contained within federal lands be preserved for future use). He was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his part in mediating a resolution to the Russo-Japanese War of 1903. His offer to lead soldiers into battle during WWI was regretfully declined. Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919. Henry Adams – Distantly related to the Roosevelts (see The Royal Family, below) Adams is a free-thinking student of history, particularly American political history, whose wife “Clover” died suddenly and mysterious. Like Eleanor, she was swept into the center of political life by marrying into the Adams heritage (Henry’s greatgrandfather was John, his grandfather [with whom he spent boyhood summers] was John Quincy, and his father, Charles Francis, served as an ambassador tapping Henry to act as his secretary). With this perspective Henry offers Eleanor a sympathetic ear while challenging her to become the person he knows she truly is. The Design Team Director

John Tillinger

Production Supervisor/Lighting Designer

Ron Nash

Costume Designer

Noel Taylor

Wig Designer

Paul Huntley


Sound Designer

Aural Fixation


Rhoda Lerman on Writing Eleanor RL: Twenty-five years ago or more I was interested in writing about Eleanor Roosevelt, not as a novel but as a nonfiction piece. And Jean Stapleton came to Hyde Park, to the [Roosevelt] library, at the same time I was doing my research there to do her own research: she wanted to do this as a play sometime down the road and was watching Eleanor tapes and listening to Eleanor recordings. The people from Hyde Park came to her and said, “Could you make a little speech for us at the high school because they’re trying to sell Val-kill, Eleanor’s home (which, as many people know, is the house she built away from Hyde Park, her own residence)?” So Jean said she would make that speech if someone could write something, and they said, “Well, there’s a writer here,” and there I was! (She laughs) So I wrote a speech for her and I wrote it in the first person, and as I saw her perform it, I realized that I had to write this book in first person; I had to make believe as she did, because that was the only way to achieve the depth of Eleanor’s character. So I did whatever research had to be done for four years—I could have written the other kind of book—but this was much more intimate a work than anything else could have been. . . . So Jean always wanted to do this play and now she wanted to do it with my words. Years passed, time passed and we started in on it. . . . She could bring a lot of humor and timing to it from her experience in television. And so we began . . . . I adapted some chapters of my book [while] we went on a little trip around the world, practically, on a cruise ship. We just . . . shared lines and dropped lines and tightened lines and went over it and over it and over it. We’d . . . say, “Oh, I’ve got a good line,” that kind of thing. . . . I could see Jean’s point when she would say, “I can act that; you don’t have to use it.” It was true; it was absolutely true; what she can do with a facial expression would take me a paragraph. So the director [John Tillinger] would say, “That’s a little too introspective there,” and we’d cut that, and Jean would say, “Oh, if only I could have this line toward the end, I could build toward it dramatically, so I could drop it in at the end,” which was stage writing. They taught me! (She laughs) [Since I was writing about real people I would try to build upon real] historical moments, each one of those bits: The First World War begins, the First World War ends, they go to Versailles for the signing of the agreements, and so on. So they are all real moments in history. (I’m putting up my finger to try to explain this.) The points of history were the fingertips but the depth of feeling was between the fingers. So I tried to imagine, in this historical moment, what did she feel? And I got it right a lot! [The Roosevelts aren’t the only real people, naturally. Even] Duckworth is a composite of First World War soldiers, and a lot of that information I worked on hard to get; I studied the First World War quite a bit to get those scenes right; but Duckworth is a composite. There was a man in there, part of that composite, who, in a way reports what Duckworth did: he was a private at the front, an American; and I got him because someone living in Cazenovia came to me with her grandfather’s letters to her grandmother from the First World War. That’s where I got them from, because mostly it was the lieutenants and other officers who wrote home with a sense of history but [this private] was just complaining about the bedbugs and the things he saw, and it was the most realistic view of the war, and I had Eleanor read those letters. So she has a truly realistic view of the war as compared to Franklin, whose letters report that he bought silk


pajamas and went to visit the king. He couldn’t get near the front. It was a great gift that woman gave me, to let me see those letters. [As far as Mrs. Roosevelt’s “journey” from being withdrawn to becoming an activist,] I’m quite sure a lot of other people had said that because her husband had betrayed her she became a great woman. I thought that was really a fallacy because then I could get my husband to betray me and then I could become great. (Laughter) He would contribute to my greatness. (More laughter) I felt that is not what made her great. I really wanted to know what allowed her to find herself, which is a question for all people and certainly for all women, especially women who are submerged by men like her husband; how they can find themselves and identify themselves and fulfill their own potential rather than simply serving the husband. [Part of her greatness had to do with her intelligence, of course.] She was very smart, very, very, very smart. She was also very religious, in terms of the Episcopalian church and her belief system, under which she felt that she could make the world a better place for people to live in, that it was her duty. One of the questions I often get, Joe, is, if she were around today, could we have another Eleanor Roosevelt today? And the problem there is she and her family considered themselves and acted like and probably were American nobility, so there was a sense of destiny in each of them, a sense of necessity to do good and to do right by others and to be generous and to be charitable. . . . It was a duty, and it wasn’t political; it was a duty. . . Eleanor took huge chances with the Marian Andersons and the other people she surrounded herself with, political chances. . . . She was gifted with all the qualities of her class and that’s what you do with them. [There is another bit of local interest regarding the Roosevelts.] We had this big Stanford White mansion on Cazenovia Lake [in which I offered to host an event for an acquaintance.] I managed to get the downstairs clean but, you know, the bedrooms, the study, they stayed as they were. . . . Some guy, at the time I have no idea who he is, takes some people on tour upstairs. . . . I get to my husband and say, “Hey, I really hate that,” but he says, “This is okay. . . , this is really okay.” So I went up with him on the tour . . . , and he was saying, “Here on the third floor, this is where the state troopers and the nannies slept.” And I said, “What do you mean, state troopers?” and he said, “Well, when Governor and Mrs. Roosevelt came down here every summer, they brought their state troopers and nannies.” [The man’s] father was Walter White. He owned the Walter White Tavern for many, many years, and the house had been an inn. And the Roosevelts came down, ’28, ’29, ’30, and ’31, during the governorship in Albany, came down to summer in this house that I was living in! So he told me about the bedroom where I was writing, and the study where Eleanor slept (because she didn’t sleep with Franklin); the bedroom where we slept and the study where she slept and the other bedroom, where the boys slept, and I was astonished, just astonished. I felt as if I had been psychically had! [at first but of course I was really pleased.] Some Facts about World War I From: The Great War: 1914-18, Spencer C. Tucker The Great War is one of the turning points in history. The “short” war begun by AustriaHungary to get rid of Serbia became a protracted struggle that swept up most of Europe


and the rest of the Western world in its train. The conflict mobilized 65 million soldiers of whom 9 million died and another 23 million were wounded. In the French and Russian armies three-quarters of the men were casualties. The war was hard on civilians as well: some 750,000 Germans died as a result of the British naval blockade. Beyond the immense human suffering the war had far-reaching consequences. It toppled the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empire; it swept the Bolsheviks [early Communists] to power in Russian; it marked the beginning of the end of European empires overseas; it used up centuries of accumulated capital, transforming European states into debtors and the united States into financial leadership; and the profound disillusionment following the war sowed the seeds of fascism in Italy and German. The conflagration of 1939-45 cannot be understood without examining that of 1914-18. The Great War truly cast a long shadow. It is especially worth remembering . . . that the war originated in a city in the Balkans by the name of Sarajevo.

Pre-WWI European boundaries boundaries

Post-WWI In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Love and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw


The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who died We shall not sleep, though poppies row In Flanders fields. —John McCrae The UN, in brief The United Nations’ name was coined by Franklin during a discussion of a international peace-keeping organization prior to the signing of the Atlantic Charter, which document formally initiated the movement to create a “permanent system of general security” in 1941. Talks between Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in 1944 outlined the UN’s general mission: to endeavor to achieve world peace through diplomacy and economic assistance primarily, with collective military action as a last resort. The formal charter was drafted in April 1945 in San Francisco to literally distance it from treaties ending the war (the close relationship between WWI treaties and the League of Nations had undermined that earlier collective effort) and went into effect October 24, now known as UN day. Eleanor was appointed to represent the US by President Truman in December 1945; she was named chair of the Commission for Human Rights in 1946. Mrs. Roosevelt resigned in 1952 but was reappointed by President Kennedy in 1961; she served until her death a year later.

Works Consulted The Encyclopedia Americana. Danbury, CT: Grolier, Inc., 1998. Marquis, Albert Nelson, ed. Who’s Who in America: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of the United States, Vol. X, 1918-19. Chicago: A.N. Marquis & Co., 1918. Trager, James, revis., ed. The People’s Chronology: A Year-By-Year Record of Human Events from Prehistory to the Present. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1994. Tucker, Spencer C. The Great War, 1914-18. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998. Wharton, Don, ed., annot. The Roosevelt Omnibus. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934.

Eleanor Journey  

Eleanor Journey Study Guide

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