Eleanor Roosevelt, Knitter

March 12, 1933

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presents his first “fireside chat.” Over the course of his presidency, he broadcast 30 “chats” with the American people; the last was on June 4, 1944.

1. Eleanor Roosevelt knitting at the Associated Country Women of the World’s exhibit. Washington, D.C. June 2, 1936. Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images.

Eleanor Roosevelt tried her hand at knitting at the Associated Country Women Of The World’s exhibit at their triennial convention, Washington DC, June 2, 1936. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images). Eleanor Roosevelt knitting at the Associated Country Women of the World’s exhibit. Washington, D.C. June 2, 1936. Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images.

Here’s the needlework connection to this date:

While we don’t know if President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, was knitting while he gave this first fireside chat, we do know Eleanor was a consummate knitter. Mary Ann Colopy provides the details in her enchanting article, “Never Just Sit: Eleanor Roosevelt and a Life of Knitting,” from the January/February 2009 issue of PieceWork. Here are some highlights from Mary Ann’s article:

Eleanor Roosevelt gazing out of an airplane window while knitting during a tour of the United States. Photo by Thomas D. Mcavoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

First Lady Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt gazing out of airplane window while knitting during tour of the United States. (Photo by Thomas D. Mcavoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Eleanor Roosevelt gazing out of an airplane window while knitting during a tour of the United States. Photo by Thomas D. Mcavoy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

  • Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) was a champion of human rights, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945), mother of six, political activist, and ceaseless knitter. Seldom seen without her knitting bag, she produced baby garments, sweaters, and “war work.” She knitted at political conventions, on trains and airplanes, after dinner parties, while serving at the United Nations, and at informal family gatherings. Eleanor and her ubiquitous knitting even appeared in political cartoons.
  • Eleanor knew how to sew and knit by the time she was six. Her governess taught her to darn socks, ripping out the imperfect work for Eleanor to redo.
  • As the young wife of a politician, Eleanor learned to sit and listen. Knitting allowed her to think while excluded (along with all other women) from Democratic Party platform committee meetings during the 1924 convention. As she knitted, she absorbed what she heard and later was able to use the knowledge to “play the game the way the men do.”

Read the entire article in the January/February 2009 issue. Enjoy the images that accompany this showing Eleanor knitting and learn more about her life off stage at her beloved Val-Kill in Hyde Park, New York, at www.nps.gov/elro.

Thanks to Franklin for delivering his fireside chats; they made a difference. Thanks to Eleanor for being one of the most formidable and courageous women in history. That she accomplished all she did, with her knitting always close by, is inspiring.

—Jeane


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