cover image The First Lady of Radio: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Historic Broadcasts

The First Lady of Radio: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Historic Broadcasts

Edited by Stephen Drury Smith. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-62097-042-3

In her time, Eleanor Roosevelt redefined the role of First Lady, and one of the ways she did so was through her constant public communication with the U.S. citizens. Smith, executive editor and host of American Radio Works, has selected transcripts of broadcasts from 1932 to 1945, including important addresses on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and V-E Day, as well as several aimed at the woman of the day. Eleanor didn’t shy away from difficult topics; an advocate for women, she promoted the value of the female wartime labor force on the home front. She also grasped that social roles were changing for women. The fact that her show was commercially sponsored by the likes of Sweetheart Soap and Pond’s Cold Cream opened her up to criticism, as did some of her other political activities, such as her stint as an assistant director for volunteer coordination in the Office of Civilian Defense, a post she had to give up after only five months. The book includes her response to some of these charges, in “Answering Her Critics.” Smith provides accurate context for the transcripts, and, though they do not make for great literature, they’re an intriguing glimpse into the social and political changes of the period. [em](Nov.) [/em]