Publication Date

2010

Abstract

{Excerpt} For Eleanor Roosevelt, helping people achieve better lives by taking individual responsibility and then acting collectively to remedy problems was a cornerstone of democracy, in good and bad economic times, during war and peace. She saw these convictions embodied in the labor movement. Labor leaders, including Walter Reuther, the visionary young president of the emerging United Automobile Workers, earned her praise and became her close friends. She criticized leaders who abused their power, but never wavered in her support for the rank and file. One of her adversaries, however, the influential journalist Westbrook Pegler, attacked ER as a dilettante and her labor allies as thugs.

ER's core principles of workplace democracy, however, remained her model for democracy in the country and around the world. In 1961 ER told the AFL-CIO convention, "The labor movement—and perhaps I can say my movement, too, because I think sometimes I work as hard as any of you do—I feel that it is part of our job to keep alive the ideals that you started with, the ideals of really helping the people to better conditions, to a better way of life which is part of the basis of democracy." The story of how Eleanor Roosevelt became a union member, what it meant then, and why it matters now begins with a most unusual gathering on the shores of the Hudson River.

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The abstract, table of contents, and first twenty-five pages are published with permission from the Cornell University Press. For ordering information, please visit the Cornell University Press

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