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The Roosevelts

Updated on September 23, 2014

I am not nor have I ever been a history buff, however, "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" a film by Ken Burns, drew me in and kept me watching for the full fourteen hours! Each night I waited for the next two hours of the seven part documentary to begin to see what had happened in the Roosevelts' lives. Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are at the center of this sweeping documentary.

We do not live too far from Hyde Park, New York. Whether it be Eleanor Roosevelt's beloved Val-Kill or Franklin Roosevelt's estate at Springwood (and his Presidential Library & Museum), Hyde Park has always been considered home to FDR.

Theodore Roosevelt


The Roosevelts: Theodore

Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican, a Progressive, a cowboy, a naturalist and very likely suffered from ADHD or some such related illness which probably accounted for his inability to sit still. He could never be still.

As a young man he wrote "The Naval War of 1812", to keep himself busy. Quite an undertaking and a book that was used by our early Navy as a reference.

So much tragedy in one family, for one man is hard to believe. As a child he had to overcome severe asthma. He was mostly home schooled as a child and was weak in mathematics, not unlike many of us who were not home schooled! A boxing accident left him blind in one eye, an infection and surgery left him deaf in one ear, he was shot on his campaign trail and carried the bullet in his chest for the rest of his life.

I never realized the demons that tormented Theodore Roosevelt. I'm sure many of you know his mother and wife died on the same day only hours apart. His wife died of Bright's Disease and his mother of Typhoid Fever. He was only twenty-five when this double tragedy struck. He left politics and bought a cattle ranch in the Dakotas but when his herds were destroyed by blizzards he returned to New York City and politics.

He formed the Rough Riders to help do battle in Cuba when the war with Spain broke out. He found the battle exhilarating. Tracking and shooting and leading his men into battle.

He became President when McKinley was assassinated, the youngest person to become president at age 42. He was reelected in November of 1904 and called his policies a "Square Deal".

I am, of course capsulating his life here and leaving much out, but trying to form an overall view.

After his presidency he went on an African Expedition. His son Kermit, accompanied him, afraid to have him go alone. The expedition killed or trapped over 10,000 animals, insects and elephants. It also caused him to contract malaria and a leg infection, nearly causing his death and leaving him in a sad physical state, he lost fifty pounds.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt


The Roosevelts: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I never realized the true greatness of this man. Whether you agree with his politics or not, you can't deny his dedication to his country.

Franklin was Theodore's fifth cousin. Like Theodore he was born into a wealthy family but was an only child. He grew up at Springwood in the Hudson River Valley in New York. Unlike Theodore, he attended a prestigious boys' school and attended Harvard University. He got his degree in only three years and went on to study law. His political career began in 1910 when he was elected to the New York State Senate as a Democrat.

He became engaged to his fifth cousin, Eleanor. Eleanor was also the niece of Theodore Roosevlet whom Franklin admired greatly. They had six children, five of whom survived to adulthood.

He was reelected to the State Senate in 1912 and was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy, just as Theodore was. While the family was vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Franklin contracted polio (infantile paralysis) and lost the use of his legs. He established a foundation for polio victims in Warm Springs, Georgia, and visited there often to offer hope and encouragement to others afflicted with the same illness he had suffered from.

His wife and good friend Louie Howe convinced him to re-enter politics. Subsequently he was elected Governor of New York. One of the amazing things about him is that throughout his political career whenever he gave a speech he was seen standing. Not an easy feat. He wore leg braces that weighed ten pounds but he refused to be seated when giving a speech. He was elected, president for the first time, in 1932. He was elected president an unprecedented four times. No one before or since has been elected that many times.

Throughout his presidencies and his "New Deal" politics, he was responsible for Social Security, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Work Projects Administration (WPA), .signed the Lend Lease Bill to help nations at war with Germany, and created the United Nations.

The first woman to influence him, and continually influence him was his mother. It appears his great love was his devoted secretary one Miss LeHand his personal aid, and Lucy Mercer with whom he had an affair for thirty years. He admitted his feelings for Lucy to Eleanor and said he wanted to marry Lucy. It was his mother that forbid it. Daisy Suckley was a close friend to Franklin with a romantic overture. She and Franklin envisioned building a cottage on a hill in Duchess County where they could retire together. The romantic side of their relationship sort of disappeared and they became very close friends. Franklin's beloved dog Fala spent a lot of time with Daisy. Daisy was with Franklin when he died.

Again, I give you just a glimpse into the man who led the country as it entered WWII. He was president during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He approved the building of the Atomic Bomb as a result of a letter by Albert Einstein. Einstein warned that Germany might build such a bomb first.

Eleanor Roosevelt - 1932


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The Roosevelts: Eleanor

Probably one of the most complicated Roosevelts and I do not say that because we are both women, was Eleanor Roosevelt. When she was a child, Eleanor's mother told her how ugly she was. She adored her father who committed suicide when she was just ten years old. Her mother had died two years earlier. Eleanor and her two brothers went to live with their Grandmother. At age 15 she attended school in England which helped bring her out of her shell.

Her father was the younger brother of Theodore. This "branch" of the Roosevelts was known as the Oyster Bay Roosevelts while Franklin and his family were the Hyde Park Roosevelts.

When she married Franklin, her Uncle Theodore Roosevelt gave the bride away. She was afraid such a good looking man wouldn't stay by her side, or so she confided to a friend. After having her children, she started to become active. During WWI she volunteered for the Red Cross at Navy Hospitals. She participated in the League of Women Voters, joined the Women's Trade Union League, worked for the Women's Division of the New York State Democratic Committee, helped establish a not for profit furniture factory in Hyde Park, and taught at the Todhunter School. She wrote a daily column in the newspaper and gave many press conferences and lectures. This was just the beginning for Eleanor.

While this was all happening another sadness struck her life, the infidelity of her beloved Franklin. In those days a politician's private life was private. Now we know every move a politician makes! How hurt she must have been to have her own private secretary, Lucy Mercer, become one of Franklin's lifelong loves! One of her conditions for remaining in the marriage was that she and Franklin would never again share a bed. In spite of his "indiscretions" she undoubtedly loved him to the end. She became an advocate of civil rights and fought for civil rights all across the country.

Like Theodore, however, she lost herself in her work and stayed by Franklin's side. She once said, "I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on." She also said, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

She was an amazing woman and we have not yet had another first lady like her.

Franklin and Eleanor - State in Hide Park

Date of Birth
Date of Presidency
Date of Death
Theodore Roosevelt
1901 (McKinley's Death; voted in 1904
Franklin Roosevelt
March 1933 to April 1945
Eleanor Roosevelt

I hope you've enjoyed this little look at the Roosevelts and that you will leave a comment. I have to thank Ken Burns for his love of history and his documentary "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History". I think I will be looking for more of Ken Burns works, like "The War" and "The National Parks" which are only two of many.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved.

An Interview with Ken Burns - About his documentary


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    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      How nice of you to stop by FatBoyThin. Glad I could pass on some information.

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 

      4 years ago from Inverbervie, Scotland

      I knew very little about the Roosevelts so this was a nice bit of insight into the family. Eleanor certainly sounds the most interesting of them all. Thanks for sharing.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      Since you saw the series Audrey, you know just how good it was. Ken Burns is definitely a genius! Thanks for the great votes and for sharing. Hugs right back to you.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I was glued to this Ken Burns' film. I'm a history lover and have long been interested in the Roosevelts. What a marvelous and stellar hub this is, Mary!

      It's a privilege to Vote this hub up, useful, awesome, interesting and I will share.



    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      Aviannovice, I am totally impressed with your knowledge of FDR and Eleanor. You certainly understand them Deb. Thanks for the compliment.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were the most remarkable givers that this country has ever seen. Franklin had a deep loneliness that no single person could ever fulfill, other than his own mother. When she passed on, is truly when things went downhill, and he never cared more deeply for another person. Eleanor had her own skeletons, too. They both buried themselves in their work, which allowed them both to be fulfilled. Had FDR not died during his fourth term, he could well have been elected to a fifth. Your synopsis is well done.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      Glad you enjoyed this hub. Actually Laura I did watch the documentary and that's what piqued my interest. I'd love to do a hub on the Kennedy's...maybe I will.

    • Laura Schneider profile image

      Laura Schneider 

      4 years ago from Minnesota, USA

      Excellent hub! I knew some of this, but certainly not all. I love the way you brought them to life as great individuals as well as flawed human beings. Now how about hubs on the Fizgeralds and the Kennedys? You've piqued my interest in history and I hope to get hold of that documentary and learn more about the Roosevelts! Voted up and awesome and more! Great job!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      Marcoujour (Maria). I'm always afraid if I don't use HP names, people won't know I replied. Anyway, I started out watching this series just to appease the hubby and wound up loving it. Hugs GF

      Sunshine (Linda) we have more in common than I realized! I've always been a fan of the Kennedy's too. This was uncharted territory for me but I loved it.

      Glad you enjoyed it Vellur.

      Genna, that's exactly how I felt. Such dedication and commitment is surely admirable. Thanks for the votes.

      Phdast7 (Theresa), at least you had the European history knowledge, I didn't have that. Glad you enjoyed my hub. I hope all is well with you too.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Mary - What a detailed and informative HUB. Most of us don't know as much history as we should. I do European history, so this was a wonderful refresher for me and I learned a lot of things I never knew. Great essay. Hope all is well. Theresa

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Mary…

      I missed this terrific documentary, so I was happy to get caught up through your wonderful article. What a remarkable family! To overcome such tragedies, yet give of themselves in remarkable ways is tantamount to extraordinary courage and vision – whether we agree with their politics or not. One can’t help but be in awe of and admire their humanity, in more ways than one. Voted up and shared. :-)

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting and informative hub about the Roosevelts. Great hub, voted up.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I've always been a fan of the Kennedy family and kind of neglected the Roosevelts...Wow, I had no idea there was so much interesting history there. I do know that the teddy bear was named after Theodore, thanks to Daisy's hub! Thank you for sharing the Roosevelts with us!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Mary,

      My husband has been glued to the tube watching this series and I dismissed it...yet I was quite fascinated with an interview Jon Stewart recently did with Ken Burns.

      Now your fascinating and comprehensive review has me reconsidering my 'dismissal' (LOL) and I will surely be checking this series out as well...

      Excellent job. Voted UP and UABI. Love, Maria

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      Nell, I hope the show makes it to you, I'm sure you'd enjoy it. Thanks for the votes and shares!

      Mary, wasn't the show great? So many interesting things about the three of them and their families. Thanks for the votes and share.

      Susan, as I said earlier I was never interested in history either. I think as we age our interests shift. Glad you enjoyed.

      Peg, my husband's always been a history buff its me that's the Johnny Come Lately! I hope you get to see it too, I know you'd enjoy it.

      Stacie I so agree. I can't imagine seeing anything this interesting when I was in school. It is amazing the things these two presidents left as their legacy to us.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      4 years ago

      I have watched the entire 7 parts and did learn a lot about the Roosevelts.

      If we had series like this as students,maybe history would have been more relatable.

      Teddy,especially, created many programs that are taken for grnated.

      It's difficult to fathum no social security or many parks that I visit today without the ccc.

      Nicely done.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      4 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      We can't seem to get enough of these types of stories, from "Warm Springs" to "The Men Who Built America", the hubby and I seem to gravitate to these educational history shows. Like Susan, I had little interest in them during my school years, but now, I find them fascinating. You've peaked my interest with your summary of The Roosevelt's and I hope we will get to see this documentary.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've was never interested in any type of history for most of my life. Just over the last ten years or so I can't seem to get enough of History. Not necessarily political history though but The Roosevelt's I find so interesting and you've done such a great job covering them.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      4 years ago from Florida

      I have been following the documentary by Ken Burns and I was glued to the TV set. I grew up during WWII, so I can related to a lot of this info.

      Eleanor would never win a beauty contest, but she had admirable qualities.

      Voted this Hub UP, etc. and shared.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 years ago from England

      Hi mary, hopefully we will get this over here in England, I love history and the Roosevelts are fascinating, I loved your hub and totally got me interested in them, great hub! voted up and shared all over!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      Perspycacious, seems he collected a lot more than stamps but to answer your question, they are in the FDR Library. It always amazes me that every president has a library!

      mckbirdbks, agreed. One instance where wealth helped to serve the people.

      Jodah glad you enjoyed. I too found these three amazing in the obstacles they overcame.

      Happyboomernurse the mansions along the Hudson are truly something to see! I liked the way Ken Burns did the documentary too. Thanks for the hugs Gail, sending some back at you.

      sheilamyers I'm sure you won't be disappointed in the documentary, it taught me a lot and I even enjoyed it!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thanks for the history lesson. I knew a little about the Roosevelts, but there are some things new for me. If I get a chance, I'll have to watch this one. Ken Burns is a great historian and finds the little things most people have never heard about.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      4 years ago from South Carolina

      I am a history buff and when my husband and I lived in the Hudson Valley, we visited Hyde Park and other mansions along the Hudson River numerous times.

      I enjoyed the recent documentary by Ken Burns and felt it was unique in that it gave me an understanding of the familial connections between Eleanor, Franklin and Teddy.

      You did a great job on this hub and gave the reader just enough info to still want to see this documentary when it is re-televised.



    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I loved this hub Tillsontitan. I can see why you couldn't wait for the next episode of the series. Not being American I knew very little about the Roosevelts apart from the teddy bear being named after Theodore. Wow, was he unlucky.I found this very interesting. Franklin D must have been a strong man overcoming his polio to hold public office and stand during speeches etc. and Eleanor a very patient and active woman. Voted up.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      This was an interesting article. And it was an interesting series. What an American family.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Good synopsis. How did FDR ever find time for the work he did on his massive stamp collection, and where is it now? Subject for another of your fine Hubs (a short one?)

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      DDE, glad you found this so interesting. It was fun to watch and write about.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi tillsontitan, I have not heard and read everything but now I know more. Thank to you I thoroughly read and enjoyed a learning lesson here. Great photos and you summed up perfectly.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      Billybuc, (Bill) it definitely says a lot about the Roosevelts for you to admire a politician! They were so dedicated in spite of any or all of their faults. It seems like many things in the past, we will never see this greatness again.

      Eric, glad you enjoyed.

      NateB11, you're right, I didn't know TR was a martial artist. I was surprised that I enjoyed this so much but must credit the subject matter and the "author". Thanks for reading.

      Effer you are most welcome. Your wit always beats my history ;) Mother of the Year, I'm still laughing GF. You are blessed to see the humor in everything!!

      Faith, thank you for all the shares. This caught me by surprise because I am not one to sit through fourteen hours of history, but it was so interesting and they did so much for this country. I'm glad I could share a little bit of my enthusiasm.

      Frank, thanks for the awesome! It still amazes me that I was so interested. I now have a new found fascination with the Roosevelts. I knew a bit about all of them but this taught me so much more.

      Samuel hodges, so very happy you enjoyed and only too glad to share.

      Phyllis this is certainly not my genre but I was fascinated. Thank you for reading this hub ;)

      DealForALiving, there is so much to learn about these people who formed our government and did so much for us! Glad you liked the pic of Eleanor, I thought it different than the ones we usually see.

      Pamela I'm sure anyone who watches this documentary will come away with something. The author put a lot of work into it and presented it well.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Thid hub gave us a great overview of the Roosevelts. It was very interesting and well written. I should have watched it this week, but I think is still available. Voted up!

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 

      4 years ago from Earth

      Very informative hub here! Lots of information I'd never seen and that was a new pic of Eleanor for me as well.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Fabulous - you have a wonderful hub here. I have always loved reading about the Roosevelts, so truly enjoyed this. Thank you for writing this hub, Mary.

    • samuel hodges profile image

      samuel hodges 

      4 years ago from Winston-Salem NC

      Wow. This is fascinating. I never knew any of this. Thanks for sharing!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 years ago from Shelton

      A very good educational hub Til, I have known the Roosevelts through their accomplishments alone, but this opened up a few more doors in getting to know the Roosevelts.. I like reading hubs like this.. historical, and educational.. voted awesome

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      4 years ago from southern USA

      The Roosevelts were certainly a fascinating family and you have provided much more insight into all of their lives than I had known.

      Growing up in Georgia, we visited Warm Springs, Georgia, and learned a lot about Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

      I love Eleanor's quote, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." So true that we have not yet had another first lady like her.

      Superb hub here, dear Mary.

      Up +++ tweeting and pinning

      God bless you.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Hey Til...this is outstanding. I must watch it now that you have piqued my interest. I am not your basic History Buff either, but I am open to learning all things. Some of this, I believe I have picked up through the years, but I'm sure I did not know about Theodore's loss of his mother and wife on the same day. How say nothing of all the many hurdles this man dealt with in his life.

      5th cousin is pretty far removed.....but cousin none-the-less.

      I am impressed by the talents of Ken Burns and can understand why you found this well-worth watching. Thank you for sharing with your readers, Til..

      Gosh....every young girl should have a loving mother who informs her daughter she's ugly.......huh? So much for HER "Mother of the Year Award!!" Jeesh!..............UP+++

    • KnowWhatImean profile image


      4 years ago

      If you like this show, you would likely greatly appreciate the series 'The Men Who Built America' My 6th grader enjoyed it at school so much he bought it with his own money on Amazon so we would watch it at home with him. It was actually really well done and taught me a lot that I had not already known.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 

      4 years ago from California, United States of America

      Very interesting stuff. I just caught a part of the documentary earlier today, it was fascinating. Teddy Roosevelt was not a perfect man, and that's putting it mildly; but he definitely is fascinating and he did some very good things, especially for workers and in terms of breaking up the control of corporations. But he had a hang up with war. Little known fact: He was a martial artist. One of the first to practice Jiu Jitsu here in the US.

      Also caught another part of the documentary awhile back that focused on Franklin and Eleanor. They had a complex relationship and I enjoyed learning about it. They're all very human.

      Thanks for sharing, very interesting subject matter.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well done and very timely. You made me look forward to the documentary.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'll have to watch this, Mary. I greatly admire the work of Ken Burns, and I greatly admired the Roosevelts, which is a huge statement considering my current feelings about politicians.

      I'm glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for the review and the reminder to watch this.

      Have a great week my friend.


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