Eleanor Roosevelt: The First First Lady

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, completely modernized the role of the First Lady. Due to FDR’s paralysis resulting from his battle with polio, Eleanor Roosevelt embraced a politically active lifestyle and represented her husband at a variety of appearances across the country.  Eleanor Roosevelt used her public image in order to advocatCarlsone for the under-privileged populations of America and became a modern voice for women’s issues. Never before had a First Lady been so available to the citizens of the United States, and thus causes that she cared deeply about became available to the American people. Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to hold press conferences. She seldom allowed male reporters to attend in order to draw attention to the lack of female representation in the press.Like her husband, Eleanor Roosevelt hosted her own radio program. Eleanor Roosevelt is perhaps most recognized for her beliefs that women should participate equally in society, politics, and economics. Mrs. Roosevelt paved the way for social activists, but she also redefined the role of the First Lady. Current First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative, Let’s Move!, is a movement to inspire healthier lifestyles in the parents and youth of America. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady Michelle Obama uses her public figure to establish a connection with the public via the media. The current First Lady holds her own press conferences, makes her own speeches, and has her own agenda due in part to the innovative efforts by Eleanor Roosevelt. Posted by Mackenzie Carlson



The Creation of an American Hero

During the 1930’s the American escaped the tragic mood of the Great Depression by reading comic strips. By 1935, almost 2000 comic strips were being published in newspapers all across the country. Comic strip creators were treated as celebrities and were able to earn good money for their work. Many young men attempted to break into the comic industry to earn money in lack of proper employment, including the two sons of Jewish immigrants, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. These two friends created the characRiceter Superman, an alien who immigrated to earth and possessed superpowers who protected the American people. They pitched their idea for five years before it was picked up to be the first issue of Action Comics.

Superman became popular almost instantly because he represented justice for the unemployed and prosperity for immigrants. The unemployed American responded to a man whose job was to protect the common man, especially during the 1930’s where the average American felt powerless to big business and a 25% unemployment rate. Immigrants also identified with Superman, as Superman had left his alien home of Krypton behind to assimilate into the ideal American man. Superman changing his name to Clark Kent and finding success in both his career and his mission to protect justice made him a symbol of the “American Dream,” or being able to come into America and find success no matter one’s previous history.

Two years after its release, Action Comic’s published Superman in the first ever full-length comic book devoted to a singular character. His success sparked a new industry of comic books. By 1940, over two-dozen firms were publishing comics of their own myriad of super-heroes, such as The Flash, The Human Torch, and Plastic Man. Superman created a new industry that returned United States citizen’s faith in the American Dream during a hard time in history, and has continued through the 2st century.  posted by Holly Rice

Joblessness Changes People

jobless-america-future-200This depressing article by Don Peck, from the Atlantic Monthly, describes the research sociologists and historians have done on the psychological effects of economic recessions and depressions on particular age cohorts. In other words, how does the experience of living through a recession change your life if you’re 20, 30, 40, or 50 when the recession starts? Those interviewed talk about what research has shown about the effects of past recessions,a nd speculate on what will occur as a result of the current downturn. The experts’ conclusions are, unsurprisingly, fairly grim:

If it persists much longer, this era of high joblessness will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults—and quite possibly those of the children behind them as well. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar white men—and on white culture. It could change the nature of modern marriage, and also cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a kind of despair and dysfunction not seen for decades.

Whether or not you agree with these assessments, the article reminded me of the important effects that changes in the national economic and political picture have on the lives of individuals. This is the type of historical question which we’ll be considering this week when we read Studs Terkel’s interviews with people who lived through World War Two.

Immigration–interactive map

This is one of the New York Times interactive maps you might find interesting in light of discussions concerning American immigration and settlement.   If any of your family arrived at Ellis Island, you can search records for them here.  Of course, immigrants have arrived–and continue to– through many other ports, across the Canadian and Mexican borders, through Galveston, and other places.  However, only Ellis Island has created this searchable site.

The Problem with American — Historically

‘What Do You Think Is the Most Important  Problem Facing This Country Today?’

Since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Gallup polling organization has asked Americans an open-ended question: “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” The New York Times has translated the polls into a series of infographics.  Here’s an FDR era “picture”  from 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression.  Scroll through the site to see what concerned Americans during the administrations since. 


Historians as Detectives: US Infected Guatemalan Prisoners

Dr. Susan Reverby, whose research uncovered the record of the experiments

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Tuskegee Experiments—a shameful chapter in US history in which doctors funded by the U.S. Public Health Service recruited a group of African-American sharecroppers who had syphilis, then watched as their disease progressed, withholding treatment and lying to them about the source of their sickness, all in order to see how the disease worked. In 2011, a professor of history and women’s studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Susan Reverby, was all over the news for having discovered documents that proved that similar studies had been carried out in Guatemala in the 1940s. A doctor who had been part of the Tuskegee experiments, John Cutler, used National Institutes of Health money (that’s taxpayer funding, as the New York Times pointed out) to infect Guatemalan prisoners with venereal diseases in order to test the efficacy of penicillin. Sometimes Cutler even hired prostitutes (which were apparently allowed in Guatemalan jails) to carry out the transmission of disease; sometimes the method was to scrape part of the prisoner’s body and infect that way. The Times quotes a medical ethicist from the University of Chicago, Mark Siegler, who gives some historical perspective: “It’s ironic — no, it’s worse than that, it’s appalling — that, at the same time as the United States was prosecuting Nazi doctors for crimes against humanity, the U.S. government was supporting research that placed human subjects at enormous risk.”

UPDATE: Here’s an interview with Dr. Reverby about her research methods and the initial reception of her work.

John Held–1920s Cartoonist

John Held  illustrated this Life Magazine cartoon “Insatiable Neckers.”  Along with Norman Rockwell, he was perhaps the most well-known “drawer” in the 1920s.