Eleanor Roosevelt stopped in Medford

In the course of her travels, Eleanor Roosevelt stopped by the Medford Historical Society’s monthly meeting on Thursday, May 3 to divulge about her life past the White House.

This was Roosevelt’s second visit to the history society and the second part of her tales of life as the First Lady.

Rene Goodwin, of Philadelphia, portrays Roosevelt. She has acted the part for the White House Visitors Center, the Theodore Roosevelt Museum and the National Archives, to name a few.

“She talks like Eleanor,” said historical society member Sylvia Teahan.

Her apparel fits the era perfectly, all the way down to her shoes, she said.

When she’s not playing the parts of famous individuals from times past, she is a voice and musical mentor for the Philly Pops.

On this particular night in the Medford Friends Meetinghouse’s community room, Eleanor was dressed in grieving garb. Her husband, the President of the United States who pulled the country out of the Great Depression and through World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had just died.

She was preparing to leave the White House and pass control of the country’s affairs to President Harry Truman.

During her program, she stood poised, with a battled expression as she recounted some memories from her time in the house that she never owned, but came to love over her 12 years there from 1933 to 1945.

“That’s how long we have lived here – 12 years,” she said. “It has been an interesting time for all of us.”

With so many events and emotions transpiring in the White House, it took on the spirit of her family, she said. She planned to bring with her the joyous memories.

Roosevelt spoke of the successes her husband accomplished while serving – The New Deal, the Tennessee Valley Authority Dam Project, the 15 pieces of legislation Congress passed in his first 100 days of presidency.

She also spoke of her own goals, her own passions.

“Eleanor Everywhere” they called her.

She traveled far and wide, more than 100,000 miles, to promote her opinions – equal pay for equal work. She wanted a minimum wage to be set for workers, proper education and health care.

The staff at the White House were not used to having such an independent First Lady.

She was the first to operate the elevator without assistance, which shocked staffers, she said.

Roosevelt spoke of Marian Anderson, one of the most prolific singers of her time.

Anderson was denied the opportunity to sing in Washington, D.C.’s, Constitution Hall due to her African-American heritage. The hall was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, which had a policy against allowing African Americans to perform.

Roosevelt took matters into her own hands and arranged with her husband and White House staff for Anderson to sing an open air concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, to a crowd of more than 75,000.

Through the good times and the bad, Roosevelt survived her husband’s presidency.

“That which one must do can usually be done,” she said, and her life was a testament to that motto.

As she ended her speech, Roosevelt challenged the audience to “live widely and fully.”

Vice-president of programs Janet Jackson Gould said the historical society hosts programs monthly aside from January, February, July and August.

Last fall, in fact, Walt Whitman paid a visit.

“They have wonderful programs,” said Teahan.

The historical society has a full calendar of events through the rest of the year, from a Quilt Show June 2 and June 3 to Country Day on July 8 to October’s annual Apple Festival.