Thousands of letters and notes between the two women show that they had an intimate and passionate relationship. For instance, in a letter dated December 5, 1933, Hickok wrote to Eleanor: “I remember your eyes, with a kind of teasing smile in them and the feeling of that soft spot just north-east of the corner of your mouth against my lips.” On September 1, 1934, Eleanor wrote to Lorena: “I wish I could lie down beside you tonight & take you in my arms.”
Franklin Roosevelt, paralyzed by polio, apparently approved of the relationship between his wife and Hickok, who lived at the White House from 1939 to 1945. However, Hickok’s image was usually removed from photos printed in the press at the time, and she maintained a room at the Mayflower Hotel where she could meet less intimate friends and associates.
After the death of Franklin Roosevelt, Hickok moved to the Roosevelt estate with Eleanor, where she had a cottage of her own. After Eleanor’s death, Hickok continued to live on the estate until her own death six years later.
Lorena Alice Hickok was an American journalist and confidante of Eleanor Roosevelt. Her relationship with Roosevelt has been the subject of research. A key passage from just one early 12-page handwritten missive to Lorena from Eleanor sheds light on their relationship:Goodnight, dear one. I want to put my arms around you and kiss you at the corner of your mouth. And in a little more than a week now, I shall! It is not universally accepted by historians that the two were romantically connected.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok
The cottage where Lorena Hickok lived with Eleanor Roosevelt in the Hyde Park's estate with Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his native mansion (photo by Elisa)
Stern, Keith (2009-09-01). Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals (Kindle Locations 10390-10401). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.
Lorena Alice Hickok (March 7, 1893 – May 1, 1968) was an American journalist and confidante of Eleanor Roosevelt. Her relationship with Roosevelt has been the subject of research.
Lorena Hickok, popularly known as "Hick", was born in East Troy in Walworth County, Wisconsin, the daughter of Anna Adelsa (née Waite) and Addison Hickok. During childhood, Hickok experienced a troubled family life, characterized by abuse, unemployment, and repeated moves. She left home at the age of fourteen to work as a maid until her mother's cousin, Ella Ellis, took her in. While living with Ellis, Hickok finished high school and enrolled at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Hickok never adjusted to college and dropped out after one year. She was then hired to cover train arrivals and departures and write personal interest stories at The Battle Creek Evening News. To attempt to follow in the footsteps of her role model, novelist Edna Ferber, she eventually joined the Milwaukee Sentinel as its society editor, but moved on to the city beat, where she developed a knack as an interviewer. Hickok then worked in Minneapolis and New York, but was unsuccessful in such a big city and was fired after just a month. She returned to Minneapolis to work for the Minneapolis Tribune and enrolled at the University of Minnesota, but ended up leaving upon being forced to live in a women's dormitory. She stayed with the Minneapolis Tribune, where she was given opportunities unusual for a female reporter. She had a by-line and was the paper's chief reporter, covering politics and football and preparing editorials. She left the Minneapolis Tribune in 1926. After a period of travel, and ill health, she went to New York. After working for "The Mirror" for about a year, Hickok landed a job with the Associated Press in 1928, where she became one of the wire service's most valued correspondents. She reported in a prominent way on such huge events as the Lindbergh kidnapping. Her specialty was campaign reporting, often sharing campaign trails with her male colleagues.
Hickok first met Eleanor Roosevelt in the summer of 1928, at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in New York City. In 1932, she convinced her editors to allow her to cover Eleanor Roosevelt during the presidential campaign and for the four month interregnum period. Through that experience, she and Mrs. Roosevelt developed a close relationship.
Because she felt she could no longer be objective in covering the Roosevelts, Hickok left the Associated Press in 1933. Eleanor Roosevelt then helped her obtain the position as a Chief Investigator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), where she conducted some fact-finding missions. During this time, she also provided public relations advice to the first lady. She is credited with pushing Roosevelt to write her own newspaper column, "My Day", and to hold weekly press conferences specifically for female journalists.
During her time with FERA, Hickok developed a dislike of reporters. In one report to Hopkins in 1934, she wrote, “Believe me, the next state administrator who lets out any publicity on me is going to get his head cracked...” Hickok had also vented to Hopkins's secretary, Kathryn Godwin, about how she was “fed-up with publicity”. She said, “I want to kick every reporter I see. Which is a state for me to get into, since I’ll probably be back in business myself after I get through with this.” Two weeks after writing the letter to Hopkins, Hickok saw an article in Time Magazine, which referred to her in some not–so-ladylike terms. Referring to that article, Hickok had said to the Godwin, “I suppose I am a ‘rotund lady with a husky voice’ and ‘baggy clothes,’ [Time's words], but honestly don’t believe my manner is ‘peremptory.’” Hickok went on to say that, if they felt that way about her then, “Why the Hell CAN’T they leave me alone?” In a letter (February, 1934) to Godwin, Hickok admitted that the Time article had upset her: “… that damned article in Time Magazine, has made something of a wreck out of me … as I came in, they handed me, with beaming smiles, a copy of Time. I read the thing and wanted to curse until the air was blue.”
March through July 1934 was marked by highs and lows in Hickok’s life. In several letters between the women, Eleanor spoke of “longing to kiss and hold” Lorena in her arms. Yet, in another letter from Eleanor, in May 1934, Eleanor implied that she did not like the instability of Lorena’s life, and found it discomforting, “saying that she was tired of the ‘bad things’ that Lorena’s temperamental nature did to her (her being Hickok).” Eleanor even told Hickok that she thought Hickok was in a mental and emotional depression.
Hickok became the executive secretary of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 1940, and from early January, 1941 until shortly after FDR's fourth inauguration in 1945, she lived at the White House. During her time there, Hickok's nominal address was at the Mayflower Hotel in DC, where she met most people. Also during this time, she formed an intense friendship with the Honorable Marion Janet Harron, a United States Tax Court judge who was ten years younger than her and almost the only person to visit her at the White House.
When Hickok's diabetes worsened in 1945, she was forced to leave her position with the DNC. Two years later, Eleanor Roosevelt helped her obtain a position with the New York State Democratic Committee. When Hickok's health continued to decline to the point where she became frail and partially blind, she moved to Hyde Park to be closer to Mrs. Roosevelt. She lived in a cottage on the Roosevelt estate, where she died in 1968.
Hickok wrote several books, co-authoring "Ladies of Courage" with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1954, and following that with "The Story of Franklin D. Roosevelt," (1956), "The Story of Hellen Keller" (1958), "The Story of Eleanor Roosevelt" (1959), and several more.
Hickok willed her personal papers to the FDR Library, in Hyde Park, New York, part of the US National Archives. Her donation was contained in 18 filing boxes that, according to the provisions of her will, were to be sealed until 10 years after her death.
In early May, 1978, Doris Faber, as part of research for a projected short biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, became perhaps the first person outside the National Archives to open these boxes, and was astounded to discover that they contained 2336 letters from Mrs. Roosevelt to Lorena, most of them dated in the 1930s, and continuing right up to Mrs. Roosevelt's death in 1962.
A key passage from just one early 12-page handwritten missive to Lorena from Eleanor sheds light on their relationship:
Goodnight, dear one. I want to put my arms around you and kiss you at the corner of your mouth. And in a little more than a week now — I shall!It is not universally accepted by historians that the two were romantically connected.
Hickok's papers remain at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Museum, where they are available to the public.
Burial: Rhinebeck Cemetery, Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York, USA
Eleanor Roosevelt had a deeply committed relationship with her husband that involved working together closely and raising five children. They also both had lovers and committed relationships outside their marriage. For several years Eleanor Roosevelt was romantically and sexually involved with journalist Lorena Hickok; later this relationship was replaced by a profound, if complicated, friendship. Hickok reported on Roosevelt's political work and, in 1959, authored a book for young adults, The Story of Eleanor Roosevelt, that detailed her former lover's life and work. Their letters give a profound sense of their involvement. On February 4, 1934, Roosevelt wrote to Hickok from the White House:Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa RolleHick darling, I just talked to you, darling, it was so good to hear your voice. If I just could take you in my arms. Dear, I often feel rebellious too & yet I know we get more joy when we are together than we would have if we lived apart in the same city & could only meet for short periods now & then. Someday perhaps fate will be kind & let us arrange a life more to our liking [but] for the time being we are lucky to have what we have. Dearest, we are happy together & strong relationships have to grow deep roots.Roosevelt remained intensely involved with her "ladies' brain trust" for decades. Later in life, working with the United Nations, she was deeply committed to international human rights.
By the 1930s, after the advent of sexology, female romantic friendships were widely, and suspiciously, viewed as sexual and unhealthy. In addition, freer discussion of lesbianism and sex allowed female social justice activists, and all Americans, to understand gender and sexuality in a new light. Although her letters do give us a portrait of an intensely passionate woman, we can never know exactly what Eleanor Roosevelt felt - it is widely believed that, in addition to her affair with Hickok, she also had an affair with her bodyguard, Earl Miller, who was ten years her junior - but we know that her close female friendships sustained her life and her progressive political vision. As her life, loves, political interests, and passions demonstrate, Roosevelt, unlike the women in the social purity movement, valued personal and social freedoms over the idea of restricting human behavior. Eleanor Roosevelt and her female friends believed in creating a world in which people were helped to find and make their own lives and happiness, not simply be protected from social evils. In this way, their work was a rejoinder to the divisive strictures of the persecuting society, which had retained its hold on much of American social and political culture over the previous two centuries.--A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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