Heather Brook Adams

University of Maryland

On March 14, 1940, Eleanor Roosevelt (ER) implored a Chicago audience to “have  courage,” “not succumb to fear of any kind,” and work together toward a “more
truly . . . democratic nation” (14).[1] In addressing the
Chicago Civil Liberties Committee, an organization located in a city rife with
suspected communist activity,[2] Roosevelt’s speech equated freedom
with democracy and placed the responsibility of upholding democratic freedom
upon each man and woman in America. Given the turbulent climate of 1940, when
some argued that the support for civil liberties reflected un-American
sentiment, ER’s speech reflected the first lady’s own courage and commitment to
democracy and civic deliberation.

ER’s speech also
reflected a universal understanding of citizens’ rights and responsibilities
that challenged gendered boundaries of public and private spaces during the
1940s. Toward these ends, ER modeled universal citizenship and championed civil
liberties in unprecedented ways, emphasizing the need for individuals to resist
fear-laden attitudes that eroded civil liberties. While simultaneously
reflecting and transcending traditional gender ideologies, ER spoke to the CCLC
as a rhetorical first lady. An examination of her speech reveals limitations of
this position as well as ER’s ability to supplement her argument because of,
not in spite of, her position as a first lady taking the public podium. This
essay examines ER’s speech as rhetorical first lady discourse and asserts three
claims. First, ER embraced a dual persona within the speech that reflected her
position as a woman simultaneously outside of and privy to the sphere of
politics. Second, ER articulated a faith in the potential of American democracy
to effectively fulfill the will of the people by upholding “the real
principles of democracy-in-action” (14). Lastly, ER imbued her speech with
a nationalist spirit, echoing notions of American exceptionalism in order to
move her audience to action but offering a revision of the tenets of this
philosophy in the process. In the end, ER’s public performance as a rhetorical first lady modeled the civic responsibility
she espoused, reflecting the long-held tenets of republican motherhood and
extending the legacy of the rights rhetoric often featured by women orators who
came before her.

The Gendering of Public and Private Spheres


In some ways, a
separation of the “public” and “private” spheres serves a
legitimate function within a liberal political framework that values individual
freedom. The public realm is the place of interaction between the individual
and the state; conversely, the private sphere represents a space where the
individual maintains personal autonomy apart from the interference of
government.[3] The public and private divide has
historically denoted male and female difference, and the ensuing distinctions
between the sexes have been an enduring part of Western thought since
antiquity. In The Politics and the
Constitution of Athens
, Aristotle defined the relationship between humans
and the state in part through a gendered interpretation of men and women’s “correct”
and seemingly natural roles. “[T]he male is by nature superior,”
Aristotle explained, “and the female inferior; and the one rules and the
other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.”[4]
Aristotle further argued that both sexes have separate attributes, quoting the
poet Sophocles who declared: “‘Silence is a woman’s glory.'”[5]
This early prescription justified women’s exclusion from political
deliberation, a sentiment whose legacy was felt for centuries.[6]

The relegation
of most elite white women to the private sphere had important ideological
implications. Examining the gendered differences between the public and private
spheres, Patrice Clark Koelsch’s survey of classical Greek thought leads her to
conclude that a sex-based “distinction implicitly denigrates women and
excludes truly personal concerns from political legitimacy.”[7]
The public and private spheres were not just separate from one another but were
assigned hierarchical value whereby those in the public had rights and freedoms
not granted to those relegated to the undervalued private sphere. The private
sphere, thus, provided “the productive and reproductive labor of persons
who could not participate in [the polis],”
which meant that “women, as a biologically laboring class, were devalued,”
despite their necessity to the existence and maintenance of the public sphere.[8]

The cultural
separation of gendered spheres was replicated in the United States during the
post-revolutionary era. Before America sought its independence from Britain,
continental thinkers espoused a separation between woman and the state that
reflected the views of antiquity.[9] Despite the influence of the
Enlightenment thinkers, who encouraged subjects to reconsider their
relationship to the government and state, these philosophers “offered no
guidance to women analyzing their relationship to liberty or civic
virtue.”[10] As the nation’s founding fathers
penned a fresh political framework, they sought guidance from an English Whig
tradition “that never gave explicit attention to basic questions about
women.”[11] In so doing, they avoided infusing
into their vision of the new republic more recent philosophies that might have
given women increased access to the public sphere.

In order to
maintain a gendered public/private divide, America’s nation builders normalized
the public presence of men and the private political function of many women
through a practice later termed “republican motherhood.” According to
Linda K. Kerber, republican motherhood “guaranteed the steady infusion of
virtue into the Republic” through women’s “significant political role”
of nurturing “public-spirited male citizens.”[12] This
notion “assumed that women’s lives were shaped primarily by family
obligations” and thus “offered a politics congruent with the world as
most women experienced it.”[13] The republican mother model became
integral to the perceived need for women to fulfill a unique, gendered, and
politically significant role. Kerber explains that women “would devote
their efforts to service: raising sons and disciplining husbands to be virtuous
citizens of the Republic.” This role was critical role due to the
perception that “the stability of the nation rested on the persistence of
virtue among its citizens.” Ultimately, Kerber explains, “the
creation of virtuous citizens was dependent on the presence of wives and
mothers who were well informed.”[14]

A popular
twentieth-century painting of Betsy Ross by Charles H. Weisgerber illustrated
the spirit of republican motherhood. The painting, featuring Ross presenting
her newly-stitched American flag to three revolutionary leaders, including
George Washington, “became a symbol for appropriate female action in the
public sphere.” This depiction of Ross created the ultimate symbol for
women of the new nation; her embodiment of republican motherhood offered women
a socially-acceptable prototype for political participation.[15] More
than a supplement to a history lesson of America’s founding, Ross provided an
articulation of proper female citizenship.

Notions of
republican motherhood simultaneously supported civic participation and
prescribed strict parameters for how this engagement could take shape. As a
socially-sanctioned political role for women, republican motherhood relegated
women’s citizenship to the private spaces of the family. Such family
expectations, at least in part, corresponded with the precepts of the “cult
of true womanhood,” a mid nineteenth-century social code that included the
“four cardinal virtues” of the woman’s private sphere: piety, purity,
submissiveness, and domesticity.[16] These “womanly” virtues
translated into the social expectation that women would be dependent on the men
in their lives and remain in the home.

Some women were
moved to challenge gendered social conventions in order to advocate issues they
felt were of great concern, moving their civic and moral roles as republican
mothers and true women from the family to the community. Notable female orators
such as Angelina and Sarah Grimké spoke out against slavery as part of the
male-led abolition movement of the early-to-mid nineteenth century.[17]
Other women, including Lucretia Coffin Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and later
Frances Willard were all part of reform efforts geared toward morally-charged
issues such as slavery, alcohol abuse, and prostitution.[18] These
women wrote and spoke publicly, “donning the armor of God” to
persuade audiences that such social problems, because they indicated a lack of
virtue, were within the province of the woman’s sphere.[19] Other
women, however, still objected to women publicly speaking out on social issues,
even when they supported the same causes. Catharine Beecher, for example,
supported abolition but opposed women’s public
acts of moral suasion, or the use of persuasive appeals. Beecher was so opposed
to women speaking publicly that she wrote and circulated an essay denouncing
Angelina Grimké for her orations on the cause that both women favored. The written essay allowed Beecher to express her
opinion in protest in a way that she deemed more socially acceptable for a
woman. Beecher perceived that the written word, rather than the spoken word,
was more appropriate for women’s acts of moral suasion, ironically illustrating
the difficulty women had in identifying and negotiating their own sense of
propriety and influence.[20]

The nation’s
earliest female orators also faced persecution for their outspokenness on
public issues. Gradually entering the public debates over social issues, female
speakers “in a position to exert meaningful social and political influence” were often characterized
as sexually deviant, particularly when addressing mixed sex or
“promiscuous audiences.”[21] Susan Zaeske argues that although the
earliest iterations of “promiscuous” merely referred to any
indiscriminate mixture, “by the 1820s both the word and the phrase had
become increasingly linked with the morality and sexuality of women.”[22]
Political participation enacted through public address or deliberation was
rarely favored by women; many were even hesitant to sign their name under the
title “citizen” on public petitions.[23] Nan Johnson affirms
that “at the start of the nineteenth century, the arts of rhetoric were
the undisputed province of the male professional classes.”[24] And, in
postbellum America, popular writers often cautioned that “if happiness was
to be preserved in American homes, women needed to reserve their rhetorical
influence for their counseling and instructive roles as wives and mothers.”[25]
By “redirecting women to rhetorical roles in the home,” those penning
manuals and guides for women’s rhetorical activities helped deter many women
from any overtly public or political act, thus “complicating their access
to the public rhetorical spaces where the fate of the nation was debated.”[26]

defamation and censure, early women orators advocating for the rights of others
helped develop a sense of political efficacy among women, which served as a
catalyst for the first-wave of the women’s rights movement. Females prohibited
from speaking at male-led abolitionist meetings formed “female
anti-slavery societies and ultimately . . . began to press for their own rights
in order to be more effective in the abolitionist struggle.”[27]
Historian Lori D. Ginzberg notes that “the late 1850s witnessed a burst of
legislative activity on the part of women,” attempting to secure their own
“civic and political rights” as they joined men in social and
political work.[28] Women from across the country who
were still wary of talking about politics became politically involved in more
socially acceptable ways. Many supplied anti-slavery fairs with sewing circle
handiwork or signed public petitions (often distributed by women) that were
labeled “prayers.”[29] Although women cautiously
experimented with varying levels and types of political engagement, a remarkable
number of postbellum American women were gradually leaving their homes, imbuing
the private and now public sphere with the sentiments of republican motherhood.

Prior to the
suffrage campaign, women’s political interests were frequently redirected toward
benevolent work on behalf of others. By the Gilded Age, many women formed
alliances and philanthropic organizations meant to uphold members’ moral and
civic obligations. In particular, middle- to upper-class white women embraced
volunteerism as a “full-time career” because of their financial
security and new-found leisure time.[30] Early grassroots efforts to assist
those in need became more organized after the Civil War. According to Kathleen
D. McCarthy, by 1900 women who experienced formal “political invisibility”
were able to form robust and collaborative kinship networks that paralleled the
structure of the local, state, and national government.[31]
Benevolent work allowed women to “slowly but forcefully” embrace a
place within the “political public sphere through a series of maternally
themed political associations.” As women took part in benevolent social
movements centered on the protection and education of children and women,[32]
they extended their influence outside of the private realm. Nevertheless, women
still were denied a full political voice.

Benevolent work
thus gave way to new levels of public engagement by the end of the nineteenth
century, enhancing women’s sense of autonomy, self-worth, and collective power.
The “New Woman” emboldened by the employment, consumer, and leisure
opportunities afforded by an increasingly urban and industrial life eschewed
true womanhood for a fiercer sense of independence.[33] Generally,
the New Woman was “young, well-educated, probably a college graduate . . .
highly competent, and physically strong and fearless”; this spirit of
empowerment helped influence women of various ages, most of whom were white.[34]
Middle aged, white women of means formed women’s clubs, which granted women
access to public speaking and interests outside the public sphere.[35]
Other New Women embraced more overt and active political roles, particularly
those aligned with efforts during the Progressive Era to bring change to
overcrowded city centers. Earlier, morally-driven female societies had granted
women public leverage and collective power, so that “what had long been women’s
province through voluntary associations and charitable benevolence was
increasingly defined as a proper scope for public policy.”[36] New
Women pioneered “the creation of new public spaces–voluntary associations
located between the public world of politics and work and the private intimacy
of family.” In doing so, they made “possible a new vision of active
citizenship.”[37] Thus, a significant number of
twentieth-century women had unprecedented, yet still limited, public and
political access even before gaining suffrage in 1920. This access reflected
women’s gradual willingness to transcend gendered public and private divides.

The First Lady: An Emerging
Rhetorical Figure

The role of the
first lady epitomizes the contradictions and cultural tensions experienced by
American women straddling the public/private divide. Barbara Burrell notes that
“[t]he woman who serves as first lady is [in this role] because of her
relationship to a man, not through her own achievements. She is to represent
the expressive, supportive, traditional role of women as wife, mother, and
homemaker.” As an exemplar of woman’s potential, however, first ladies
have “the potential to dramatically alter the idea of what is private and
what is public in the political realm.”[38]

Most first
ladies have had to navigate the politics of a public/private divide; many also
have served as role models for other women. Shawn J. Parry-Giles and Diane M.
Blair argue that first ladies “helped craft a role for women’s
participation in the political sphere, transforming the twentieth-century
version of the republican mother into an activist voice of national
consequence.”[39] Before 1920, according to these
authors, the first lady role was primarily limited to private-sphere political
influence and morally-sanctioned benevolent acts. First ladies performed “social
politicking” through such private activities as advising their spouses,
attempting to shape their own and/or their spouses’ political image, or
performing acts of patronage–“the practice of securing political jobs or
other rewards for acquaintances and family members.”[40] As
discussed earlier, the wave of benevolent volunteering that afforded many women
morally permissible yet limited access to the public sphere was also embraced
by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century first ladies who carefully navigated the
fine line between maintaining a “womanly” sense of privacy and
pursuing societal improvements aimed at socially acceptable projects for women.[41]

Just as women
assumed varying levels of participation in earlier debates about slavery and
other moral concerns, so too did first ladies take on differing levels of
exposure to public issues while in the White House. In the twentieth century,
for example, Ellen Wilson, first wife of Woodrow Wilson, made slum clearance a
top priority after she personally witnessed the unfit living conditions of
poverty-stricken Washington, D.C. neighborhoods. Although Ellen Wilson did not
directly appeal to Congress in support of this cause, she commissioned a White
House car to be used to tour the slums and raised enough attention about the
issue to persuade a member of Congress to sponsor a bill for housing
appropriations.[42] Representing a different
interpretation of the role, Grace Coolidge, with a “youthful demeanor and
lively personality . . . not incommensurate with the mien of the politically
liberated ‘new woman’ of the 1920s,” remained essentially silent during
her tenure in the White House.[43] According to Janis L. Edwards, Grace
Coolidge contended that “the responsibility of a first lady was to
maintain and preserve [a civic] monument” of the first lady office “against
the potential impact of words or deeds by a presidential wife who acted outside
her conventional role.”[44] Even in the early twentieth-century,
the legacy of woman’s separate sphere was apparent in the White House.

By the late
1920s, however, first ladies’ activities were increasingly rhetorical in
nature. As these women began to supplement acts of goodwill with direct
activism and advocacy on the behalf of others, they broadened “their space
of authority to local, state, national, and international communities.”[45]
First lady discourse, at times, still reflected antecedents of republican
motherhood while illustrating that women could bring such moral and civic
commitments to the public stage. Lou Hoover, for example, delivered speeches to
Girl Scouts about responsible citizenship, framing this duty around the roles
of “wives, mothers, and homemakers.”[46] At the same time,
Hoover also established a new precedent for first ladies by delivering formal
speeches and by reaching out to a wide range of Americans through radio
addresses. Hoover thus established important groundwork for ER’s later
political activities.[47] At the same time that the presidency
itself was becoming more of a “rhetorical” institution, first ladies
began to assume a public voice that appealed to mass audiences, utilizing
“the power of public persuasion to fulfill the president’s or their own
political goals.”[48]


Eleanor Roosevelt: Independent Public Servant


ER’s approach to
the role of first lady in many ways paralleled the gradual rise of public women
during her lifetime. A brief biographical sketch of ER reveals her own
transformation into a public actor and illuminates her willingness to embrace a
rhetorical and political role. From her unique perspective as a public woman
and, more specifically, a first lady interacting with a diverse cross-section
of Americans, ER challenged limited notions of citizenship and extended
conceptions of one’s responsibility to the community. ER’s view of democracy,
so evidently centered around the role of the individual, highlighted the
personal needs and responsibilities of the community. ER envisioned a shared
community encompassing individuals from varied backgrounds. Arguably, ER’s
commitment to communal unity was linked to her lifelong ethic of service to
others and active political engagement. Examining ER’s activities prior to her
first ladyship accentuates her interest in benevolence as a “new woman”
and informs an assessment of her rhetorical choices while in the White House.

Although ER’s
impact as a forward-thinking and incredibly active first lady is widely
celebrated, she reportedly did not initially embrace her move to the White
House. ER resented FDR’s desire to become president, a view she later labeled
as “pure selfishness.”[49] After FDR’s inauguration, she
remembered walking “up to the White House portico with considerable
trepidation.”[50] Instead of aspiring to the position
of national hostess, ER considered
the role of the traditional first lady inhibiting. She refused to perform the
ceremonial functions expected of a first lady, calling such matters “futile
and meaningless.”[51] Vacillating between her own desires
and cultural expectations, ER admitted having difficulty remembering that she “was
not just ‘Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘ but the ‘wife of the President.'”[52]
Biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook writes that ER countered her fears that
“she would . . . be forced into a life of political confinement somewhere
in the shadows, a prisoner to the presidency” by plunging “into the
political fray.”[53] ER’s choice to leave the recesses of
the White House in favor of public exposure had significant personal and
political implications. Many political wives knew that their actions not only
reflected on the work of their spouse, but also on the nation as a rising world
power.[54] Still, ER eschewed the traditional
role of first ladies as social hostesses, unwilling to unlearn a lifetime of
personal independence.

ER’s preference
for following her own instincts emerged from a life-long engagement with the
community and an ongoing sense of social and civic responsibility. ER’s
pre-White House life was characterized by travel and first-hand exposure to
community problems that lured her out of an insular, domestic experience. At
the age of fifteen, ER was sent to study at Allenswood, a finishing school in
England. There she studied under Headmistress Marie Stouvestre, who encouraged
her students to think and act with a sense of social responsibility and service
to others.[55] Souvestre not only asked her students
to respond critically to history and literature lessons, but she also took ER
and her other students on trips to the continent, where their curriculum came
to life. During these travels, Stouvestre insisted that ER “see the people
of the country” and not just her “own compatriots,” thus
broadening her worldview beyond the confines of Allenswood .[56]

When ER returned
to the United States, she followed her mentor’s advice and remained socially
engaged, volunteering with the Junior and Consumers Leagues and teaching at the
College Settlement on Rivington Street in New York City’s Lower East Side.[57]
This exposure to poorer areas of the city, plagued with inadequate housing and
oppressive working conditions, made a lasting impression on ER. She admitted
that “the streets filled with foreign looking people, crowded and dirty,
filled me with a certain amount of terror.” Nevertheless, she reconciled
her fear with the “glow of pride” when one of these individuals
identified himself as the father of an admiring pupil. Individual
responsibility to the needs of a community was a guiding factor in the
settlement movement, which had gained popularity by the early
twentieth-century.[58] Settlement houses, situated in
poverty-stricken urban centers, attracted workers after college graduation, and
thus “the houses served as field-based graduate schools for a generation
of college-educated women.”[59] Settlers, or volunteers living in the
same community as the “neighbors” they served, extended the notion of
benevolence to embrace a more direct interaction with a diverse, often
predominantly immigrant community. Instead of merely helping the poor, this
public work rendered many settlers “transformed by the experience.”[60]
Although ER admitted that as a settler, she was “ready to drop all this
good work” to enjoy a summer of “idleness and recreation,” her
early exposure to the unpleasant realities of the less fortunate informed her
future volunteer work and sense of social service.[61]

ER’s commitment
to public service became increasingly political in nature after she married FDR
in 1905. ER’s public work was initially impeded by her multiple pregnancies
during the early part of the marriage. Either pregnant or recovering from
pregnancy from 1906 to 1916, the future first lady waited until her children
were sufficiently self-reliant before again focusing her attention on civic
activities.[62] By this point FDR was Governor of New
York and he encouraged ER to direct her efforts toward activities that would
support his political commitments. Specifically, FDR asked his wife to inspect
state facilities that he could not easily visit due to his polio-induced
immobility.[63] ER traveled extensively in order to
report back to her husband on the conditions of his less fortunate
constituents. Touring the country became part of ER’s regiment, and this
continued after she arrived at the White House. Her civic activities were
supported by FDR and his closest aide, Louis Howe. As her husband’s ambassador,
ER traveled more than 40,000 miles during her first three months in the White
House.[64] Traveling as first lady, ER became
the president’s eyes and ears, inspecting conditions throughout a nation
struggling to recover from economic depression. In the process, she challenged
traditional notions about the proper role of the first lady in ways that had
direct and substantive influence on the Roosevelt administration’s political
outlook and policies. Not satisfied in taking a seat behind or even beside her
husband, ER met Americans in her ongoing pursuit to connect with the nation. She
met and spoke with members of underserved populations and social service
agencies such as the American Friends Service Committee. Through her exposure
to the country, ER determined that new economic policies were essential to the
future of the ailing nation. She returned to Washington D.C. to express her
observations and opinions directly to the president. Through her first-hand
exposure to the living conditions of the poor, ER was able to advocate
effectively for government aid to populations in need. She even spearheaded efforts
to set up subsistence homesteads and government subsidized social welfare

Just as ER’s
direct interaction with others in the public sphere contributed to her own
influence as first lady, it also enabled and legitimized the political work of
other women. ER voiced her observations and political opinions to the nation
through a variety of media, including radio, syndicated newspaper columns, and
magazine articles, and she supplemented this communication with frequent public
speaking engagements.[66] ER followed in First Lady Hoover’s
footsteps by appealing to the nation directly via radio, but she also broke new
ground in validating the presence of women in public discourse.[67] Setting
a new precedent for White House communication, ER regularly held her own press
conferences, granting access only to women journalists.[68] She
also appealed directly to readers across the globe as she became a political
pundit through her daily “My Day” articles, which were syndicated and
circulated to more than four and a half million persons.[69] ER
became the first wife of the president to take advantage of her visibility and “turn
this access to her own advantage.”[70] Through her travels across the nation
and her direct appeals to the men and women of America through various media,
ER portrayed herself as a politically viable liaison between the White House
and the nation that it served. Such political engagement was demonstrated most
clearly in ER’s promotion of civil liberties during her March 14, 1940 speech to
the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee.

Freedom and Fear: The Debate Over Civil Liberties


The 1930s was a
decade when the very meaning of Americanism was called into question. Increasing
diversity in heritage, religion, and thought provoked fear among many
Americans, and a growing national debate over the rights and freedoms of the
citizenry pitted organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
against legislative and judicial decisions. Congressional investigations, most
notably those of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), roused the
suspicions of many Americans fearful of communist infiltration into their local
communities. Simultaneously, many individuals resorted to abusive measures in
silencing those who did not follow prescriptive norms for “American”
behavior and values.[71] This volatile political context
provided the backdrop for ER’s rhetorical response to the controversy over
civil liberties during wartime.

The New York Herald Tribune on the day of
ER’s speech, March 14, 1940, evidences the charged political atmosphere
surrounding the debate over civil liberties. One article reported Wendell L.
Willkie’s call for increased protection of civil liberties for all Americans. A
second article described a defensive FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, who had
been called upon to deny accusations that he authorized wire tapping the
telephones of U.S. Senators.[72] The nation directed its attention
toward an unfolding drama between the principles of liberty and concerns about
American security.

Amid these
concerns, ER addressed the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee (CCLC), openly
supporting the group’s work to preserve basic freedoms for all Americans. The
CCLC was an organization of approximately one thousand volunteers that had become
a branch of the ACLU some six years earlier.[73] On the national level,
the ACLU was gravely concerned with what it perceived as attacks on personal
freedoms. Critics feared that impending legislation might impinge upon personal
liberties, especially those of the foreign-born and
“fifth-columnists”–a term applied to anyone suspected of having
communist affiliations. Specifically, the Smith Act, which stood to become “the
first peacetime sedition law in American history,” proposed to criminalize
membership in any organization that sought the overthrow of the U.S.
government. It also called for the “fingerprinting and registration of all
aliens.”[74] The ACLU was one of only three
organizations that had testified against the act. The act passed overwhelmingly
in late June, despite the protests of the ACLU.[75]

congressional debate only exacerbated concerns among many civil libertarians
that FDR’s New Deal would extend the reach of government and threaten basic
freedoms. For supporters of the ACLU, “[t]he New Deal reawakened . . .
[the] fear of a leviathan state which would manipulate the national emergency
to justify repression.”[76] As historian Samuel Walker has noted,
ACLU founder Roger Baldwin was a leader in voices such concerns, defining civil
liberties as freedom from governmental
intervention. Baldwin warned that unless the administration’s power was
restricted, Americans might soon lose their right to express freely their
political views or protest against governmental actions.[77]

Escalating concerns
over the communist threat culminated in the sensational investigations of the
House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC). In October 1939, Representative
Martin Dies (Democrat, TX) visited Chicago as HUAC’s chairman, focusing
national attention on the city that he argued was the center of the communist
threat.[78] According to one historian, Dies and
his committee became “an effective political lightning rod which attracted
those who had failed to find a home in the New Deal and wanted to believe the worst
about it.”[79] Unabashedly sharing his findings with
the nation, Dies named 2,000 of the 4,700 communists allegedly living in the
Chicago area at the time of his visit,[80] including many professionals and
government workers, particularly employees of Roosevelt’s Works Progress
Administration (WPA). Furthermore, Dies claimed that one civic-minded
organization, the League for Peace and Democracy, was “communistic”
and peopled by “hundreds of government employees.”[81] Dies
thus raised suspicions about communist influence among civic organizations as
well as local governments. According to the congressman, his “revelations”
proved that Chicago represented “the powerhouse of subversive energy and
propaganda in the Middle West.”[82] With such rhetoric, HUAC succeeded in
raising “the fear of Communism to a fever pitch.”[83]

National fears
provoked by HUAC manifested themselves in a growing number and variety of
assaults on civil liberties. In 1942, a book published by the CCLC catalogued a
variety of attacks on civil liberties during this period, including not only
those inspired by the communist threat, but also some related to labor disputes
and economic disparities. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and
freedom of conscience were not the only rights violated during this period. The
CCLC also insisted that Americans had a right to freedom from organized mob
violence and unconstitutional police activities, and it expressed concerns with
academic freedom and the rights of immigrants.[84] Writing in Cosmopolitan just one month before her
speech to the CCLC, ER echoed the organization’s broad concern with civil
liberties, chronicling the forms of intolerance that concerned her most. According
to the first lady, a “wave of anti-Semitism” was the “greatest
manifestation of intolerance today,” but she added that “in some
places anti-Catholicism runs a close second and in others fear of the Negro’s
aspirations is paramount.”[85]

sentiments had led to a variety of groups being labeled and attacked as un-American.
Immigrants were often denied employment in the public and private sectors due
to suspicions about their loyalties. Many were flatly denied naturalization;
those allowed to apply for citizenship were frequently made to repay any
government-sponsored financial aid received prior to naturalization.[86]
Measures such as the Smith Act justified limitations on the basic freedoms of a
wide variety of Americans, but especially on immigrants. Even Jehovah’s
Witnesses fell prey to humiliation and violence. Refusing to perform the
rituals of patriotism, such as saluting or kissing the American flag, members
of the group were denied their religious freedom and exposed to mob and police

The most
vehement opposition to the “un-American,” however, was directed at
those subscribing to communist thought.[88] In September 1940, Theodore Irwin
wrote in The Public Opinion Quarterly:

Deprivation of the
civil rights of Communists has taken the form of beatings of members who
solicited signatures to put the party on the ballot; the revocation of
citizenship of Communists on relatively trivial grounds; and moves by public
official in at least eight states . . . aimed at depriving the Communist party
of its place on the ballot in the national election.[89]

Well over a year before the
attack on Pearl Harbor, anti-communist sentiment was alive throughout the
United States. ER, as a visible representative of the Roosevelt administration,
occupied a precarious role as a rhetorical first lady committed to universal
tolerance in spite of such extreme national exigencies.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Civil
Liberties Speech

ER occupied a tenuous place as a first lady condemning civil liberties violations on the
public podium. Her CCLC speech illustrated the ways in which she simultaneously
lauded and challenged prevailing notions of civic virtue from this contested
position. She capitalized on her institutionally sanctioned, yet unofficial
role, drawing upon the legacy of women before her, and embracing and extending
the republican motherhood tradition. ER’s constructed vision of civic virtue
exemplifies the limitations and potential of rhetorical first lady discourse in
three ways. First, ER bolstered her credibility as an exponent of American
values by appealing to her audience through a dual persona; she alternately
spoke as a woman of the people and from the more distanced position of first
lady. Secondly, ER became an interlocutor, deciphering foundational American
documents that offered a blueprint for democracy and enacting her political
role in the process. Finally, ER infused her speech with a revised sentiment of
American exceptionalism, by which she urged her audience to act upon the nationalistic principles of
humanity and inclusion. In so doing, ER demanded that Americans embody, not
just agree with, the ideals associated with Americanism, enacting her notions
of civic virtue as a rhetorical first lady while encouraging others to do the
same in their own communities.

ER’s speech
reflected a dual persona that stemmed from her position as a first lady both
outside and inside the scope of governmental influence. When greeting her
audience, ER’s tone was humble. Apologetically, she admitted that “a great
many” of the audience members “could give my talk far better than I”
thanks to their “first-hand knowledge” of civil liberties violations
(2). Later, ER admitted that she “had almost forgotten how hard the
working man had to fight for his rights” (14). In both instances, ER’s
self-effacing language elevated the experience of the average American, imbuing
her talk with respect for those in the audience. Despite the fact that ER
related to her audience, her discourse acknowledged her tenuous identification
with the American people when speaking from her role as first lady. By creating
a framework in which she distanced herself from the lived experiences of her
audience, ER nodded to the antecedents of a generally private first lady

Shifting to her
voice as a rhetorical first lady, however, ER also asserted her authority as a
proponent of the preservation of civil liberties. She bolstered her ethos by
reversing her original position, arguing that she was “more conscious of
the importance of civil liberties in this particular moment of our history than
anyone else” (2). ER’s basis for this claim was her experience as an
active, public first lady. She admitted, “as I travel through the country
and meet people and see the things that have happened to little people, I am
more and more conscious of what it means to democracy to preserve our civil
liberties” (2). ER challenged her audience to respect her authority as a
first lady who learned her most significant lessons about democracy from the
people of the nation. ER focused her attention away from more long standing
first lady concerns inside the White House to the political realities of the
nation; her perspective bolstered her ethos as an authority on turmoil in
Chicago, and America in general.

Speaking with
assuredness, ER shared experiences that legitimized her interpretations of
national and international political situations. ER reflected on her leadership
work with the National Committee of Democratic Women, recounting her exposure
to intolerant literature. It was this first-hand experience from which ER claimed
to have drawn her understanding of the hatred harbored by some in the name of
religious purity. ER illustrated her understanding of communism through a
book-length account she read about its rise in Czechoslovakia. “I can only say
that it seems to me we should read as vivid a story as that now,” she urged,
“just to make us realize how important it is that for no reason whatsoever
should we allow ourselves to be dominated by fear so that we curtail civil
liberties” (8). Unhesitatingly, ER spoke of her self-education on international
affairs and asked the audience to emulate her model responsible world
citizenship. Notably, the first lady did not reference FDR’s stance on civil
liberties issues. ER was not acting overtly as a spokesperson of the Roosevelt
administration; instead, she was using her voice as an independent political
actor to provoke action on the part of her audience members.

Through an
association between individual rights and national responsibilities, ER’s
speech before the CCLC fused personal liberties with nationalistic appeals,
also allowing her to interpret democratic blueprints established by America’s
founders and model her vision of citizenship. Faith in democracy, she
suggested, could triumph over exaggerated fears. As a first lady appealing to
the CCLC’s “promiscuous audience,” ER enacted her vision of active
political engagement; in so doing, she also infused a political argument with
her unique perspective as a woman of great accomplishment. ER advocated a
return to virtuous democratic ideals, guiding her audience toward morally sound
standards of citizenship. ER grounded the discourse of civil liberties in
foundational American documents, calling for the preservation of civil
liberties for all Americans as a realization of democratic ideals. She counted
every individual among the vanguard of sacred freedoms, and appealed to all
listeners to actively pursue the public work of enacting effective citizenship.
ER’s ability to model the liberated citizen reflected the legacy of republican
motherhood and positioned her as a harbinger of equality, championing the need
for each individual’s full participation in the community.

As ER posited a
faith in the underlying philosophy of American democracy, she drew on
fundamental premises established by the nation’s political architects. ER
encouraged her audience to “obey the laws” and “live up” to
the democracy envisioned in the founding documents of the nation (8). ER
declared: “We have to make up our minds as to what we really believe. We
have to decide whether we believe in the Bill of Rights, in the Constitution of
the United States, or whether we are going to modify it because of the fears
that we may have at the moment” (12). Relying on these foundational
American documents, ER legitimized her opinions and substantiated her political

Early woman’s
rights orators such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony based their
arguments for change on the tenets of foundational American texts; ER’s use of
such documents echoed these early women’s voices while reminding listeners of
the first lady’s relationship to the national seat of government.[90]
These earlier women adopted a natural rights stance to bolster their arguments
for political inclusion, speaking as disenfranchised members of the public. ER,
in her politically institutionalized role, borrowed from the founding documents
as a representative of the presidential administration. In so doing, she
underscored the nation’s commitment to democratic ideals through her words and
her presence while simultaneously exposing the prevailing discrepancies. ER
imparted a faith in the robustness of the American political structure to meet
the needs of a diverse citizenry through governmental representation and
accountability.[91] This belief was reflected in the
speech, as ER advocated for “free discussion and really free, uninfluenced
expression in the press” (6). She contended that free speech was never
threatening when exercised within a political framework constructed by the “fundamental
principles that we have laid down” (6). By situating herself as a
proponent of basic tenets of American democracy, ER not only aligned civil
liberties with such foundational principles, but also legitimized her public
role as political actor.

As an advocate
for the preservation of civil liberties, ER remained adamant that these rights
should extend to all members of the community. According to ER, difference
served as a reminder of every individual’s need to personally uphold the “spirit
of America” by safeguarding all community members (5). ER’s story of
visiting a poverty-stricken immigrant family exemplified her commitment to
difference. Her willingness to “travel through the country and meet people
and see the things that have happened to little people” rendered ER a
credible witness to injustice and one more able to critique the erosion of
civil liberties than “anyone else” (2). Thus, the first lady embodied
her own model of virtuous citizenship, advocating an equitable application of
rights that would allow the nation to fulfill its republican promise.

ER’s performance
exhibited the ability of women not only to enter public spaces but also to
dissent against powerful national leaders; she implicitly took issue with the
strident anti-communism of J. Edgar Hoover and some conservatives in Congress. ER
also validated the political power of her listeners, instructing them to assume
an active and engaged role to help “guard the mainstays of democracy”
(2). Only when individuals lived up to their “obligation to the various
strains that make up the people of the United States” would their own
civil liberties be safe (10). She thus cautioned her audience against
thoughtlessly buying into the anti-communist frenzy of the day. Speaking as a
voice of wisdom and perspective, she articulated the principle behind her
defense of civil liberties. “The minute we deny any rights of this kind to
any citizen,” she warned, “we
are preparing the way for the denial of those rights to someone else” (12).

In her speech on
civil liberties, ER harkened back to the traditional republican mother who
taught her charges how to be good citizens and uphold their democratic duty. In
the process, she relied upon her status as first lady to give her argument weight.
ER pinned the hope for a more perfect democracy on “the youth of the
nation” who could be trusted to “herald” its “real
principles” (14). Accordingly, the first lady urged parents to start
earlier in educating their children about the freedoms afforded by their
nation. The first lady thus utilized her access to the podium as an unelected
political figure to promote the protection of civil liberties.

ER’s speech
reflected of the tenets of republican motherhood and was based largely, but not
entirely, on the democratic structure established by America’s founders;
nevertheless, the CCLC address implicated citizens’ responsibilities extending
beyond those specified in the Constitution. Specifically, ER lamented the
plight of an immigrant family who seemed to have fallen outside of the concern
and protection of the community. “It hurt you,” ER asserted. “Something
was wrong with the spirit of America that an injustice like that could happen
to a man who, after all, had worked hard and contributed to the wealth of the
country” (6). ER’s claim that the situation did not align with the spirit
of America pointed to a cultural code of American identity that was not
detailed in any governmental document. Rather, the sentiment to which ER
referred implicated a shared sense of duty and responsibility for the essence
of national law. The “spirit of America” is a concept heavy with
personal and cultural connotation but one lacking an official or governmentally
sanctioned definition.

ER leveraged her
call for increased civil liberties protection by invoking the spirit of America
while explaining how the nation had failed in living up to this democratic
characteristic. In so doing, ER shaped her call for the protection of civil
liberties in a manner that echoed the Puritan jeremiad and a reliance on the
notion of American exceptionalism. The jeremiad was a political sermon
delivered by Puritan clergy in New England.[92] It called for
listeners to realize their disobedience in the eyes of God and then recommit
themselves to a covenant with Him.[93] When Puritans left England to start a
new life of service to God in America, they imported the jeremiad as a genre of
sermon, although the new American jeremiad had features that distinguished it
from its European precursor. Specifically, the Puritan jeremiad included
“an unswerving faith in the errand” or the destiny of the Puritans to
tame the American wilderness to establish an earthly city from where they could
live as God’s disciples.[94] Firmly rooted in this notion of the
errand was the concept of being God’s chosen
people, contributing to a feeling of American exceptionalism. Joyce Appleby
explains that exceptionalism, in the context of American nationalism, means
more than being different than other nations. She argues that exceptionalism
“projects onto a nation” characteristics that “represent
deliverance from a common lot.”[95] This sense of superiority is one that
has remained with America past Puritan times. The national sentiment of
exceptionalism also imbues America with a “unique moral value and
responsibility” that comes along with its perceived special status.[96]

ER’s speech
assumed the tone of the jeremiad and relied on the responsibilities inherent to
American exceptionalism to provoke change. ER lamented what she observed in
America; she noted with disdain the breaches of basic human rights in a land
founded on principles of freedom. In her explication of the crisis of civil
liberties’ violations, ER chastised those who did not live up to the precedent
set forth by founders, thus suggesting that America had fallen in its effort to
maintain the basic tenets of democracy. This tone of reproach and ER’s call to
recommit to the freedoms ensured in the nation’s official documents infused her
talk with the flavor of the Puritan jeremiad and a secular errand to preserve
basic freedoms. ER admonished those who did not preserve civil liberties based
upon her belief in America’s responsibility to live up to its exceptional
status, both historically sacred and secular in nature.

Despite ER’s
having evoked American exceptionalism in her speech, she nevertheless
complicated her position by challenging the assumptions of who can and should
embrace an American identity. Reminiscent of the voice of traditional Republican
motherhood, ER contended that Americans had “an opportunity to teach our
children how much we have gained from the coming to this land of all kinds of
races, of how much this has served in the development of the land” (11). This
praise echoed the narrative of Puritans leaving Europe in order to fulfill
their divinely inspired mission to tame the New England wilderness. ER
complicated this quintessential story of American exceptionalism, however, when
she continued:

Yet somehow I think
we have failed in many ways to bring early enough to children how great is
their obligation to the various strains that make up the people of the United
States. Above all, there should never be race prejudice; there should never be
a feeling that one strain is better than another. After all, we are all
immigrants—all except the Indians, who, I might say, are the only
inhabitants of this country who have a real right to say that they own the
country. I think that our being composed of so many foreign peoples is the very
reason why we should preserve the basic principles of civil liberty. (11)

As evidenced above, ER reshaped
notions of “American” to emphasize difference over homogeneity. Her
depiction of all Americans being immigrants except for American Indian tribes
challenged the perception that the American land was created by God for early
settlers who would develop it for their own use. She altered the resonant story
of American exceptionalism, seating the promise of the nation in its ability to
extend the tenets of democracy as articulated by the nations founders. She
concluded, “It should be easy for us to live up to our Constitution”

From a
twenty-first century perspective, ER’s concept of American identity might seem
commonplace; however, during much of the twentieth-century, notions of American
nationalism did not include diversity explicitly. Vanessa B. Beasley’s
examination of presidential rhetoric during the twentieth century reveals that
some executives were willing to describe a national identity based on shared
ideas even when they suggested that immigrants were not able, cognitively and
attitudinally, to be citizens of the United States.[97] FDR,
whose rhetoric reflected more tolerance than his predecessors, was generally
unwilling to address issues of immigration in a straightforward manner.[98]
In enacting her role as first lady and model citizen, ER also articulated a
revision of what American spirit could be, altering the assumptions of American
exceptionalism that undergirded notions of nationalism and citizenship. Perhaps
her ability to blend a dual voice, her dedication to foundational texts, and
her willingness to challenge long-held prescriptions of national identity are
more possible because of ER’s position as an unelected, somewhat peripheral

ER exploited her
own political agency and access to public spaces in ways unavailable to earlier
women activists, who typically spoke from the political periphery. Earlier
women’s right activists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, made powerful moral
arguments about discrimination and injustice, but they spoke as commentators on
a political scene of which they were not fully a part. At a time when women
finally had the vote but still hovered on the margins of the political sphere,
ER, an orator of the new woman tradition, spoke with confidence and
self-reflection from a position of considerable authority. In the process, she
extended the legacy of women’s rights rhetoric, pointing the way toward an era
when women would routinely speak from positions of institutional power and
promulgating, with a new level of authority, the expansion of rights to all

performance, although bolstered by her role as a first lady, was also limited
by her association with the president. Allida M. Black notes that between 1940
and 1962, ER’s stance on civil liberties included three elements: 1) disdain
for lessened war-time civil liberties, 2) defense of those called into question
by the administration, and 3) personal increase in post-war civil liberties campaigning.
Despite these commitments, ER noticeably refrained from speaking against the
Roosevelt administration’s internment of Japanese-Americans.[99] ER’s
hesitancy to speak against the president’s policy indicated the extent to which
the role of first lady–as supporter or political partner of the
president–also limited her rhetorical options. Still today, it is hard to
envision a first spouse publicly criticizing the president.


America’s Ongoing Civil
Liberties Debate


ER’s 1940 address, Chicago would continue to be a center of controversy over
the limits of freedom in a time of suspicion. On February 7, 1946, for example,
a disturbance took place outside of the Chicago West End Women’s Club when
Father Arthur Terminiello delivered a talk about the choice between Christian
nationalism and communism. Terminiello blamed the conspiracy against American
nationalism on Russia and communism in general but also pointed to Eleanor
Roosevelt and the New Deal as domestic sources of un-American sentiment. While
Father Terminiello spoke to the audience inside the club, a riotous crowd
protested outside, attesting to the explosive nature of this topic. The
incendiary was arrested later that evening for provoking a public disturbance.[100]

ER’s message,
while offensive to some, can now be remembered as a courageous statement in
support of civil liberties during a tumultuous time in the nation’s history. Her
ideas also were manifested in FDR’s famous Annual Message to Congress in 1941,
where he outlined his four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom
of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. According to biographer
Allan M. Winkler, this rhetoric “provided the ideological framework for
American views” about World War II.[101] Although it would be
presumptuous to say that FDR’s discourse was framed by his wife’s political
views, ER’s defense of civil liberties and civil rights–topics which the
president generally did not treat as high priorities—echoed in the
president’s “Four Freedoms” speech.

The first lady’s
address also resonates in today’s discussions of the conflict between civil
liberties and national security in times of war. Just as many Americans in ER’s
day feared that the nation’s safety would be compromised by communism, Americans
struggle today to uphold individual liberties in the aftermath of the September
11 attacks and the subsequent War on Terror.

Advocates for
civil liberties have called into question the decisions of the Bush
administration after the 2001 attacks. One prime area of debate involves the
2001 passage of the Patriot Act and its reauthorization by President Bush in
March 2006. According to the White House, the Patriot Act permitted increased
communication between law enforcement and intelligence officers in order to
bring “terrorists to justice.”[102] The Act also has
enabled criminal investigators to employ the same “tools” to
terrorist investigations that were used for other, non-terrorist security and
enforcement measures. According to the Bush administration, the Act’s 2006
renewal was meant to “improve our nation’s security while we safeguard the
civil liberties of our people.”[103]

Opponents of the
Patriot Act cite its threats to civil liberties as the primary reason to oppose
this legislation. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Act
jeopardizes First Amendment rights, devalues our right of privacy, and
minimizes due process for non-citizens.[104] One provision of the
Act affords the government unrestricted access to library records, allowing
government officials to learn about people’s reading habits, while another
grants law enforcement agencies the power to subpoena records without judicial
approval.[105] Despite the controversial nature of
the Act, which grants unprecedented power to the executive branch, the “hastily
drafted, complex, and far-reaching legislation” initially passed with
minimal deliberation.[106]

Whether one
supports or opposes current legislation that restricts civil liberties, two
things remain certain. First, upholding personal freedoms becomes a more
complex and philosophically challenging task during times of perceived national
security threats. In abstract terms, civil liberties and democratic ideals “garner
overwhelming support.”[107] Yet in “applied contexts”
like war, our allegiance to those values sometimes wavers.[108] Secondly,
public deliberation and political involvement enable citizens to identify,
articulate, and make public their own opinions about these difficult questions.
Barbara Olshansky, Director Counsel of the Global Justice Initiative, argues
that “only the people–individually, collectively, and through their
elected representatives” can reclaim rights that she thinks are under “assault
by the executive branch.”[109] Increased public debate about civil
liberties, particularly in light of America’s ongoing international conflicts,
will only help citizens better understand their individual rights and equip
them to make well-informed decisions as to if and when these freedoms should be
compromised in the name of national security.

ER’s public
stance on the need to protect civil liberties illustrated her willingness to
put the rights of others ahead of her own political popularity, even when that
stance prompted others to accuse her
of unpatriotic sentiments.[110] ER’s address contributed to ongoing
discussions of civil liberties that extend well into our present moment. In
light of the United States’ ongoing security concerns both at home and abroad,
this tension between national security and personal liberties will no doubt be
with us for a very long time. One can appreciate the enduring nature of this
debate tied so closely to the very notions of American democracy.

Heather Brook Adams is a graduate
student in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland. She
would like to thank Dr. Shawn J. Parry-Giles for her encouragement, support,
and guidance through multiple drafts of this essay.

Keywords: Civil Liberties,
Eleanor Roosevelt, Republican Motherhood, Rhetorical First Lady

[1] I respectfully use
Eleanor Roosevelt’s initials in lieu of “Roosevelt” for clarity and
simplicity; other scholars have used the same reference. I will also later
refer to President Roosevelt as FDR for these same reasons. Eleanor Roosevelt
to the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee, “Address by Mrs. Franklin D.
Roosevelt,” March 14, 1940, Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Franklin Roosevelt
National Library. Here and elsewhere passages from the speech are cited with
reference to paragraph numbers in the text of speech.
[2] Lizabeth Cohen,
“Encountering Mass Culture at the Grassroots: The Experience of Chicago
Worker in the 1920s,” in Popular
Culture and Political Change in Modern America
, eds., Ronald Edsforth and
Larry Bennett (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991).
[3] This separation
reflects a theoretical ideal. Such a finite distinction of course is often
blurred, and certainly many would deny the existence of this division between
public and private.
[4] Aristotle, The Politics and The Constitution of Athens,
ed., Stephen Everson (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 17.
[5] Aristotle, The Politics, 29.
[6] Aristotle also asserts
that a man should rule his wife because “the male is by nature fitter for
command than the female, just as the elder and full-grown is superior to the
younger and more immature,” despite the fact that “the idea of a
constitutional state implies that the natures of the citizens are equal, and do
not differ at all.” Aristotle, The
, 27.
[7] Patrice Clark Koelsch,
“Public and Private: Some Implications for Feminist Literature and
Criticism,” in Gender, Ideology, and
Action: Historical Perspectives on Women’s Public Lives
, ed., Janet
Sharistanian (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), 12.
[8] Koelsch, “Public
and Private,” 13; Exclusion from the polis
was based solely on sex. Slaves and resident aliens, for example, would
have also been considered non-citizens by Aristotle. See Stephen Everson,
“Introduction,” in The Politics
and The Constitution of Athens
, xviii.
[9] Eighteenth-century
philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, equated a woman’s desire to be
part of the political community with a denial of her sexuality, similar to
earlier conclusions drawn by Plato. See Linda K. Kerber, “The Republican
Mother: Women and the Enlightenment–An American Perspective,” in Toward an Intellectual History of Women:
Essays by Linda K. Kerber,
ed., Linda K. Kerber (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1997), 41-62.
[10] Linda K.
Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect
and Ideology in Revolutionary America
(Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1980), 27.
[11] Kerber, Women of the Republic, 28.
[12] Kerber, Women of the Republic, 11-12; Kerber
attends to the limitation of the political influence truly granted to women by
noting that “The image of the Republican Mother could be used to mask
women’s true place in the polis: they were still on its edges.”
[13] Linda K.
Kerber, “Republicanism in the History and Historiography of the United
States,” American Quarterly 37
(1985): 488.
[14] Kerber, Women of the Republic, 285; Kerber,
“The Republican Mother,” 58-59.
[15] JoAnn
Menezes, “The Birthing of the American Flag and the Invention of an
American Founding Mother in the Image of Betsy Ross,” in Narratives of Nostalgia, Gender, and
eds., Jean Pickering and Suzanne Kehde (New York: New York
University Press, 1997), 85.
[16] Barbara
Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860,” American Quarterly 18 (1966): 152.
[17] Karlyn
Kohrs Campbell, Man Cannot Speak for Her:
A Critical Study of Early Feminist Rhetoric
, 2 vols. (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1989).
Campbell, Man Cannot Speak for Her.
[19] Stephen
Howard Browne, Angelina Grimke: Rhetoric,
Identity, and the Radical Imagination
(East Lansing: Michigan State
University Press, 1999), 95.
[20] Browne
also argues that Beecher’s An Essay on
Slavery and Abolition with Reference to the Duty of American Females
“the relationship between virtue and action . . . in terms of duty a
principle that governed for Beecher the optimal ordering of self and
community.” Beecher’s published persuasive writing challenged the tenets
of republican motherhood while simultaneously trying to uphold them,
illustrating woman’s changing relationship with this ideological framework.
Browne, Angelina Grimke, 87.
[21] Susan
Zaeske, “The ‘Promiscuous Audience’ Controversy and the Emergence of the
Early Woman’s Rights Movement,” Quarterly
Journal of Speech
81 (1995): 198. Emphasis mine.
[22] Zaeske,
“The ‘Promiscuous Audience’ Controversy,” 191.
[23] Susan
Zaeske, Signatures of Citizenship:
Petitioning, Antislavery, and Women’s Political Identity
(Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 98.
[24] Nan
Johnson, Gender and Rhetorical Space in
American Life, 1866-1910
(Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press,
2002), 3.
[25] Johnson,
Gender and Rhetorical Space in American
, 15.
[26] Johnson,
Gender and Rhetorical Space in American
, 2.
Campbell, Man Cannot Speak for Her,
1: 4.
[28] Lori D.
Ginzberg, “‘Moral Suasion is Moral Balderdash’: Women, Politics, and
Social Activism in the 1850s,” Journal
of American History
73 (1986): 604.
[29] Lee Chambers-Schiller,
“‘A Good Work Among the People’: The Political Culture of the Boston
Antislavery Fair,” in The
Abolitionist Sisterhood: Women’s Political Culture in Antebellum America,
Jean Fagan Yellin and John C. Van Horne (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press,
1994); Beth A. Salerno, Sister Societies:
Women’s Antislavery Organizations in Antebellum America
(DeKalb: Northern
Illinois University Press, 2005).
[30] Kathleen
D. McCarthy, “Women and Political Culture,” in Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History, eds.,
Lawrence J. Friedman and Mark D. McGarvie (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2003), 192.
McCarthy, “Women and Political Culture,” 182.
[32] James M.
Lindgren, “‘A New Departure in Historic, Patriotic Work’: Personalism,
Professionalism, and Conflicting Concepts of Material Culture in the Late
Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” The Public Historian 18 (1996): 43-44.
[33] See
Angelika Köhler, Ambivalent Desires: The New
Between Social Modernization
and Modern Writing
(Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2004); and Mary
Martha Thomas, The New Woman in Alabama:
Social Reforms and Suffrage, 1890-1920
(Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama
Press, 1992).
[34] Jean V.
Matthews, The Rise of the New Woman: The
Women’s Movement in America, 1875-1930
(Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee, 2003),
Matthews, The Rise of the New Woman,
[36] Thomas, The New Woman in Alabama, 2.
[37] Thomas, The New Woman in Alabama, 3.
[38] Barbara
Burrell, Public Opinion, The First
Ladyship, and Hillary Rodham Clinton
(New York: Routlege, 2001), 14.
[39] Shawn J.
Parry-Giles and Diane M. Blair, “The Rise of the Rhetorical First Lady:
Politics, Gender Ideology, and Women’s Voice, 1789-2002,” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 5 (2002):
Parry-Giles and Blair, “The Rise of the Rhetorical First Lady,” 570;
Parry-Giles and Blair list a variety of examples of early social politicking
activities, including Abigail Smith Adams’s meeting with members of Congress,
Dolley Payne Todd Madison’s willingness to guard the White House when President
Madison took leave from Washington, D.C. before the War of 1812, and Sarah
Polk’s perusal of newspaper articles to be read by the president. Burrell
similarly notes that care for the president, interest in the social aspect of
the political community, and direct sway over the president or public policy
are examples of the increasing levels of political involvement presidential
wives have assumed in their role as first lady. See Burrell, Public Opinion.
Parry-Giles and Blair, “The Rise of the Rhetorical First Lady,”
[42] Betty
Boyd Caroli, First Ladies (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2003), 140-141.
[43] Janis L.
Edwards, “Grace Goodhue Coolidge: Articulating Virtue,” in Inventing a Voice: The Rhetoric of American
First Ladies of the Twentieth Century,
ed., Molly Meijer Wertheimer (New
York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.), 146.
[44] Edwards,
“Grace Goodhue Coolidge,” 154.
Parry-Giles and Blair, “The Rise of the Rhetorical First Lady,” 567.
[46] Ann J.
Atkinson, “Lou Henry Hoover: Mining the Possibilities as Leader and First
Lady,” in Inventing a Voice: The Rhetoric
of American First Ladies of the Twentieth Century,
ed., Molly Meijer
Wertheimer (New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.), 168.
[47] Nancy
Beck Young, Lou Henry Hoover: Activist
First Lady
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 146.
[48] See
Parry-Giles and Blair, “The Rise of the Rhetorical First Lady,” 567. According
to Jeffrey K. Tulis, the notion of the rhetorical presidency refers to
twentieth-century presidents’ willingness to speak directly to the people
instead of primarily to the Congress. In so doing, these presidents are thought
to have enlivened the spirit of the people through their direct public appeal
more than earlier presidents. See Jeffrey K. Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1987).
[49] Eleanor
Roosevelt, This I Remember (New York: Harper and Row,
1949), 69.
Roosevelt, This I Remember, 76.
Roosevelt, This I Remember, 88.
Roosevelt, This I Remember, 89.
[53] Blanche
Wiesen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt, 2
vols. (New York: Penguin, 1999), 1:2, 9.
[54] Molly M.
Wood, “Diplomatic Wives: The Politics of Domesticity and the ‘Social Game’
in the U.S. Foreign Service, 1905-1941,” Journal of Women’s History 17 (2005), 146.
[55] See
Tamara K. Hareven, Eleanor Roosevelt: An
American Conscience
(Chicago, IL: Quadrangle Books, 1968), 6-7; and Lois
Scharf, First Lady of American Liberalism
(Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1987), 24.
See Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story (New
York: Harper and Brothers, 1937), 84; and Scharf, First Lady of American Liberalism, 26.
[57] See Myra
Gutin, The President’s Partner: The First
Lady in the Twentieth Century
(New York: Greenwood Press, 1989), 82; and
Blanche Wiesen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt, 2 vols. (New York: Penguin,
1999), 1:1.
Roosevelt, This is My Story, 108.
[59] Marylin
Gittell and Teresa Shtob, “Changing Women’s Roles in Political
Volunteerism and Reform of the City,” Signs
5 (1980): 70.
[60] Gittell and Shtob,
“Changing Women’s Roles,” 70; Eleanor J. Stebner. The Women of Hull House: A Study in
Spirituality, Vocation, and Friendship
(Albany: State University of New
York Press 1997).
Roosevelt, This is My Story, 109.
[62] Caroli, First Ladies, 187.
[63] Gutin, The President’s Partner, 85.
[64] Allida
M. Black, Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor
Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism
(New York: Columbia
University Press, 1996), 25.
[65] Blanche
Wiesen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt,
[66] Maurine
H. Beasley, Eleanor Roosevelt and the
Media: A Public Quest for Self-Fulfillment
(Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1987), 4.
[67] Young, Lou Hoover, 140-143.
[68] Beasley,
Eleanor Roosevelt and the Media,
[69] Black, Casting Her Own Shadow, 26.
[70] Beasley,
Eleanor Roosevelt and the Media, 4.
[71] One
representative example of such abuse is the mob harassment, physical attack,
and damage to personal property suffered Jehovah’s Witnesses in Litchfield,
Illinois in 1940. See Chicago Civil Liberties Committee, Pursuit of Freedom: A History of Civil Liberty in Illinois 1787-1942, eds.,
Edgar Bernhard, Ira Latimer, and Harvey O’Connor (Chicago, IL: Chicago Civil
Liberties Committee, 1942), 15-17.
“Willkie Urges Action to Guard Civil Liberties,” New York Herald Tribune, March 14, 1940; “J. Edgar Hoover
Denies Tapping Senators’ Wires,” New
York Herald Tribune,
March 14, 1940.
[73] Chicago Civil
Liberties Committee, Pursuit of Freedom,
15-17, vii; Mrs. Charles Helen S. Ascher to Chicago Civil Liberties Committee,
March 23, 1934, Swarthmore College Peace Collection (hereafter cited SCPC),
American Civil Liberties Union Records (hereafter cited ACLUR), Box 6,
Swarthmore College–Swarthmore, Pennsylvania (hereafter cited SC–S).
[74] Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History
of the ACLU
(Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999), 123;
Members’ Bulletin from Philadelphia Civil Liberties Committee, May 29, 1940,
[75] Walker, In Defense, 123.
[76] Jerold
S. Auerbach, “The La Follette Committee: Labor and Civil Liberties in the
New Deal,” Journal of American
51 (1964): 435.
[77] Walker, In Defense, 96.
“Dies Calls Chicago ISMS Power House,” New York Times, October 4, 1939.
Auerbach, “The La Follette Committee,” 449-450.
“Dies Calls Chicago ISMS Power House.”
“Dies Calls Chicago ISMS Power House.”
“Dies Calls Chicago ISMS Power House.”
[83] Walker, In Defense, 120.
[84] Chicago
Civil Liberties Committee, Pursuit of

[85] Eleanor
Roosevelt, “Intolerance,” in Courage
in a Dangerous World: The Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt,
Allida M. Black (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 121.
[86] Theodore
Irwin, “Control: Freedom and Censorship,” in Public Opinion Quarterly 4 (1940): 524.
[87] See
Chicago Civil Liberties Committee, Pursuit
of Freedom
, 15-17. Witnesses considered the flag a worldly emblem that
symbolized values conflicting with their religious beliefs.
[88] In 1940,
the ACLU also experienced a schism resulting in the organization’s denouncement
of former leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn due to her identification as a
communist. See Walker, In Defense,
[89] Theodore
Irwin, “Control: Freedom and Censorship,” 523.
Campbell, Man Cannot Speak for Her.
[91] Eleanor
Roosevelt, “The Moral Basis of Democracy,” in Courage In a Dangerous World: The Political Writings of Eleanor
ed., Allida M. Black (New York: Columbia University Press,
[92] Sacvan
Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 6.
[93] Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad, 32.
[94] Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad, 6.
[95] Joyce
Appleby, “Recovering America’s Historic Diversity: Beyond Exceptionalism,”
in Marks of Distinction: American
Exceptionalism Revisited
, ed., Dale Carter (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus
University Press), 25.
[96] Thomas
B. Byers, “A City Upon a Hill: American Literature and the Ideology of
Exceptionalism,” in Marks of Distinction:
American Exceptionalism Revisited
, ed., Dale Carter (Aarhus, Denmark:
Aarhus University Press), 46.
Specifically, Presidents Harrison, Cleveland, and McKinley created discourse of
this strain. Vanessa B. Beasley, You, the
People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric
Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2004), 73-81.
[98] Beasley, You, the People, 83.
[99] Black, Casting Her Own Shadow, 132-135.
Patrick Schmidt, “‘The Dilemma to a Free People’: Justice Robert Jackson,
Walter Bagehot, and the Creation of a Conservative Jurisprudence,” Law
and History Review
20 (2002): 519-520.
[101] Allan
M. Winkler, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the
Making of Modern America
(New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2006), 164.
“President Signs USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act,”
March 9, 2006, www.whitehouse.gove/news/releases
(accessed April 2, 2007).
“President Signs USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act.”
[104] Nancy Chang and the
Center for Constitutional Rights, Silencing
Political Dissent: How Post-September 11 Anti-Terrorism Measures Threaten Our
Civil Liberties
(New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002).
“Bush Renews Patriot Act Campaign,” New York Times, January 4, 2006.
[106] Chang,
Silencing Political Dissent, 43.
[107] Darren
W. Davis, Negative Liberty: Public
Opinion and the Terrorist Attacks on America
(New York: Russell Sage
Foundation, 2007), 4.
[108] Davis,
Negative Liberty, 4.
[109] Barbara J. Olshansky,
“Our Civil Liberties: Who’s Watching the Home Front?,” in Awakening from the Dream: Civil Rights Under
Siege and the New Struggle for Equal Justice,
eds., Denise C. Morgan,
Rachel D. Godsil, and Joy Moses (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2005),
[110] For a
discussion of ER’s critics, including J. Edgar Hoover, who associated her
sentiments with un-American fascism, see Black, Casting Her Own Shadow.