Tuesday 25 March 2014

Eleanor Roosevelt's Pecan Pie

"Hoover sent the army.  Roosevelt sent his wife." (on the occasion of the WWI vets marching on Washington D.C. in the 1930's)

Bonus Army camps out on Capitol lawn in July 1932 courtesy upload.wikimedia.org.

Struggling World War I vets marched on Washington D.C. in 1930 in the hope of getting financial benefits. President Hoover's response was to order the military to pepper them with tear gas.  The following year, President Roosevelt saw the vets march on the Capitol once again.  However, he sent in his wife Eleanor. Within hours, Mrs. Roosevelt had them singing.  Such was the power of the "First Lady of the World".

The niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in 1884 in New York City.  Her childhood was filled with sadness as her mother and her brother both succumbed to diptheria when she was young.  The following year her alcoholic father committed suicide.  Eleanor was starved for affection and considered herself to be an "ugly duckling".  Her confidence improved when she attended finishing school in London, England for three years.  

In 1902, she returned to the United States where she attended the debutante ball at the Waldorf-Astoria. Shortly after, she met fellow New Yorker Franklin Roosevelt, a fifth cousin aboard a train going to Tivoli, New York and they started a secret correspondence.  The couple got engaged in 1903, despite Franklin's mother's disapproval.  President Theodore Roosevelt gave the bride away on their wedding day, March 17, 1905.  They honeymooned for three months in Europe.

Eleanor Roosevelt on her wedding day courtesy blogspot.com.

Sara Roosevelt, Franklin's mother, invited them to move into a townhouse on her Hudson River estate and they agreed.  With the young couple's townhouse immediately adjacent to her's, Sara tried to control their every move.  Franklin and Eleanor started a family which eventually included six children.  Life seemed good.

However, in 1918, Eleanor was unpacking her husband's suitcase when she discovered a stack of love letters addressed to Franklin from his mistress Lucy Mercer.  While she disapproved of the relationship, she remained committed to her husband.  It was at this time that she started to get involved in the public life, almost as a way of getting back at her husband.

Hyde Park Estate overlooking the Hudson River courtesy www.superstock.com.

In 1921, the couple vacationed at their summer house in Campobello Island, New Brunswick.  After swimming, Franklin contracted polio, leaving his body partially paralyzed.  While his mother suggested he retire from politics and become a country gentlemen, his wife insisted that he continue to work in the public arena.  Franklin wisely listened to Eleanor and reaped the rewards.

In 1928, Franklin was elected governor of New York.  He did such a good job that in 1932, he ran for President of the United States and won.  Although Eleanor became a "reluctant First Lady", she put her heart and soul into the role and redefined the position.  In her husband's first year in office, Eleanor earned $75,000 in lecture and writing fees, which matched her husband's income.

Inauguration Day 1933 courtesy fairuselab.net.

The First Lady was responsible for a series of firsts in the job:  she was the first to hold a press conference, the first to speak at a National Convention and the first to write a syndicated column (My Day).

Eleanor was a champion of causes.  When World War I veterans marched on Washington D.C. to protest their treatment, it was Eleanor who greeted them on the Capitol steps.  By the time the First Lady was through speaking to them, they were singing.  When black singer Marian Anderson was denied use of Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, it was Eleanor who invited her to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Marion Anderson sings at Lincoln Memorial circa 1939 courtesy borderzine.com.

Eleanor filled the role of First Lady longer than any other woman.  Sadly, Franklin Roosevelt died shortly after being re-elected for a fourth term in Office.  His widow went on to be involved in the United Nations and was appointed by John F. Kennedy to head up a committee on the status of women.  Eleanor passed away in 1962.



one & a half cups flour
half a teaspoon salt
one teaspoon baking powder
half a cup shortening
quarter cup ice water

third cup butter
one cup brown sugar
3 or 4 eggs
one cup light corn syrup
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
quarter teaspoon salt
whole pecans for garnish
1 pint heavy cream, whipped

To make crust, measure one and a half cups flour; sift with salt and baking powder.  Divide shortening into two equal parts.  Cut half into the flour mixture until it looks like cornmeal.  Cut the other half coarsely until it is the size of green peas.  Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over the mixture.  Blend lightly.  If the dough holds together, add no more liquid.  If not, add additional water.

To make filling, cream one third cup butter with one cup brown sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Stir in one cup light corn syrup, 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a quarter teaspoon salt.  Fill the pie shell with the mixture.  Preheat oven to 375 F and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  When the pie is set and cooled, decorate with pecan halves.  Garnish with whipped cream around entire edge.

1 comment:

  1. Hello –

    Your blog popped-up while I was looking for a photo of ER's wedding dress.

    You see, I am a long time Roosevelt collector & historian and found your post about ER's pecan pie recipe interesting. Thank you. Respectfully - because writing about a historical person so admired like ER is not easy - I would like to point out a few misconceptions in your piece:

    - She didn't just meet FDR on the train. They knew each other for years. As a young child ER's mother visited Sara and FDR at Hyde Park and young FDR - he was two years older - gave ER a horseback ride on his back. They were also distant cousins.

    - It is a misconception that Sara disapproved of ER. Rather, she felt Franklin was still too young to marry.
    -Your line, "Sara...invited them to move into a townhouse on her Hudson River estate" after FDR & ER were married is wrong. It was the Roosevelt home on the Hyde Park estate, not the NYC townhouse on East 65th Street. The townhouses - there were actually two side-by-side - hadn't been built yet and Sara as a Christmas present gave them a drawing of the townhouse she had in mind in 1905. They are not near the Hudson River (I have visited the place...).

    - "It was at this time" - 1918 - "that she started to get involved in public life. Sorry, the historical record tells us otherwise, as two examples in 1917 after the US entered WWI she started a knitting group to knit items for soldiers and worked at a Red Cross canteen at Union Station in DC.

    - It has been debunked that FDR did not contract polio from swimming, but from attending a Boy Scout camp before traveling to Campobello, Canada. In fact, as late as 2003 a team of medical doctors concluded that FDR most certainly had Gullain-Barre syndrome, not polio (source: CNN).

    - You are correct that FDR first ran for governor in 1928 and won by a squeaker (around 25,000 votes in the end). But because the NY governorship was then a two-year term, he ran again in 1930 and won with over 700,000 votes over his opponent.

    - ER's income not only matched FDR's presidential salary. It far exceeded it in her writing and speaking fees. (In fact, ER was wealthier than FDR when they married as she had a trust fund of $7,500 annually in 1905 while FDR's was $5,000 or more than $75,000 and $50,000 respectively in today's dollars).

    Lastly, just know I appreciate your writing about the Roosevelts. But I wanted to take the opportunity to correct some misconceptions. And hope you will find them constructive rather than critical.

    I close in sending my best to you.


    Scott W. Larsen
    New Westminster, BC, Canada