An “immensely interesting” account of how Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor led the United States through some of its most turbulent decades (David McCullough).
The Three Roosevelts is the extraordinary political biography of the intertwining lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who emerged from the closed society of New York’s Knickerbocker elite to become the most prominent American political family of the twentieth century.
As Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning author James MacGregor Burns and acclaimed historian Susan Dunn follow the evolution of the Roosevelt political philosophy, they illuminate how Theodore’s example of dynamic leadership would later inspire the careers of his distant cousin Franklin and his niece Eleanor, who together forged a progressive political legacy that reverberated throughout the world. Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt led America through some of the most turbulent times in its history. The Three Roosevelts takes readers on an exhilarating voyage through these tumultuous decades of our nation’s past, and these momentous events are seen through the Roosevelts’ eyes, their actions, and their passions. Insightful and authoritative, this is a fascinating portrait of three of America’s greatest leaders, whose legacy is as controversial today as their vigorous brand of forward-looking politics was in their own lifetimes.
“A remarkable example of narrative and biographical history at its best.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A detailed study . . . Written with impeccable scholarship.” —Houston Chronicle
“Show[s] how TR set FDR off on reform, and how Eleanor pushed Franklin, and how FDR used Eleanor as his legs . . . and as his conscience.” —The Boston Globe
As president, Theodore Roosevelt modeled himself after the man he admired mostDhis father, who believed in moral justiceDand after the man his father admired mostDPresident Lincoln, for his ability to be both a radical reformer and a shrewdly conservative politician. Although all three men were Republicans, TR grew further away from the party ideals held by the privileged class into which he was born (a life dedicated to pleasure bored him, and he was stimulated by the opportunities politics presented despite its grimy reputation), pushing for better conditions for workers, nationalized health care, the Pure Food and Drug Act and much more. His fifth cousin, Franklin (husband to TR's favorite niece), consciously mimicked TR's career path, going from assistant secretary of the navy, to New York governor, to president, eventually following another reform-oriented mentor, Woodrow Wilson, to become a Democrat. Growing up knowing little about politics, Eleanor Roosevelt was active in Junior League volunteerism and later the League of Women Voters, but it was under the influence of her husband's aide Louis Howe that she refined her political voice as a "big stick" activist like her uncle TR and her husband, who founded the welfare state. Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Burns (Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom) and Williams College professor Dunn (The Deaths of Louis XVI) do an excellent job of summarizing the political theology shared by these three Knickerbocker bluebloods, who were, in their time, categorized as "class traitors." While offering no new details, Burns and Dunn nevertheless succeed in approaching their subjects with grace, respect and insight. In the end, they do great justice to three remarkable lives superbly lived.