1947: January–JuneIf You Ask Me [excerpt]...448
"Liberals Look Ahead for Gains under Democratic Action"...450
Eleanor Roosevelt to Helen Bush...452
Eleanor Roosevelt to Arthur Vandenberg...455
Arthur Vandenberg to Eleanor Roosevelt...456
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...459
Harry Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt...459
Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Acheson...462
Dean Acheson to Eleanor Roosevelt9...463
Eleanor Roosevelt to Stella Reading...464
Eleanor Roosevelt to Peter Lucas...467
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Boardman...468
Beatrice Hauser to Eleanor Roosevelt...470
Eleanor Roosevelt to Beatrice Hauser...470
Eleanor Roosevelt to Max Lerner...473
Max Lerner to Eleanor Roosevelt...473
Eleanor Roosevelt to Max Lerner...474
Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. Wales Latham...476
"Mrs. Roosevelt's Position"...478
Eleanor Roosevelt to James Loeb, Jr....479
Eleanor Roosevelt to Faye McLean...481
Eleanor Roosevelt to Faye McLean...481
Eleanor Roosevelt to George Marshall...484
George Marshall to Eleanor Roosevelt...485
Verbatim Report of the First Meeting of the Commission on Human Rights [excerpt]...489
Eleanor Roosevelt to Sumner Welles...492
Sumner Welles to Eleanor Roosevelt...493
Eleanor Roosevelt to Sumner Welles...495
Sumner Welles to Eleanor Roosevelt...496
Eleanor Roosevelt to Sumner Welles...498
Commission on Human Rights Verbatim Record Fourteenth Meeting [excerpt]5...506
"The Russians Are Tough"...511
Memorandum of Conversation between Eleanor Roosevelt and Thomas Power, Jr....516
Dean Acheson to Eleanor Roosevelt...517
Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Acheson...519
Dean Acheson to Eleanor Roosevelt...520
Fiorello La Guardia to Eleanor Roosevelt...522
Eleanor Roosevelt to Fiorello La Guardia...524
Eleanor Roosevelt to Nedra Dalmann...527
Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Acheson...529
Dean Acheson to Eleanor Roosevelt...530
Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Acheson...531
Dean Acheson to Eleanor Roosevelt...531
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...533
Harry Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt...534
Eleanor Roosevelt to C. B. Baldwin...540
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...541
Eleanor Roosevelt to John Foster Dulles...544
John Foster Dulles to Eleanor Roosevelt...545
Eleanor Roosevelt to John Foster Dulles...546
Speech on Behalf of Roosevelt College...548
Eleanor Roosevelt to George Marshall...552
George Marshall to Eleanor Roosevelt...552
If You Ask Me (Excerpt)...555
Memorandum of Conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt...556
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...560
Harry Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt...561
Eleanor Roosevelt to James Roosevelt...562
Eleanor Roosevelt to A. F. Whitney...565
Verbatim Record of the Thirteenth Meeting of the Drafting Committee of the Commission on Human Rights [excerpt]...567
Eleanor Roosevelt to Chester Bryant...575
"I feel very keenly the importance of this Commission."
Eleanor Roosevelt began 1947 engaged in the debate over how liberals should best offset the influence American Communists wielded in some reform organizations. In early January, she helped found the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA); however, the establishment of another liberal organization so soon after the founding of the Progressive Citizens of America (PCA) worried those liberals concerned that protracted debate between non-Communist and anti-Communist organizations would undermine the liberal agenda. "American communists seem to have succeeded very well in jeopardizing whatever the liberals work for," ER wrote. "Therefore, to keep them out of the policy making and staff positions," as the ADA planned to do, "seems to be very essential."1 Rejecting accusations that the PCA was the more progressive body, ER told Helen Bush that the ADA "is really a group to stimulate progressive action in the Democratic Party," and she rejected La Guardia's suggestion that progressives might need to form a third party. When others expressed concern that ER and Henry Wallace, two of the most prominent liberals in American politics, appeared to be in warring camps, she responded that "I am not attacking Mr. Wallace nor other progressives."2 Nevertheless, while she declared her faith in Wallace's "complete integrity," she found herself "troubled by the fact that he hasn't always gone to the root of questions and got the facts completely straight."3
Despite her busy schedule, ER found time to respond to a Yale Daily News reporter and the editor of a Wisconsin high school newspaper asking her how students could help secure peace and confront prejudice. ER herself cancelled a speaking engagement at the American Women's Club in Toronto after receiving protests that the club discriminated against Jews.
On the international front, the existence of fascist regimes in Spain and Argentina, and America's apparently growing willingness to accommodate them, continued to bother ER. In the case of Argentina, she turned to her old friend Sumner Welles for insight and asked him to explain why he thought it wise to come to agreement with the government of Juan Perön. She also expressed disappointment to Senator Vandenberg at the proposal to end bi-partisan representation on the US delegation to the UN and asked Truman if something could be done to allow a group of illegal Jewish immigrants to stay in the United States. She urged Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson to consider Lady Stella Reading's proposal to create an organization to train women to defend democratic principles against communist attacks at international meetings. Soon after George Marshall replaced James Byrnes as Secretary of State, ER asked the secretary to meet with representatives from the National Conference on the Problem of Germany to address their concern that the Allied plan to rebuild Germany could redevelop the nation in ways that fostered its economic and military might.
January 27, the permanent UN Human Rights Commission held its first meeting in Lake Success, New York, and unanimously elected ER chairman. She then told her colleagues that while her parliamentary skills might be rusty, "I feel very keenly the importance of this Commission" and "am conscious of that fact that human rights mean something to the people of the world, which is hope for a better opportunity for people in general to enjoy justice and freedom and opportunity."4 She then guided the HRC through its first two-week session, as it decided how it would approach its work, discussed what its proposed international bill of rights should contain, and aired its philosophical differences that would underlie debates throughout the drafting process. As ER summed up the ideological division in the commission: "Many of us believe that an organized society in the form of a government, exists for the good of the individual; others believe that an organized society in the form of a government, exists for the benefit of a group."5
After the HRC sessions ended, ER reflected on the difficulties she had encountered in dealing with the Russians at the UN in an article for Look magazine. Calling the Russians "tough," she admitted that "it takes patience and equal firmness and equal conviction to work with" them. However, despite "fundamental differences," she still hoped that "as time goes by … we will find more points of agreement."6
As she worked to reach agreement on an international bill of rights and other issues, ER found it "very embarrassing, sometimes" when other UN representatives pointed out how Americans did not live up to their own Bill of Rights. To fulfill its leadership role in the world, ER told a Roosevelt College audience, "each of us who believes that democracy really has the essence of something which can give more to the people than anything else—we who believe that—have to show that it is true."7
Several documents in this section record ER's concern over the delivery of humanitarian relief to people abroad. When criticized for lending her name to American Relief for Greek Democracy, an organization her correspondent called "a 'front' for another Communist activity," ER not only rejected his accusation but declared that "I have always felt that women and children should be helped regardless of political ideas."8 After Truman announced on February 21 that Greece and Turkey would receive economic and military aid directly from the US rather than through the UN, marking a shift in US policy, ER's discomfort intensified to the point where she considered resigning from the US delegation. Dean Acheson twice sent envoys to explain to her the US position on Greece and Turkey. The explanations provided kept her from resigning, but she told Acheson, "I hope never again that this type of action be taken without at least consulting with the Secretary General and with our permanent member on the Security Council beforehand. It all seems to me a most unfortunate way to do things." She then wrote Truman that she did not believe "taking over Mr. Churchill's policies in the Near East, in the name of democracy, is the way to really create a barrier to communism or promote democracy."9 Despite her disagreement with the administration's policies, ER did not support the attacks Henry Wallace leveled at Truman during his European lecture tour: "I do not believe that it is wise for Mr. Wallace to be making the kind of speeches he is making at the present time in foreign countries."10
ER's concern about escalating international tensions increased in May, when the Council of Foreign Ministers ended seven weeks of meetings without reaching agreement on the future of Germany or European peace treaties. After studying John Foster Dulles's report on the results of the meetings, she wrote him to suggest a possible way of reaching agreement with the Soviet Union on economic issues: that the US and Great Britain offer Russia help in building up its industries in exchange for raw materials.
1. See Document 190, ER to Max Lerner, 19 January 1947.
2. See Document 195, ER to James Loeb, Jr., January 1947.
3. See Document 178, ER to Helen Bush, 16 January 1947.
4. See Document 200, Excerpt, Verbatim Report of the First Meeting, Commission on Human Rights, 27 January 1947.
5. See Document 206, Excerpt, Verbatim Report of the Fourteenth Meeting, Commission on Human Rights, 4 February 1947.
6. See Document 207, "The Russians Are Tough," 18 February 1947.
7. See Document 226, Speech Before Roosevelt College, 24 May 1947.
8. See Document 187, ER to Harry Boardman, 11 January 1947.
9. See Document 219, ER to Harry Truman, 17 April 1947.
10. See Document 221, ER to Calvin Baldwin, 17 April 1947.