Eleanor Roosevelt to Faye McLean

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Faye McLean

23 February 1947 [New York City]

Dear Mrs. McLean:

I am still getting letters of protest about the meeting I am scheduled to attend in Toronto, and in view of the fact that the officers of the Human Rights Commission have been asked to write a Human Rights Bill with the aid of the secretariat and to have it ready by June 25th, which means holding long and frequent sessions between the time I return from my trip west the latter part of March and the 25th of June, I think I had better cancel my engagement to come to Toronto in April.3

Quite frankly any question of discrimination makes me very uncomfortable, I think it would be a much wiser plan for me not to keep this engagement. I am sure you will have plenty of time to find some one to speak in my place.4

                                  Very sincerely yours,


1. In a letter to McLean dated January 23, but not sent (probably because the telegram was sent instead), ER wrote that she had "been surprised to receive protests against my speaking for your club because you are alleged to discriminate against Jewish people in your membership and in your audiences. Of course, I do not know whether this is true, but if it is your policy, I am afraid that I will not be able to keep my engagement. I am against any form of discrimination."

ER drafted a letter expressing the same statements January 23, 1947. Although no recipient's copy of the telegram was preserved and the sender's copy had no date, the editors believe ER sent a telegram on the same day she drafted the unsent letter to guarantee the fastest possible transmission of her concerns (ER to Faye McLean, n.d., AERP).

2. Abraham L. Feinberg to Florence Schulkind, 11 February 1947, AERP.

3. The meetings of the HRC drafting group did not actually begin until June 9, 1947, and the full HRC did not meet until December, but it is possible that the meeting schedule had not been set as of February 23.

4. McLean replied at length on February 27. "Our Club," she wrote:

like many similar organizations, does reserve the right to accept or reject any application, but to our knowledge no application has been denied by our club on racial or religious principles. It is true, as I told you on the telephone, that we happen not to have any Jewish women in our Club. This, however, is probably due to the fact that new members are sponsored by two members of the Club, and our social activities are different. I doubt if any member of our Club has ever been invited to join Hadassah or the Jewish Council of Women-again because we do not share a common social interest. It would not occur to us, however, to suggest that because we are not members of their societies they are discriminating against us. We all belong to the Local Council of Women and work together through that agency. Thus, we are at a loss to understand what appears to be an organized effort to sabotage your visit to Toronto.

She noted that the club had limited the presale of tickets to members to two so that most of the tickets would be available at the box office without discrimination to whoever wished to attend ER's talk. She also noted that the club had promised to donate $2,500 from the proceeds of ER's lecture to the Save the Children Fund. If the lecture were canceled, the club would be unable to make this contribution. "It was not until after I had talked to you on the telephone," she wrote, "that we advised the Fund of our desire to present the lecture on its behalf. We feel that if we should now have to tell them we could not present you, it would cause a great deal of embarrassment both to our Club and to you." Finally, she enclosed a transcript of a letter from Adeline J. Pearcy, president of the Local Council of Jewish Women, thanking her and the club for extending a warm wel-come to her when she attended their 30th Anniversary Luncheon at which Constance Amberg Sporborg (see n2 Document 198) spoke. ER replied to McLean on March 6:

I am sorry I can not reconsider my decision. You need not give the reasons I gave for cancelling this engagement. I am willing, however, to have you use all that I said, but if you prefer you may say that the change in the date of the meeting of the Human Rights Commission, and the drafting of the Bill of Human Rights, make it impossible for me to keep the engagement for April 15th.

On March 14, McLean wrote to say that the club had placed an ad in the Toronto papers saying:

The American Women's Club of Toronto regrets to announce that, owing to the change in date of the meeting of the Human Rights Commission, and her commitment to assist in drafting the Bill of Human Rights for the United Nations, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt has cancelled her engagement to speak in Toronto on April 15th (Faye Gould [Mrs. Charles] McLean to ER, 27 February 1947; ER to Faye Gould [Mrs. Charles] McLean, 6 March 1947; Faye Gould [Mrs. Charles] McLean to ER, 14 March 1947, AERP).

On the Rehabilitation of Germany and the IRO

General George Marshall replaced James Byrnes as secretary of state January 21, 1947. In her first letter to Marshall in his new position, ER urged the secretary to meet with representatives planning the National Conference on the Problem of Germany,1 led by her long-time friend Constance Amberg Sporborg,2 to address their concerns regarding Germany's rehabilitation.

The following is the first of many letters Eleanor wrote to Marshall during his tenure as secretary of state and one of several she wrote the secretary focusing on the reindustrialization of Germany3

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