Louis Howe, the son of wealthy parents, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 14th January, 1871. His father, Edward P. Howe had been a captain with the Union Army in the Civil War. Howe suffered from asthma and never grew to more than five feet tall. His face was badly scarred by a childhood bicycle accident. (1)
Edward Howe made some bad investments and in 1878 he was declared bankrupt. The family moved to Saratoga, New York, with help from his mother's family. After borrowing money from friends he purchased The Saratoga Sun and instead of attending university, Howe went to work for the newspaper. (2)
Howe left his father's newspaper in 1901 and became a freelance journalist working for the New York Herald. (3) One of his most important stories was to interview Vice President Theodore Roosevelt on his return to Washington, D.C. after the death of President William McKinley. (4)
In 1906 Howe was hired by Thomas Mott Osborne in his battle to defeat the press baron, William Randolph Hearst, who was trying to become the Democratic Party presidential candidate. Hearst, who owned 28 newspapers and magazines, was a difficult man to beat. Howe biographer Julie M. Fenster describes the anti-Hearst campaign as a "personal turning point" for Howe, in which he got his first taste of politics, learned the practical mechanics of party organization, and had an opportunity to make news rather than simply reporting it. (5)
Louis Howe and Franklin D. Roosevelt
During this period Hoover met the young politician, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Howe was greatly impressed with Roosevelt and came to the conclusion that "nothing but an accident could keep him from becoming president". (6) Making sure he did did so became the purpose of Howe's life. As his secretary explained, "Louis was small, ugly and insignificant looking. Roosevelt was big, handsome and dramatic. Louis Howe closed one eye and saw the two divergent personalities merge into a political entity and the picture fascinated him." (7)
Patrick Renshaw claimed: "To the end of his life, with his high, stiff collars and watchful eyes, Howe conveyed this racy atmosphere of the era before the Great War. Personal familiarity with the seamier side of life, which Frank's own patrician background precluded, was the quality Roosevelt most valued in him. Short, thin and untidily dressed in suits which appeared second or third-hand, Howe looked like a medieval gargoyle with a twentieth-century cigarette dangling perpetually from his small mouth." (8)
At first Eleanor Roosevelt, was unhappy about Howe's influence: "At times I resented this intimacy, and at this time I was very sure of my own judgment about people... Louis was entirely indifferent to his appearance; he not only neglected his clothes but gave the impression at times that cleanliness was not of particular interest to him. The fact that he had rather extraordinary eyes and a fine mind I was fool enough not to have discovered as yet, and it was by externals alone that I had judged him in our association." (9)
Roosevelt asked Howe to be his campaign manager in his attempt to retain his seat in the New York senate. Howe was asked to devise a strategy to win the farm vote. One of the main complaints concerned the New York commission merchants, the middlemen who pocketed the difference between what the farmer got for his crop and what the consumer paid. Howe drafted a letter promising that if re-elected, Roosevelt would become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. There he would ensure passage of an agricultural marketing act that would increase the farmers income. Howe mailed more than eleven thousand letters to voters. Each letter contained a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the farmer's reply. This was highly successful and he had an easy victory in November 1912. (10)
According to Eleanor Roosevelt, Howe's most important contribution to her husband's political outlook was to persuade him to become concerned with the plight of the American work-force. He arranged for him to meet with trade union leaders. Louis Howe insisted Franklin Roosevelt attend hearings on labour problems in person rather than delegate labour relations to someone else. (11)
Frances Perkins, another Roosevelt advisor, agreed: "Howe's... admiration for Roosevelt was based partly upon the idea, which he conceived early, that he could make a great politician out of Roosevelt. Howe called attention to political movements developing and made a point of seeing that Roosevelt became acquainted with different politicians whom he brought in to see him." (12)
On 13th January, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson invited Roosevelt to Washington. He was introduced to Josephus Daniels, the new Secretary of the Navy. Daniels asked Roosevelt: "How would you like to be assistant secretary of the Navy?" Roosevelt replied: "It would please me better than anything in the world. All my life I have loved ships and have been a student of the Navy, and the assistant secretaryship is the one place, above all others, that I would like to hold... nothing would please me so much as to be with you in the Navy." (13)
Louis Howe moved to Washington to be with Roosevelt and was appointed as his secretary on $2,000 a year. "My husband had asked Louis Howe to come down as his assistant in the Navy Department; Louis moved his wife and two children, one of them a fairly well-grown girl and the other a baby boy, into an apartment not far from us." (14) Every morning at 8.15 Howe would call for Roosevelt and the two men would walk to the Navy Department. Elliott Roosevelt fondly remembers his father "striding down Connecticut Avenue with Louis hurrying along at his side. The two of them looked uncannily like Don Quixote and Sancho setting out to battle with giants." (15)
Howe's duties involved labour relations, special investigations and speech writing. He also took charge of patronage, handled Roosevelt's correspondence, made appointments for his boss. Daniels soon became aware of Howe's importance: "Howe advised FDR about everything. His one and only ambition was to steer Franklin's course so that he could take the tide at the full. He was totally devoted. He would have sidetracked both President Wilson and me to get Franklin Roosevelt to the White House." (16)
As assistant secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt's impact on the policies of the Wilson's administration was minimal. However, his eight years in Washington provided the opportunity to learn about the realities of national politics. Howe taught Roosevelt how to deal with organized labour. On several occasions he had meetings with trade union leaders. His great strength was that he was a good listener. He told them: "I want you to feel that you can come to me at any time in my office and we can talk matters over. Let's get together for I need you to teach me your business and show me what's going on." (17)
On 10th August, 1921, Franklin Roosevelt took a swim in Lake Glen Severn, a shallow freshwater pond on Campobello Island. About an hour later Roosevelt felt a sudden chill. He went straight to bed but continued to tremble despite two heavy blankets. The next morning he was worse. When he attempted to stand his left leg buckled beneath him. That evening he had lost the power to move his legs. He ached all over and was paralyzed from the chest down. However, it was not until fifteen years later before he was diagnosed as suffering from poliomyelitis. (18)
At first it was hoped that it was a mild attack but by October it was clear that he had lost the ability to walk. Sara Roosevelt wanted her son to retire from public life. Eleanor Roosevelt and Louis Howe disagreed and thought that the prospect of returning to politics would aid his recovery. Eleanor later recalled: "This was the most trying winter of my entire life. My mother-in-law thought we were tiring my husband and that he should be kept completely quiet. This made the discussions about his care somewhat acrimonious on occasion." (19)
Although he was confined to bed, with the help of Eleanor, Louis and his new secretary, Marguerite LeHand, he was able to keep up a constant correspondence with Democratic Party leaders. In March, 1922, he was fitted with steel braces that weighted fourteen pounds and ran from his heels to above his hips. Since his hips were paralyzed, he was incapable of moving his legs individually and was taught to pivot forward on his crutches, using his head and upper body for leverage. His doctor told him that he would never be able to walk normally. (20)
Louis Howe took care of Roosevelt's public image. "Roosevelt had after his illness four means of locomotion: (a) he could walk on somebody's arm with the braces and a cane, (b) he could walk with braces and crutches, (c) the wheel-chair, (d) he could be carried. He hated to be carried, and Louis Howe laid it down as an iron rule that he must never be carried in public. But in private he was carried, like an infant, thousands of times. For instance in later years, at dinner in the White House or elsewhere, he would usually be carried in to his place at the table before the company arrived.... Often, however, he used the chair. His servants and helpers acquired a marvellous dexterity in manipulating the change from the wheel-chair to another so quickly and unobtrusively that few people ever noticed." (21)
It was also Howe's idea that Eleanor Roosevelt should play an active role in politics until her husband was fit enough to go campaigning. Howe also taught Eleanor how to make speeches: "When I first tried to make speeches, Louis Howe impressed on me the fact that I could be of great help to Franklin if I handled them well. He came and sat in the back, and sat and sat. Afterwards he would say to me, 'You were terrible. There was nothing funny - why did you laugh?' That laugh of mine was only nervousness, of course. I've managed to control it, but now and then I lapse, and every time it happens, I remember Louis Howe. He said to me, about speaking, 'Think out what you want to say, and when you've said it, sit down. Write out your first sentence, and your last. Never write down anything in between. Just talk.' I still do it that way." (22)
Franklin Roosevelt returned to public life in 1924 when he agreed to help Al Smith in his attempt to become president. According to Eleanor: "He was entirely well and lived a normal life, restricted only by his inability to walk. On the whole, his general physical condition improved year by year, until he was stronger in some ways than before his illness... In the spring of 1924, before the National Democratic Convention met in New York, Al Smith, who was a candidate for the presidential nomination, asked him to manage his pre-convention campaign. This was the first time that my husband was to be in the public eye since his illness. A thousand and one little arrangements had to be made and Louis carefully planned each step of the way." (23)
Chief of Staff
In 1928 Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected as Governor of New York. Roosevelt appointed Louise Howe as his chief of staff. Other appointments included Frances Perkins (industrial commissioner), Edward J. Flynn (secretary of state), James Farley (chief strategist), Henry Morgenthau (Agricultural Advisory Commission), Samuel Rosenman (speech writer) and Basil O'Connor (legal adviser). (24)
Roosevelt was the Democratic Party candidate in the 1932 Presidential Election. In his acceptance speech Roosevelt argued: "Yes, the people of this country want a genuine choice this year, not a choice between two names for the same reactionary doctrine. Ours must be a party of liberal thought, of planned action, of enlightened international outlook, and of the greatest good to the greatest number of our citizens.... Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people." (25)
Roosevelt selected John Nance Garner as his running mate. Roosevelt's campaign did little to reassure critics who thought him a vacillating politician. For example, he attacked the Hoover administration because it was "committed to the idea that we ought to centre control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible" but advanced policies which would greatly extend the power of the national government. He said he would initiate a far-reaching plan to help the farmer; but he would do it in such a way that it would not "cost the Government any money". (26)
Louis Howe played a very important role in the election campaign. The journalist, John Gunther, has argued: "His only ambition was to be 'manager' of the man whom he genuinely thought to be the greatest human being history had ever produced. All he wanted was to be secretary to the President; probably he is the only man in Roosevelt's whole career whose ambition, from first to last, remained so modest." (27)
Roosevelt made twenty-seven major addresses during the six month 1932 Presidential Election campaign, each devoted to a single subject. He spoke briefly on thirty-two additional occasions, usually at whistle-stops or impromptu gatherings to which he was invited. President Herbert Hoover, by contrast, made only ten speeches, all of which were delivered during the closing weeks of the campaign. (28)
At a meeting in Detroit, President Hoover told the audience, "I wish to present to you the evidence that the measures and the policies of the Republican administration are winning this major battle for recovery. And we are taking care of distress in the meantime. It can be demonstrated that the tide has turned and the gigantic forces of depression are today in retreat." (29) The crowd responded with the cry: "Down with Hoover, slayer of veterans". According to one observer: "When he got up to speak, his face was ashen, his hands trembled. Toward the end, Hoover was a pathetic figure, a weary, beaten man, often jeered by crowds as a President had never been jeered before." (30)
Three days before the 1932 Presidential Election Hoover claimed that Roosevelt's policies could be compared to those of Joseph Stalin. He suggested that his opponent had "the same philosophy of government which has poisoned all of Europe... the fumes of the witch's cauldron which boiled in Russia." He accused the Democrats of being "the party of the mob". Hoover then added: "Thank God, we still have a government in Washington that knows how to deal with the mob." (31)
The turnout, almost 40 million, was the largest in American history. Roosevelt received 22,825,016 votes to Hoover's 15,758,397. With a 472-59 margin in the Electoral College, he captured every state south and west of Pennsylvania. Roosevelt carried more counties than a presidential candidate had ever won before, including 282 that had never gone Democratic. Of the forty states in Hoover's victory coalition four years before, the President held but six. Hoover received 6 million fewer votes than he had in 1928. The Democrats gained ninety seats in the House of Representatives to give them a large majority (310-117) and won control of the Senate (60-36). Only one previous Republican candidate, William Howard Taft, had done as badly as Hoover. (32)
Secretary to the President
President Franklin Roosevelt provided Howe with his own suite at the White House and gave him the title Secretary to the President, According to Eleanor Roosevelt he was her husband most candid friend. Harold Ickes observed: "Howe was the only one who dared to talk to him frankly and fearlessly. He not only could tell him what he believed to be the truth, but he could hang on like a pup to the root until he got results." (33) Howe described his role in the administration as the president's "no-man", checking Roosevelt's natural enthusiasm and preventing unsound proposals from reaching wider discussion. (34)
However, it has been pointed out that Roosevelt became more aware of Howe's limitations after he became president. Although he had splendid political judgement he knew "nothing about economics". It was members of the Brains Trust such as Raymond Moley, Rexford G. Tugwell, Adolf Berle, Samuel Rosenman, Felix Frankfurter, Louis Brandeis (who introduced the group to the ideas of John Maynard Keynes) and Benjamin Cohen, who developed the policies that became known as the New Deal. (35)
Brandeis and Frankfurter both urged Roosevelt to bring in progressive legislation that would challenge the power of big business. However, they did not always get the full support of the Brains Trust. Brandis wrote: "I am still troubled about Big Finance... And sooner or later, F.D.R. will have to deal with heavier taxes on the right. My respectable wise ones here seem as much afraid of putting an end to the super-rich as they are to putting an end to super-big corporations." (36)
Roosevelt's first act as president was to deal with the country's banking crisis. Since the beginning of the depression, a fifth of all banks had been forced to close. Already 389 banks had shut their doors since the beginning of the year." As a consequence, around 15% of people's life-savings had been lost. Banking was at the point of collapse. In 47 of the 48 states banks were either closed or working under tight restrictions. To buy time to seek a solution Roosevelt declared a four-day bank holiday. It has been claimed that the term "bank holiday" was used to seem festive and liberating. "The real point - the account holders could not use their money or get credit - was obscured." (37)
Brandeis, Frankfurter, and Rexford G. Tugwell agreed with progressives who wanted to use this opportunity to establish a truly national banking system. Heads of great financial institutions opposed this idea. Louis Howe supported conservatives on the Brains Trust such as Raymond Moley and Adolf Berle, who feared such a measure would create very dangerous enemies. Roosevelt was worried that such action "might accentuate the national sense of panic and bewilderment". (38)
Roosevelt summoned Congress into special session and presented it with an emergency banking bill that permitted the government to reopen the banks it ascertained to be sound, and other such banks as rapidly, as possible." The statue passed the House of Representatives by acclamation in a voice vote in forty minutes. In the Senate there was some debate and seven progressives, Robert LaFollette Jr, Huey P. Long, Gerald Nye, Edward Costigan, Henrik Shipstead, Porter Dale and Robert Davis Carey, voted against as they believed that it did not go far enough in asserting federal control. (39)
On 9th March, 1933, Congress passed the Emergency Banking Relief Act. Within three days, 5,000 banks had been given permission to be re-opened. President Roosevelt gave the first of his radio broadcasts (later known as his "fireside chats"): "Some of our bankers have shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people's funds. They had used money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. This was, of course, not true of the vast majority of our banks, but it was true in enough of them to shock the people for a time into a sense of insecurity. It was the government's job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible. And the job is being performed. Confidence and courage are the essentials in our plan. We must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumours. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work. Together we cannot fail." (40)
In March, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Henry A. Wallace as Secretary of State for Agriculture. Felix Frankfurter suggested that Frank would be a useful addition to the department. According to William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of The FDR Years (1995), Frank had confided to Frankfurter: "I know you know Roosevelt very well. I want to get out of this Wall Street racket... This crisis seems to be the equivalent of a war and I'd like to join up for the duration." As a result, Wallace appointed Frank as general council to the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). (41)
Frank worked under George N. Peek, who was the head of the AAA. John C. Culver and John C. Hyde, the authors of American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace (2001) have argued that Peek never liked Jerome Frank and wanted to appoint his own general council: "Crusty and dogmatic, Peek still seethed with resentment over Wallace's appointment as secretary, a position he coveted.. Frank was liberal, brash, and Jewish. Peek loathed everything about him. In addition, Frank surrounded himself with idealistic left-wing lawyers... whom Peek also despised." This group of left-wing idealists included Frederic C. Howe, Adlai Stevenson, Alger Hiss, Lee Pressman, Hope Hale Davis and Gardner Jackson. Peek later wrote that the "place was crawling with... fanatic-like... socialists and internationalists." On another occasion he called the men "Lenin chicks". (42)
In May, 1933, the Bonus Marchers descended on Washington for another attempt to secure early payment of their insurance policies. President Roosevelt reacted very differently from Herbert Hoover. He arranged for them to stay at Fort Hunt. Tents, latrines, showers, mess halls, and a large convention tent were ready and waiting when the veterans arrived. "The Army provided a never-ending supply of coffee and three hot meals a day; the Medical Corps treated their ills; service dentists fixed their teeth; and the Navy Band played daily concerts." (43)
Louis Howe and Eleanor Roosevelt drove to Fort Hall. Roosevelt gave them instructions on how they should behave. "Above all, be sure there is plenty of good coffee. No questions asked. Just let the coffee flow all the time. There is nothing like it to make people feel better and feel welcome." (44) One of the men said: "Hoover sent the Army, Roosevelt sent his wife." (45)
She later recalled how she spent more than a hour at the camp inspected the facilities and living quarters: "I got out and walked over to where I saw a line-up of men waiting for food. They looked at me curiously and one of them asked my name and what I wanted. When I said I just wanted to see how they were getting on, they asked me to join them. After their bowls were filled with food, I followed them into the big eating hall. I was invited to say a few words to them." (46)
After negotiations President Roosevelt agreed to change the rules about the age that the men could receive their payments (most of the veterans were in their forties). The younger men were offered places in the recently formed Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). After the Bonus Army voted to disband the remaining four hundred or so were given free rail transportation home. He also pleased the men with the passing of the Public Works Administration (PWA) with its 3.3 billion dollar public works programme. (47)
The conflict between Peek and the young liberals in the AAA continued. Peek's main objective was to raise agricultural prices through cooperation with processors and large agribusinesses. Other members of the Agricultural Department such as Jerome Frank were primarily concerned to promote social justice for small farmers and consumers. On 15th November, 1933, Peek demanded that Wallace should fire Frank for insubordination. Wallace, who agreed more with Frank than Peek, refused. Peek was also hostile to Rexford Tugwell, who believed that Peek was an anti-Semite." (48)
Peek resigned from the AAA on 11th December, 1933. Peek was replaced by Chester R. Davis. He also came into conflict with these young radicals. In February 1935, Davis insisted that Jerome Frank and Alger Hiss should be dismissed. Wallace was unable to protect them: "I had no doubt that Frank and Hiss were animated by the highest motives, but their lack of agricultural background exposed them to the danger of going to absurd lengths... I was convinced that from a legal point of view they had nothing to stand on and that they allowed their social preconceptions to lead them to something which was not only indefensible from a practical, agricultural point of view, but also bad law." (49)
Davis told Frank: "I've had a chance to watch you and I think you are an outright revolutionary, whether you realize it or not". Wallace wrote in his diary: "I indicated that I believed Frank and Hiss had been loyal to me at all times, but it was necessary to clear up an administrative situation and that I agreed with Davis". According to Sidney Baldwin, the author of Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration (1968), Wallace greeted Frank with tears in his eyes: "Jerome, you've been the best fighter I've had for my ideas, but I've had to fire you... The farm people are just too strong." (50)
Rexford Tugwell attempted to protect Frank and Hiss and received support from Louis Howe and Harry Hopkins: "I went and talked to Harry Hopkins who was outraged, to Louis Howe who was sympathetic, to Henry Wallace who was red-faced and ashamed, and to the President. My first impulse was to resign... I made up my mind that Jerome must have justice." (51) Roosevelt refused to let him go and agreed to appoint Frank as a special counsel to the Reconstruction Finance Association. (52)
The health of Louis Howe gradually deteriorated and radicals in the administration could no longer rely on him to protect them. Felix Frankfurter wrote to President Roosevelt suggesting that a young lawyer, Thomas Corcoran, should be appointed in the role that Howe had been performing. He told Roosevelt that Concoran had the requisite qualities of discretion, analytical ability, a stylist, a shrewd judge of personalities, and a very good lawyer." (53)
Roosevelt also agreed to recruit another liberal lawyer, Benjamin Cohen: Frankfurter had brought in two lawyers who have been described as "perhaps the best legal team in the annals of American government. One reporter claimed that Corcoran and Cohen together wielded "more influence at the White House and throughout the White House, and are more of a force through the entire reaches of the government than any pair of statesmen in Washington." (54)
Louis Howe collapsed in March, 1935. He was moved to Bethesda Naval Hospital where Roosevelt went to visit him every couple of days. In the early spring, Howe was so ill that he gave up hope and told Roosevelt that he was "on his own now." Howe died on 18th April, 1936 and Roosevelt gave him a state funeral three days later in the White House. He told James Farley that it was a blessing in disguise since Howe "had declined to the point of giving orders that could cause trouble." (55)
Eleanor Roosevelt later recalled that her husband had lost his most intimate friend. "For one reason or another, no one quite filled the void. There are not many men in this world whose personal ambition is to accomplish things for someone else, and it was some time before a friendship with Harry Hopkins... again brought Franklin some of the satisfaction he had known with Louis Howe." (56)
(1) Patrick Renshaw, Franklin D. Roosevelt (2004)
Apart from Eleanor, Louis Howe became the crucial influence on Roosevelt's career. About ten years older than Roosevelt, Howe was his complete opposite. A veteran newspaper reporter, he grew up in New York's race-track country at Saratoga Springs, its plush hotels crowded with sportsmen, gamblers and politicians. To the end of his life, with his high, stiff collars and watchful eyes, Howe conveyed this racy atmosphere of the era before the Great War. Personal familiarity with the seamier side of life, which Frank's own patrician background precluded, was the quality Roosevelt most valued in him. Short, thin and untidily dressed in suits which appeared second or third-hand, Howe looked like a medieval gargoyle with a twentieth-century cigarette dangling perpetually from his small mouth. He himself said he was "one of the four ugliest men... in the State of New York... Children take one look at me on the street and run. Eleanor Roosevelt at first disliked this "dirty little man", but came to see he was invaluable to her husband and eventually to herself.
His sharp wit, cynicism, love of intrigue, strange oaths (such as "Mein Gawd") and creased face hid a sensitive spirit. Expressive brown eyes, together with love of art and theatre, hinted at this. More important, Howe lived for politics and had excellent political judgement. His favourite historian was Carlyle, and like him he believed in the hero in history.
(2) Frank Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny (1990)
The illness (poliomyelitis) made the odds against Roosevelt's reelection to the state senate seem unsurmountable. At this point a remarkable figure came to Roosevelt's rescue and became thenceforth his alter ego. This was Louis McHenry Howe, a resourceful, cynical newspaperman who concealed a vaulting ambition within a personal facade so wizened and rumpled that a political career seemed impossible for him. Like Roosevelt he was rather uncertain in his progressive ideology, but he was already tied politically to progressive Democrats. Further, Howe was a firm believer in the role of the great man in history. When Roosevelt, bedridden for the duration of the campaign, turned to him, Howe responded with enthusiasm, attaching his aspirations to the future of the handsome, charming young man.
(3) John Gunther, Roosevelt in Retrospect (1950)
Roosevelt had after his illness four means of locomotion: (a) he could walk on somebody's arm with the braces and a cane, (b) he could walk with braces and crutches, (c) the wheel-chair, (d) he could be carried. He hated to be carried, and Louis Howe laid it down as an iron rule that he must never be carried in public. But in private he was carried, like an infant, thousands of times. For instance in later years, at dinner in the White House or elsewhere, he would usually be carried in to his place at the table before the company arrived.... Often, however, he used the chair. His servants and helpers acquired a marvellous dexterity in manipulating the change from the wheel-chair to another so quickly and unobtrusively that few people ever noticed.
(4) Eleanor Roosevelt, The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1937)
I had never had any contact with newspaper people before. My grandmother had taught me that a woman's place was not in the public eye, and that idea had clung to me all through the Washington years. It never occurred to me to do more than answer through my secretary any questions that the reporters asked about social events. I gave as little information as possible, feeling that that was the only right attitude toward any newspaper people where a woman and her home were concerned.
But the years had taught me a certain adaptability to circumstances and I did receive an intensive education on this trip, and Louis Howe played a great part in this education from that time on. Ever since the Albany days be had been an intimate friend and coworker of my husband's..At times I resented this intimacy, and at this time I was very sure of my own judgment about people. I frequently tried to influence those about me, and there were occasions when I thought that Louis Howe's influence and mine, where my husband was concerned, had clashed; and I was, of course, sure that I was right.
Louis was entirely indifferent to his appearance; he not only neglected his clothes but gave the impression at times that cleanliness was not of particular interest to him. The fact that he had rather extraordinary eyes and a fine mind I was fool enough not to have discovered as yet, and it was by externals alone that I had judged him in our association prior to this trip.
In later years I learned that he had always liked me and thought I was worth educating, and for that reason he made an effort on this trip to get to know me. He did it cleverly. He knew that I was bewildered by some of the things expected of me as a candidate's wife. I never before had spent my days going on and off platforms, listening apparently with rapt attention to much the same speech, looking pleased at seeing people no matter how tired I was or greeting complete strangers with effusion.
Being a sensitive person, Louis knew that I was interested in the new sights and the new scenery, but that being the only woman was embarrassing. The newspaper fraternity was not so familiar to me at that time as it was to become in later years, and I was a little afraid of it. Largely because of Louis Howe's early interpretation of the standards and ethics of the newspaper business, I came to look with interest and confidence on the writing fraternity and gained a liking for it which I have never lost.
(5) Eleanor Roosevelt, New York Times (8th October, 1944)
When I first tried to make speeches, Louis Howe impressed on me the fact that I could be of great help to Franklin if I handled them well. He came and sat in the back, and sat and sat. Afterwards he would say to me, "You were terrible. There was nothing funny - why did you laugh?" That laugh of mine was only nervousness, of course. I've managed to control it, but now and then I lapse, and every time it happens, I remember Louis Howe.
He said to me, about speaking, "Think out what you want to say, and when you've said it, sit down. Write out your first sentence, and your last. Never write down anything in between. Just talk." I still do it that way.
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