Was there any opposition towards Eleanor Roosevelt?
Eleanor is considered an amazing leader in history, but were there any that opposed her? and for what reasons?
Answer by Brian A
In July 1949, Eleanor Roosevelt had a public disagreement with Francis Joseph Spellman, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, which was characterized as “a battle still remembered for its vehemence and hostility”. In her columns, Roosevelt had attacked proposals for federal funding of certain nonreligious activities at parochial schools, such as bus transportation for students. Spellman cited the Supreme Court’s decision which upheld such provisions, accusing her of anti-Catholicism. Most Democrats rallied behind Roosevelt, and Spellman eventually met with her at her Hyde Park home to quell the dispute. However, Roosevelt maintained her belief that Catholic schools should not receive federal aid, evidently heeding the writings of secularists such as Paul Blanshard. Privately, Roosevelt said that if the Catholic Church gained school aid, “Once that is done they control the schools, or at least a great part of them.”
During the Spanish Civil War, Eleanor Roosevelt favored the republican Loyalists against General Francisco Franco’s Nationalists; after 1945, she opposed normalizing relations with Spain. She told Spellman bluntly that “I cannot however say that in European countries the control by the Roman Catholic Church of great areas of land has always led to happiness for the people of those countries.” Her son Elliott Roosevelt suggested that her “reservations about Catholicism” were rooted in her husband’s sexual affairs with Lucy Mercer and Missy LeHand, who were both Catholics.
Roosevelt’s defenders, such as biographer Joseph P. Lash, deny that she was anti-Catholic, citing her public support of Al Smith, a Catholic, in the 1928 presidential campaign and her statement to a New York Times reporter that year quoting her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, in expressing “the hope to see the day when a Catholic or a Jew would become president” (The New York Times, January 25, 1928)
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