” ‘Women, whether subtly or vociferously, have always been a tremendous power in the destiny of the world,’ Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in It’s Up to the Women, her book of advice to women of all ages on every aspect of life. Written at the height of the Great Depression, she called on women particularly to do their part–cutting costs where needed, spending reasonably, and taking personal responsibility for keeping the economy going.
Whether it’s the recommendation that working women take time for themselves in order to fully enjoy time spent with their families, recipes for cheap but wholesome home-cooked meals, or America’s obligation to women as they take a leading role in the new social order, many of the opinions expressed here are as fresh as if they were written today.”
My Thoughts: One would not think that a book of advice written in 1933 would have relevance today. You think wrong. Eleanor Roosevelt’s first book, published for the millions of women struggling to keep home and family together during the ravages of the Great Depression, is full of advice that remains true today. Granted, some of the advice she provides is unique to the time period in which she was writing, and the references to Departments of Home Economics and the various menus they recommend have a charming quaintness to them. However, the main piece of advice that runs through each section of the novel is that women have more power and influence than we realize.
While her words are folksy and plain, there is no doubt to Mrs. Roosevelt’s sincerity as she proffers advice on everything from meal planning to working outside the home. She means well, even as she offers advice from a position of profound wealth and privilege to women who have nothing. She interjects anecdotes about women she has met in her travels whose situations directly pertain to the topic at hand, and this lessens the feel of a Have condescending to a Have-not. For all of her efforts however, it is difficult to ignore the fact that Mrs. Roosevelt never felt the burdens of the Great Depression in the same way as the rest of the country. It does not diminish the advice she gives, but it does make the advice a little more difficult to swallow, or so I imagined while reading.
If one just focuses on the advice about women and their changing places in society, what she has to say is inspiring. Her vision of a world where women are viewed as equal to men in every avenue of life is encouraging and so far ahead of her time that some of what she had to say had to have shocked her audience. The shock today is that eighty years later her vision is still not a reality. While women may indeed be highly influential, Mrs. Roosevelt sadly underestimated the barriers men would create to prevent equality among the sexes. However, her enthusiasm and strong belief that women can achieve equality is something we can and should all take to heart.