Eleanor Roosevelt, a radio pioneer, perceived as both “ordinary” and “expert”

Eleanor Roosevelt as “ordinary” citizen and “expert” on radio in the early 1950s

From SAGE Open


The 11th October 2014 marks Eleanor Roosevelt’s  130th birthday

Following her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt ’s death in April 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States was freed from the constraints of the White House and she eagerly expanded her career. She used radio to communicate on a wide variety of issues. ER was a radio pioneer, broadcasting from the 1920s onwards, starting with her own radio show in 1932. She spoke on US domestic radio, the BBC, Voice of America, on French radio (in French) and Italian radio (in Italian). She was also interviewed in Spanish and German. In 1948 she hosted a twice weekly radio program with her daughter Anna on ABC.

This article seeks to examine the way in which Eleanor Roosevelt communicated with her listeners. She was remarkable at integrating the domestic with the global and balancing herself as the public versus the private individual, as the knowledgeable expert versus the ordinary, inquisitive learner. She understood – as few others – how best to use of the medium of radio to negotiate these balancing acts.


Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States used radio to communicate on a wide variety of issues that she felt the American public, and women in particular, should know or think about. She had been a radio pioneer, broadcasting from the 1920s onwards and starting with her own radio show in 1932. By the 1950s radio as a technology began facing increasing competition from television. Yet as a medium to reach mass audiences and women in particular, radio continued to play a vital role. From October 1950 until August 1951, Eleanor Roosevelt together with her son Elliott hosted a daily show on NBC called The Eleanor Roosevelt Program . Focusing on this 1950-51 program, this paper seeks to examine the way in which Mrs. Roosevelt communicated with her listeners and successfully blended that which at first sight might seem opposites: the domestic with the global, the informal mode of address with the serious topics, the public with the private and the ordinary woman’s view with that of the expert international stateswoman.Read this article for free 

Article Details
Anya Luscombe Utrecht University, Middelburg, The Netherlands
Doi: 10.1177/2158244014551712
Published online September 22, 2014.




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