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Dear Kay,

As I write this, you’re in the next room scraping the mud off your boots from our early morning walk in the woods. Cristina’s tidying up the kitchen table, and Sarah is scheming up a cheese board for dinner tonight. Diana is on the sofa, knitting.

It’s one of those rare moments in life where we’ve escaped the dailyness to get to a simplicity that feels like a drink of cool water. It’s a lucky thing, this morning, and I’m noting it here just to preserve it.

Meanwhile . . .

A few years ago, on another weekend at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, we made a pilgrimage to Val-kill, the Hudson River Valley home of Eleanor Roosevelt. Val-kill is one of those places that is resonant with history. It has a beautiful forest around it, and I was thinking about that place as we wandered through the woods today.

Poking around the internet, I came across the complete archive of the column Eleanor wrote from 1936 until 1962, a few weeks before she died. My Day,” it’s called, and it is stupendous to read.

A blog, I realized. Eleanor Roosevelt was a heck of a blogger.

Written long before the internet, yet full of the immediacy of a blog, “My Day” chronicles her work on human rights, the UN, social justice, and politics. But she’s also happy to go very small. One column, January 19, 1950, begins with her attendance at Dr. Herman Lissauer’s Modern Forum on “Minority Rights and Race Relations,” then shifts to: “Tuesday was a busy day in Los Angeles for me. I began by visiting my godchildren’s nursery school, a charming little spot where the youngsters get a good start in learning to live together.” She then lists five events she attends that day.

Her famous boundless energy is on full display in these 26 years of columns. I love thinking about her crashing about the woods, taking a picnic down to the edge of Wallkill River, entertaining world leaders and grandchildren with equal joy.




  • Eleanore Roosevelt has always been one of my heroes. Thanks for sharing the information about her columns.

  • Learning to live together….isn’t that a great concept. Thanks for starting day on a positive note.

  • Wow, I had no idea her writing was so easily available – Thanks so much, Ann!

  • Thank you for this letter to start my day….much more calming than the daily newspaper. The woods picture adds to the calm. Also, thanks for the link to Eleanor’s letters. I selected one from 1962 at random. What a wonderful writer she was, and such a pleasure to read a piece so well written and correct…sigh…we rarely get that in the papers today. I plan to read one every morning. I’m looking forward to your photos from the weekend. Now that I’m relaxed with my first cup of coffee and your letter, should I just sit or ruin it all with the news…

  • Her knitting needles are in a display cabinet at Valkill. When I saw them I practically fainted!

  • Thank you for the reminder about My Day. It has been years since I read it and I remember loving it. She was also my hero growing up. And if you haven’t seen it, here is the link to Mrs. Roosevelt’s Mittens on Ravelry,

    • Thanx for the link!!!

  • MDK, I love the way you open my mind and eyes to so many new things…..knitting and other wonderful things. Thank you.

  • I recommend “The Firebrand and the First Lady” to you and anyone else who admires ER.

  • Wonderful! I selected the day I was born to read. Sort of ironically for this day and age, it was about meeting children with polio, her hopes for the vaccine that was still in the testing phase, and the cost of vaccine vs the cost in dollars and suffering of polio itself.
    Like Diane above, I bookmarked the site and will read one a day.

  • Just a little correction from a local resident. The river that runs through Val-Kill is the Fall Kill. The Wallkill River is on the west side of the Hudson River. There are a lot of “kills” in NY due to it being a Dutch settlement. Kill means creek or stream in Dutch.

    • I had the weirdest moment yesterday driving home from Kingston and crossing the Wallkill. I thought: “WAIT. Does the Wallkill cross the Hudson? How did Eleanor Roosevelt picnic over here?” Thank you for this—I got that info from the Val-Kill website, will write to them!

  • There are a few reasons my daughter is named Elanor, and Eleanor Roosevelt is one of them. (Alternative spelling is from Lord of the Rings: she’s Sam Gamgee’s eldest daughter, and LotR is my husband’s favorite book.) We took a trip to the estate a few years ago, but my Elanor was too young for any of us to enjoy it. (Next time we won’t spend so much time having a fabulous lunch at the CIA first!)

    A few years ago I bought a tote bag at NYS Sheep and Wool that reads something like, “If Eleanor can knit at the United Nations, I can knit anywhere I want.” Which gave me the perfect non-verbal reply that time my boss was joking about forbidding me from knitting during a meeting!

    So looking forward to checking out her blog. Ahead of her time in so many ways!

    • Thank you! My business- Mt. Rutsen Studio was at Sheep and Wool and has been offering the bag for years.

    • I want a bag just like it!

  • What a fascinating find!! Thank you for including this in your post.

  • What a great resource! I suspect that the plug for nursery school was not accidental, but was intended to spotlight early childhood education, which was far less widespread then and much encouraged by progressive reformers.

  • Thank you for the MY DAY archive. I will join Diane in reading one everyday. To me, she embodies perseverance despite ridicule and repeated betrayals. She is one of my heroes too!

  • What a lovely read…thanks Ann. My favourite blog, second only to MDK, was dovegreyreader; she has been absent for more than a year now and I still miss her writing. Eleanor Roosevelt has now been added to my morning reads. Thanks for telling us about My Day; she was in Paris on my birthday in 1952.

  • My husband and I visited Hyde Park in July. We stayed an extra day just to visit Valkill, since it is open on limited days. She was an amazing woman and I look forward to reading some of the many books by/about her.

  • Ann, thank you for this resource! I started by reading my birthday: the main theme was “Get out the vote!”, and the other topic was Franklin’s Delano relatives in Chile. (Who knew?) Now on to read one a day, in chronological order. This is a treasure.

  • When my daughter was going through chemotherapy when she was only 8 years old I read the first of three books about her and she was an amazing woman and she knit ! And Val-Kil must be an amazing place. Anything away from the city sounds like heaven

  • Thank you for this insight into Eleanor Roosevelt’s thoughts!

  • I just read the entry for my birthday. It was just before JFK’s inauguration, with some thoughts on attributes that are helpful for the presidency. And then she ended with thoughts on automation and unemployment. This is the last line: ” Perhaps we should direct our thinking toward the development of crafts in our children so that their creative spirit can be expressed and developed. Unless we are taught the appreciation of this kind of work, we may well find a reluctance to satisfy any urge to engage in hand-production and a loss of skill and taste that is required to make something beautiful with one’s own hands. ”

    Here’s to spending some time today making something with our own hands.

    • Wow! What a fantastic quote!

  • Thanks for the information about Eleanor Roosevelt. Being Afro-American and growing up in the 1950s, she was always looked upon as a hero for human rights.

  • My late MIL met Eleanor in Washington Square when she was in college and went and had coffee with her. She was running for president of her sorority and they talked over that.
    ValKill has a page on its site about Eleanor and her knitting- as a way to encourage new knitters.

  • I have several framed photos of Eleanor Roosevelt knitting! And someday I will get to Val Kill! Thanks for sharing the info on her column.

  • Entirely envious of your visit. Oh, to walk in those woods! Thank you for the reading prompt, right in my wheelhouse. Also, must finish those mittens from the pattern found in the piano bench quite recently. For decades no one thought to open it. Silly rabbits.

  • I highly recommend reading Eleanor and Franklin: The Story of Their Relationship, Based on Eleanor Roosevelt’s Private Papers by Joseph P. Lash. Originally published in 1971, re-published in 2014. It was so good, I think I’ll have to re-read it now!

  • After beautiful Rhinebeck, we went to Hyde Park, NY to FDR’s Presidential Library. Of the 4 presidential libraries we have visited, I think this was the best and most comprehensive one. We could have spent all day in there. I wish we had had time to go to Val Kill, but there is hopefully next year!

  • I just read th days both my husband and I were born. They could have been written today. So timely and timeless. Thank you for bringing this into my life.

  • I just retired from a 37 year career with the National Park Service. ValKill is one of my favorite historic sites in our region. I am glad you were able to visit!

  • Thank you Ann! So far, I have read Mrs. Roosevelt’s posts near my birthday date and the near the date if my parent’s wedding. Her writing gave me a unique and more personal perspective to what was happening in those times.

  • What a treasure of a link to the My Day archive. I’ve dipped into half a dozen of them. For an interesting take on Eleanor Roosevelt read the novel White Houses by Amy Bloom. Some of it is set at Val-Kill. Eleanor would probably want us to be knitting for the people of Ukraine displaced and still there who are facing a bitter cold winter.

  • I grey up in the Hudson Valley and I was very privileged to be part of a Girl Scout Honor Guard for Eleanor Roosevelt when she came to New Paltz State Teachers College (now part of the State Univerity of NY) to help dedicate something.

  • I am always learning something new from you. I had no idea of the columns ER wrote. I’ve bookmarked the site so I can keep reading a column a day. Thanks for sharing.

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