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Thursday, May 19, 2016


Sara, Franklin and Eleanor
I have now studied quite a few instances of what I call the 'one day phenomenon' where a person's life is fundamentally altered by events that happen in one single day of their entire age 36 Year of Revolution. Some of these are standouts in terms of the person's subsequent career (like Joy Mangano and the Miracle Mop). Some are moments where a person's life hung in the balance and this experience led on to significant change (like author Patricia Cornwell's Day Of Crisis). Few, however, had the potential to alter the very course of world history. In this regard, the day (and the one moment in that day), that caused Napoleon to win the Battle of Austerlitz, is such a case. In this post we are going to explore this type of example in reverse - namely, that had things turned out differently, the very course of 20th century world history would have changed. Yet it is a deeply personal and private moment. One that only the very famous would see aired in public, such is the price of being a public figure. However this is precisely the reason I study public figures - because it's all there - the moments of glory alongside the dirty linen.

But before I do, I want to set this analysis in it's true context. You probably don't remember when I wrote about Henry Ford - Cars For Everyone, I mentioned how this fits into a list of The Top 10 Most Influential People Of The 20th. Century. His analysis completed work (most, but not all of which, is published) on 8 out of the ten listed. It left only Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (the father of modern Pakistan). This current article will now make it 10 profiles out of 10 studied, all with matches to Life Cycles Theory. Some of these matches (viz. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Adolf Hitler, Albert Einstein) are so comprehensive as to fit every single Life Cycles significant year in their lives.

To demonstrate statistical significance I would only have to show the merest fraction of my evidence, because a random or null hypothesis that Life Cycles doesn't exist, would say that in the case of an age 36 correlation (the most basic stat I work with), there should not be even one match for any of the 10 cases (ie. an adult life span, of say, 40 years has a 2.5% chance, ie. 1 chance in 40, of showing dramatic evidence in just one particular year). Well how about 10 out of 10 matches for just one year!? Even if you considered some of my casework examples on all years a bit subjective, it would still leave UNIVERSAL COVERAGE for the age 36 phenomenon. I keep telling you my work is a complete statistical miracle and I defy anyone to check my data for authenticity. Let's now quote this list, so you can see for yourself:-

10. Henry Ford (presented material at ages 12/19/24/31/36. At 36 he leaves Edison and founds his own car company.
9. Muhammad Ali Jinnah (preliminary evidence now done, but unpublished). At 36, he joins the Muslim League and visits London with Gokhale -Indian statesman- to plead reform. He becomes leader of the Muslim League until Pakistan's creation.
8. Mao Zedong (analysis done but as yet unpublished). At 36, survives the Futian Incident where pro-Soviet forces try to overthrow him.
7. The Wright Brothers (detailed evidence on both brothers at respective ages of 36/31). When Wilbur was 36 (and Orville was 31), it coincides with the first landmark flight and when Orville was 36, it also coincides with the famous Le Mans flight, which sealed their reputation.
6. Adolf Hitler (Detailed evidence on every single adult significant year ie.19/24/31/36/43/48/55, but mostly unpublished). At 36, publishes Mein Kampf and regains control of the Nazi Party after almost losing it.
5. Winston Churchill (already featured in BOOK ONE). At 36, gets major promotion as First Lord of the Admiralty. Leads on to the development of tanks, naval aviation and switching fuel from coal to oil.
4. Franklin D. Roosevelt (featured in this article)
3. Mahatma Gandhi (extensive analysis already featured in THE LIFE CYCLES REVOLUTION. Covers every single significant year in his life). At 36, first public demonstration of Satyagraha - non-violent protest, enshrined as the birth of the civil rights movement. Also a subject of my independent statistical analysis project.
2. Nelson Mandela (already featured in this blog and coverage of every single significant year in LIFE CYCLES). At 36, adopts the Freedom Charter at a meeting of 3,000 delegates at Kliptown. Wins reputation as a statesman.
1. Albert Einstein (extensively featured ie. every single significant year - in THE LIFE CYCLES REVOLUTION). At 36, publishes the General Theory of Relativity leading on to the new age of Physics.

Now that you can appreciate the overall context of this article, I just want to say, that what I found for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's age 36 Year of Revolution was the weirdest, most left-field example I have ever studied (and I've studied a few as you know). Not one for the textbook, because when I casually glanced at the twelve months in question, nothing stood out. No landmark events. At first I said to myself :- "Well you can't win them all and this one is a loser." Franklin had already entered politics and was serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson during the entire time. Some two years later he ran unsuccessfully as Vice Presidential candidate with James M. Cox. One year after that he was stricken by a debilitating polio attack, which cost him the use of his legs.

So I had to turn the question around (as I sometimes do in these cases) and ask instead :- "Were there any key events in the year in question, that might not focus on his career life?" That was when I began an investigation that eventually led me to an article in USANews called "FDR's Secret Love. How Roosevelt's lifelong affair might have changed the course of a century." So, you see, the title of this article isn't mine. I borrowed it from Joseph E. Persico who wrote a book called "Franklin and Lucy. President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherford and other remarkable women in his life." The way I see it there were three main players in this struggle for outright control of Franklin (leaving aside Missy LeHand, his secretary who had a crush on him) and he was 'piggy in the middle', who could never fully satisfy any of them. If it wasn't so tragic, it would be melodramatic. 

For those now either 'on the edge of their seats with anticipation' or muttering to themselves 'get on with it', I'll begin. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born Jan. 30th, 1882 to one of the oldest and most distinguished Dutch families in New York State. In short, he was a blue blood and the strongest influence by far in his upbringing was his domineering mother Sara Delano. It was Sara's father, Warren, who provided the bulk of the family's wealth and the very possessive Sara was on record as saying :- "My son Franklin is a Delano, not a Roosevelt at all." So in matters to do with marriage and family you can bet your bottom dollar she had plenty to say and what she said went.

FDR, Eleanor and family in 1919

Now you might have thought that when Franklin announced he intended to marry his fifth cousin once removed, 19 year old Eleanor Roosevelt, it would have got his mother's blessing, but it was the exact opposite. She saw Franklin as too young to marry and for her to potentially lose control to this quiet young girl, who didn't match either her or Franklin's outgoing, exuberant temperament. She made Franklin keep the engagement secret for a year and took him on a Caribbean cruise to take his mind off things. She may have become 'the original mother-in-law from hell' after their marriage in 1905, but she was 'on the money' about mismatching temperaments. Like putting a show-pony, party animal together with a wallflower, relations were always going to become strained. 

Just to highlight the continued all-embracing influence of Sara; in 1910 when a friend suggested to Franklin that he consider a political career by running for the New York legislature he replied :- "Sounds like a good idea. I'll have to discuss it with mother." This from a 28 year old married man with, by then, three children. Have you got the picture? Now we are primed to see the entrance of the third and most important member of the trio of principal women in Franklin's life - Lucy Mercer - who took a position as Eleanor's secretary in 1914, but is believed to have begun an affair with Franklin in mid-1916. She was Franklin's one true love, his grand passion. 

The scene is set, the dye has been cast and we are entering Franklin's most important age 36 Year of Revolution at end Jan.1918. In September of that year Franklin has just returned, ill, from an overseas trip as assistant secretary of the Navy. However, as she was unpacking his suitcase, Eleanor discovered a packet of love letters written to Franklin from Lucy, leaving her in no doubt about the seriousness of their affair. This was crushing to her fragile ego, as she had always perceived herself as :- "not attractive enough to hold the charismatic Franklin" (something she confessed to her cousin before marriage). Worse than this however was the open deception by Franklin with her trusted employee. His protestations about missing her as he packed her off to Campobello (the family's summer home), while claiming he had to stay behind because of work.

To be fair, Franklin was certainly not an idle womaniser. It was stated in Persico's book that he had qualms of conscience and understood the risks to his marriage and career, but when he was in the company of the beautiful Lucy, it all vanished. Just think for a minute about the invasion into the minutest corners of the personal lives of the very famous, that the likes of you and I will never encounter. Anyway, a confrontation was brewing between Franklin and Eleanor and when it came Franklin admitted the strength of his feelings for Lucy and said he wanted to marry her. This was probably the most reckless thing he had ever done in his carefully constructed life. Eleanor offered him a divorce, but asked him to consider the children and really think things over before giving his answer. He later told her he wanted to proceed.

The alluring Lucy Mercer
So, was this the moment that could have changed the 20th century? No, it was just the overture before the main performance. The moment of moments came when he had to face mother with the truth. The domineering and all-powerful Sara. What would she have to say? You just knew he had to run it past her before settling anything. On a day (not precisely known), Franklin and Eleanor would have had to walk along a passageway, that interconnected Sara's section of house with theirs (yes, mother was always close by) and sit down in her living room to tell her the news. Eleanor, resignedly, spoke of her desire to give Franklin his freedom. Sara was aghast. I'm going to quote from the article here :-
The idea that her son wanted to divorce Eleanor was the greatest shock she had suffered since 13 years before when he had told her he intended to marry her. It is "all very well for you, Eleanor, to speak of being willing to give Franklin his freedom," she said. But imagine the wagging tongues and shaking heads at Oyster Bay. Adultery could be concealed, even tolerated, but divorce was a calamity. After Cousin Alice Longworth's failed attempt to divorce the chronically faithless Nick Longworth, she noted, "I don't think one can have any idea how horrendous even the idea of divorce was in those days. I remember telling my family in 1912 I wanted one and, although they didn't quite lock me up, they exercised considerable pressure to get me to reconsider." Indeed, no one in either branch of the Roosevelt family had ever been divorced.
Sara was too clever to simply say she forbade it. Instead she told Franklin, that if he went ahead, then she would cut him off without a cent. So there it was. Freedom at a very high price or living in a comfortable prison of convention. Suffice to say that this was not what he expected to hear. He was thoroughly used to his lavish lifestyle. If mother cut off her money supply then who would pay for it - the upkeep on the homes, the private school fees, the servant's salaries, the club memberships? He had to admit he was kept on a golden leash. Then there was his political career. He consulted one of his advisers, who told him it would be wrecked by this news. The grounds for divorce in New York State were adultery and the details of the affair, if revealed would spell his political death.

Then what would he do? He was no businessman, no great shakes at the law. He might even lose his current role, because the Naval Secretary was a puritanical man. In the face of all this gloom and doom Franklin suddenly became practical. The first thing he did was prepare a detailed report for his boss on his trip to Europe. This was sent to President Wilson with a note attached calling it:- "a clear-headed and illuminating report by the able FDR". Then he went to Lucy and disingenuously claimed Eleanor would not give him a divorce. So now, to save his skin at all levels, he deceived Lucy. What he most probably did not tell her just then, was that Eleanor had made him promise to efface her from his life and also that he could not sleep in the marriage bed again.

This became the defining moment in his all-important age 36 Year of Revolution. Not a career high point or a major breakthrough, but in terms of his personal life, it defined and shaped his new reality until his death at age 63. It also shaped and defined the lives of Sara, Eleanor and Lucy to the end of their days. Like I said previously, there were no winners in this three way tug-of-war, only a series of unsatisfying compromises. However, in terms of The New Deal and many other initiatives from the record 12 year Presidency of FDR, it spelled outward success. Let's take each woman in turn.

Firstly Sara, who lived until 1941 (almost as long as Franklin). She had firmly taken Eleanor's side in relation to the affair, but once matters were settled differences began to appear. Sara did not like politics and activism in particular and when Eleanor got involved in this, it soured their relationship. She remained fiercely protective of Franklin, but she must have known deep down, that she had ruined his personal happiness and this was indeed a high price to pay.

Next to Eleanor, who lived on till 1962, dying at age 78. After banishing Franklin from her bed, but still maintaining her marriage, she came out of her reticent shell. She began to carve out her own identity in public life that gave her a tremendous legacy as a politician, diplomat and activist. She persuaded Franklin not to give up his political career after his debilitating polio attack in 1921, giving speeches and appearing at campaign events in his place. She went on to redefine the role of First Lady, by holding press conferences, writing a syndicated newspaper column and speaking at a national convention. On occasions she even controversially disagreed with her husband's policies. After Franklin's death she went on with her political career and served at the UN and as Head of the JFK's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. At the time of her death she was regarded as :- "one of the most esteemed women in the world".

Yes, she had much success on her own, but she could never have the one thing she desired above all else. She still greatly loved Franklin till the end of his days you see. She was stung all over again when she discovered that her daughter Anna, had deceived her by acting as go-between for Franklin and Lucy, particularly towards the end of his life. She and Franklin never did 'kiss and make up' as Hollywood might have written it. She sublimated her disappointments in her career and even though she may have looked like the big winner in the game of life, I'm sure she would not have seen it this way. She did, however, have some other relationships with both women and men (as mentioned in the side column).

FRD and Lucy maintained correspondence through the 20's, 30's and early 40's.
Finally to Lucy. She died early of leukemia in 1948, but immediately after Franklin terminated their relationship in 1918 she married wealthy socialite Winthrop Rutherfurd, a widower in his fifties. In spite of their promises and her marriage, she and Franklin were in surreptitious contact for the next three decades. There are details of their correspondence (see above photo) and Persico thinks that there were coded messages about possible meet-ups. Their passions remained undimmed and after Winthrop died in 1944, they became very close, thanks to the collusion of Franklin's daughter Anna. Franklin died in Lucy's arms. It was a fitting if tragic end for them. We'll never know what would have happened if they simply defied all conventions and got together, but history would have been forever changed. No FDR Presidency, no New Deal, none of FDR's strong military leadership in WWII. The 20th century would have looked very different without FDR at the helm. Till the next time we meet :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

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