First Ladies and Presidential Campaigns

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Herbert, Lou and Allan Hoover at their home in Palo Alto, CA. 31-1933-42

Traditionally the First Lady of the United States stays above the fray during campaign season, not wanting to sully the office in the mire of hand-to-hand politicking.  This year Michelle Obama has ventured into the public sphere, acting as a proxy campaigner for Hillary Clinton.  The First Lady has stepped out of her comfort zone because she sees Trump as a clear and present danger to the union.  This has led to Michelle Obama delivering some impassioned speeches on behalf of Clinton.

In 1932 First Lady Lou Henry Hoover had a similarly visceral reaction to the opposing candidate, Franklin Roosevelt.  Given the times, and Lou Hoover’s reluctance to enter the public arena, she voiced her opinions in a forthright letter to her son Allan.  This undated letter (presumably from early July 1932) was written in the wake of Roosevelt’s speech accepting the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party.

Lou Hoover’s take on Roosevelt’s speech was that he was pandering to the wildest and wooliest elements of the Democratic Party, promising more than he could deliver with his ‘New Deal’ for the ‘Forgotten Man.’  She writes: ‘The Roosevelt family seem to be running pretty true to form. Personally, I lost what faith I still had in the President when he deserted the Progressive party.  He proved him nothing but an opportunist, — and opportunist for himself.  Not even an opportunist for causes.’  For a woman of Lou Hoover’s temperament, these were harsh words.

Lou Hoover goes on to portray Franklin Roosevelt as even more unscrupulous than former President Theodore Roosevelt.  Franklin was willing to capitalize on the Roosevelt name ‘even though the intruding nominee was only a very distant cousin trying to hog in under the family blanket merely because he had the same name.’

Even as she vented her animus toward FDR in a hand-written personal letter to her son, Lou nodded toward decorum by first advising him to: ‘Read this and put a match to it thoroughly right away, in your nearest ash receiver.’  Clearly Allan did not heed this advice. History is left with this window into the mind and mores of Lou Hoover as First Lady.

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