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A Classroom Project, Spring 2000, Using "Dear Mrs. Roosevelt"
(The Spring 1999 Project)

Joseph M. Gardewin
Social Studies Teacher
Sacred Hearts Academy



I have just had 96 eleventh grade women (Sacred Hearts Academy in Honolulu, HI) read and comment on Eleanor Roosevelt's "Facing the Problems of Youth." I was able to do that because you put together this wonderful site with these wonderful documents. I very moved by what these wonderful young women wrote and am in the process of compiling selections from their responses. Eleanor Roosevelt has come across time to become 'alive' for my students because of what you have made available for us. Their response are moving and in some cases heart rending.

I used materials from the New Deal Network to supplement the article by Eleanor Roosevelt. First, after I had introduced the Depression, I had the girls read letters to Mrs. Roosevelt and her responses. (See Dear Mrs. Roosevelt.) The girls identified with the letter writers, but did not like the responses. Typically, they didn't see why Mrs. Roosevelt couldn't help a few. The girls protested that she could have at least sent old clothes. I explained how many letters ER received the first year in the White House, broke it down into what that translated daily (roughly 800) and that she read 50. They weren't satisfied. Then I mentioned her interest in the NYA and her support of Marian Anderson and how she effectively became sort of FDR's 'eyes and ears' because he was physically unable to easily travel and do the things she did. The girls were still skeptical until I gave them article, Facing the Problems of Youth.

I gave them the following comments/instructions with the article:

I find the above piece (Facing the Problems of Youth) just incredible because as I read it, I thought this just resonates! It was written by Eleanor Roosevelt (Originally published in National Parent-Teacher Magazine 29 (February 1935): 30.) — that's right — the same Eleanor we are studying now, but writing in February 1935. As I read this I thought everything she says is still just so true. Then I thought — wait a minute — I am reading this as an 'older' person. I wonder — was your reaction similar to mine when you read it??? Read this carefully and then read it one more time (C'mon! It's short and it's good!). Then, write a reflective essay. Pick three main points Mrs. Roosevelt makes and discuss whether they are true today some 64 years later. As you conclude your essay, tell me if this exercise makes Eleanor Roosevelt come alive for you. (This is worth 18 points.)

Here is a selected compilation of their responses (It got real quiet as they began to read — I gave them 40 minutes — almost all used the entire 40 minutes — a few asked for more time)

Thank you for making my job easier.

Joseph M. Gardewin
Social Studies Teacher
Sacred Hearts Academy