Called by some 'The Assistant President,' Harry Hopkins was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal Relief Administrator. In 1913 Hopkins married Ethel Gross, a Hungarian Jew who became an active participant in the Progressive Movement in New York City, serving as secretary for the Equal Franchise Society and the Women's Political Union. Hopkins and Gross were divorced in 1931 but maintained a passionate correspondence from 1913-1945, writing letters that are published here for the first time. These letters lead the reader through their clandestine, interfaith courtship; the joys and the compromises of their early marriage; the couple's anger and frustration as the marriage dissolved; and, finally, their cool civility after the divorce. This fascinating correspondence reveals the significant influence of Progressivism on Harry Hopkins's political ideology, and thus on the Roosevelt presidency. The letters are equally valuable, however, for their portrayal of the complex polar tensions for early twentieth-century women between the requirements of domestic roles and their own intellectual and professional ambitions. And not least, the letters have much to tell us about the experience of a Jewish immigrant woman, the process of Americanization, and the construction of citizenship.
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Allison Giffen teaches American Literature at Western Washington University. June Hopkins is associate editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers at George Washington University at Mount Vernon College and the author of Harry Hopkins: Sudden Hero, Brash Reformer (1999). June Hopkins is the granddaughter, and Allison Giffen the great-granddaughter, of Harry Hopkins and Ethel Gross.
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