Eleanor Roosevelt

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made a few visits to Tucson to speak at the popular Sunday Evening Forum.

The forum brought notable speakers to Tucson for years beginning in 1942. It was founded by Mary Jeffries, later Mary Jeffries Bruce, who ran the forum until she retired in 1976.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a popular speaker. One such visit was Nov. 15, 1953, when Mrs. Roosevelt defended former President Truman, saying that to subpoena him to testify before Congress was discourteous.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Nov. 16, 1953:



Mrs. Roosevelt Lashes Discourtesy to Truman

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt told a packed Sunday Evening Forum audience at the UA auditorium last night that to subpoena former President Harry Truman to testify before a congressional committee was a "very discourteous thing to do."

In answering a question from the overflow audience she said, "I did not know Harry Dexter White. I must have met him at some time, but I did not know him.

"I had heard of him because he was a brilliant person in monetary matters. I always deplore having a person accused when he cannot answer.

Praises HST Action

"I feel President Truman did the right thing in saying he would not accept a subpoena. I believe he upheld a justifiable principle."

Asked her attitude toward admitting Communist China to the United Nations, she said, "At the present time she is an enemy of the United Nations and cannot be admitted. What will happen on the future, I do not know.

"It would be a mistake to go beyond the present. We know, now, that she cannot be admitted."

Talked on UN

In discussing the United Nations, the former first lady's topic for the evening, Mrs. Roosevelt said she felt that the great accomplishment in the past year was the Korean armistice.

"Whatever happens, the success in Korea was a milestone in history, a turning point. It was the first time we tried to put through collective security and put down aggressors."

The greatest failure of the UN, she said, was the inability of the U.S. and the Soviet Union to reach agreements through the medium of that organization.

Can't Ignore Reds

"Some people say it would be better to get rid of the USSR in the United Nations and send her behind the Iron Curtain," she said. "It would be a difficult thing to ignore the 178 million people in Russia and the millions in the satellite nations and China."

Mrs. Roosevelt said Americans do not understand the various programs carried out by the United Nations, "because we have not had to ask help from anybody.

"Instead, the UN is helping much of the rest of the world through health, agricultural, food and technical assistance programs," she pointed out.

Aim of New Group

"We are not spending nearly as much as might be imagined in the United Nations. The entire expense to the American people is only 61 cents per capita.

"Now, through the American Association for the United Nations," she continued, "we are seeking to promote a wider understanding of what are its aims and accomplishments.

"None of the Iron Curtain countries belong to the UN programs for betterment of conditions," she added.

The entire forum offering for the evening went to the association Mrs. Roosevelt is aiding in her tour. The speaker was introduced by Dr. Robert L. Nugent, vice-president of the University of Arizona.

The crowds began gathering in front of the university auditorium by 6 p.m. When the doors were opened the auditorium was filled in a short time. Even the stage was used to seat several hundred persons as the crowd reached record proportions. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 persons were turned away and were unable to hear Mrs. Roosevelt speak.


Harry Dexter White was an accused Communist spy who had been appointed by Truman to be the U.S. director of the International Monetary Fund. After White's death and after Truman left office, there were accusations that Truman had known of White's alleged spying activites when he made the appointment. This was the reason for the subpoena Mrs. Roosevelt discussed.

The Star also gave an account of Mrs. Roosevelt's busy day in Tucson on that trip:


Ex-First Lady's 'Day' Busy One

By Eleanor Rice

Eleanor Roosevelt's "day" in Tucson was a busy one.

The former first lady went through a round of activities that would have discouraged many a younger and less conscientious individual.

Mrs. Roosevelt arrived at the Tucson airport at 1:50 p.m. and immediately went to the El Dorado lodge where she was guest of honor at a luncheon held by the Tucson chapter, national women's committee of Brandeis university.

Applauded by Women

She received a standing ovation when she walked into the dining room. Soon after she was asked to blow out the candles on the birthday cake made in celebration of Brandeis' sixth year of existence. This she did as well as cutting the first slice, while being thoroughly photographed.

A few minutes later the former first lady made a short speech concerning the university. She is on the Brandeis board of trustees.

"The freedom of thought, tolerance and absense of discrimination of any kind at this school are some of the moist valuable things we can have at this time in this country," she commented.

Rested After Talk

Following her talk Mrs. Roosevelt went to her room at the lodge to unpack and rest. She was traveling alone on this trip, having left her secretary in Los Angeles.

Less than an hour later it was time to go again and Mrs. Roosevelt came out smiling and ready to face several more photographers and eventually the television camera at the KVOA-TV studio where she appeared on the "Forum Preview" program.

In an interview given en route to the studio, Mrs. Roosevelt said she is about to conclude a 10-day speaking tour during which she has been organizing the American Association for the United Nations, making several speeches a day.

To New Mexico City

This morning she goes to Albuquerque . . . then home to New York City. She has just been in California where she spent one day in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles and was only able to see two of her sons and daughter briefly.

In addition to her work for the United Nations, Mrs. Roosevelt still writes her daily column, "My Day," and a monthly page for McCall's magazine. She also serves on "a number of boards" and answers large quantities of mail, with the aid of two secretaries.

Strenuous? Yes, Mrs. Roosevelt agreed that it is. And she didn't think she'd have a chance to rest when she gets home.

Lauds Scenery

During the drive to her television studio Mrs. Roosevelt commented "you are surrounded by mountains" as she observed the Tucson valley. On leaving the studio pointed to the sunset she observed, "Nice sky."

She hopped numbly in or out of the car by herself without waiting to be helped. And at the conclusion of each interview and with every service her "thank you," hand shake and famous smile were ever ready.


Mrs. Roosevelt made another trip to Tucson to speak at the Sunday Evening Forum in 1958. While the trip began with a glitch, she still managed to fill the auditorium to capacity.

First was a photo caption telling that Mrs. Roosevelt was stranded at the airport for a short time. (The Morgue Lady is unable to reproduce the photo.) From the Arizona Daily Star Feb. 10, 1958:


Kept Waiting For Ride

Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt had quite a day in Tucson yesterday. Flown to Tucson by her son, Elliott, in his private plane, she found that no transportation was available at the airport to get her into town. However, an airport guard saw her plight and arranged transportation for her to the Arizona Inn, where she rested up for her talk at the Sunday Evening Forum. Elliott, who was accompanied by his wife, got back into his plane and flew back to Phoenix after seeing his mother was taken care of.


Mrs. Roosevelt spoke about the USSR and life in Russia:


Mrs. Roosevelt Tells Of Russia

Mrs. FDR Proves To Be Top Drawing Card At Forum In Giving Her Views On USSR

By E. C. Rutherford

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt again proved to be the top drawing card for the Sunday Evening Forum last night when the university auditorium was packed with a crowd estimated at 3,000, including about 200 seated on the stage, while another 1,000 persons failed to get into the big assembly hall. The doors were opened at 7:25 p.m., and in 20 minutes the auditorium was filled.

Mrs. Roosevelt spoke slowly as she gave the quiet audience a vivid outline of what is going on in Russia today, and concluded with the statement that "the accomplishments in the Societ Union are a challenge to us, not only in the military field, but also in the economic, cultural and spiritual fields."

She said that we would not like the methods the Soviets are using, but that the Russian people find them acceptable because they have never know freedom. "Everything is accomplished under compulsion," she said. "We would hate it, but we have to admit that such methods are getting results in the improvement of health, education and living conditions. Russia is the showcase for Communism, and the Soviets are making the most of it for the benefit of peoples who still are not as well off as the Russians."

She also suggested more could be done through the distribution of our surplus food to hungry peoples.

Mrs. Roosevelt made comparisons of Russian conditions today and 40 years ago. At that time barely 10 per cent of the people could read and write, she said, today the situation is reversed and scarcely 10 per cent are illiterate.

Living conditions are not too good because of crowding. Even though they complete an apartment building every day in Moscow, many families still live in one room, and five to six families occupy the same apartment and use the same cooking and bath facilities. However, the government keeps the economic status advancing just enough to keep the people hoping that they will be next to get the better house or apartment.

Hospitals are also crowded and there is no privacy in the wards. However, Russia graduated 26,000 doctors in 1956, and she is providing medical care as rapidly as possible. The health of the people is given strict attention, especially that of children.

Mrs. Roosevelt pointed out that Russian home life is far different that that in the United States.

"In the Societ Union the women work," she said. "If a woman is allowed to stay at home and be a housewife, she must have several children and it must be proved it would be better for the state of she can stay at home and care for them.

"Otherwise, the 57th day after a child is born, it goes to a nursery and the mother goes back to work."


One must remember that these comments were made at a time when the majority of married women in the United States did not work outside the home.