Sunday, September 18, 2016


Campobello is a Canadian island that hugs the border between the U.S. and Canada.  Access to  the bridge leading to the island is located on the U.S. side so I had to return to the U.S. at Calais then drive a few miles to the eastern most corner of Maine and cross back into Canada.   

The upshot of all that crossing is that the U.S. customs took away all my wonderful fresh fruit and veggies I had bought at farm stands throughout New Brunswick.   

(at the border)
 Canadian customs was merely worried as to whether I had any guns.  

Campobello was the Roosevelt summer getaway even before FDR was born.  Our 32nd president grew up spending his summers on this island and also raised his young family here.

From all appearances it was an idyllic playground of natural harmony that has been protected from the discordance of overuse and over-development. 

In the late 1800s wealthy families from the east coast built 'summer cottages' here but the absence of a bridge until 1962 kept the population to a minimum.  Vacationers had to take a train to northern Maine then a ferry or boat to the island.  Hence, not even one sky-scraping timeshare.

  Today, most of the island including the Roosevelt cottage is in a park administered jointly by a board from both Canada and the U.S.  It is the only park in the entire world administered by two nations.

The Roosevelt 'Cottage' (don't laugh) has 17 bedrooms on three floors.  

Half the rooms have panoramic ocean views.

The other half look at the gardens.

The Cottage started out small (before Franklin was born) but was added to as the families grew.  It never had electricity. Running water, was fed from a windmill and cistern that came later.

Altogether FDR spent 55 summers in Campobello. 

"The many experiences gained during his summers on Campobello most certainly helped mold the man who was elected to an unprecedented four terms of office as the 32nd President of the U.S.  He cherished the memories of many happy summers here on this Canadian island.  Except for brief visits in 1933, 1936, and 1939, his duties as president prevented him from returning." (However, Eleanor continued to come with the children.)

This photo really spoke to me: 5 children--all in the 'active age', FDR looking completely relaxed as he puffs on his pipe, Eleanor (far right) pleading with him for something (like some help), and mother-in-law in the middle--immaculately dressed complete with bonnet, a stern look and a rigid back. 

The living room--the furnishings in the cottage were not ostentatious.

At some point bathrooms were modernized but note the gas lantern on the wall.  Electricity was never added.

"Franklin D. Roosevelt's paralytic illness began in 1921, when he was 39 years of age and vacationing with his family at Campobello.  Roosevelt was diagnosed with poliomyelitis two weeks after he fell ill.   

He was left with permanent paralysis from the waist down, and was unable to stand or walk without support.  Despite the lack of a cure for paralysis he tried a wide range of therapies, and his belief in the benefits of hydrotherapy led him to found a center at Warm Springs, Georgia, in 1926.   

He laboriously taught himself to walk short distances while wearing iron braces on his hips and legs by swiveling his torso and supporting himself with a cane.  He was careful never to be seen using his wheelchair in public.   

 His bout with illness was well known before and during his Presidency and became a major part of his image, but the extent of his paralysis was kept from public view."

He developed the polio ten years before becoming president but it didn't seem to slow him down...

He was elected once as governor of New York then 4 times  as president of the U.S.!
And even though he dealt with a major disability he was able to stabilize the country through the depression then lead the country as it entered the Second World War. 

During his tenure:  He created the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), the Works Progress Administration (WPO), The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Social Security.

While there I learned that, four times each day, a 'Tea with Eleanor' was held at a neighboring cottage  for the purpose of telling about her life.  I could not miss that.

Tea and cookies were served while two very enthusiastic young ladies talked to a group of about 30 of us about Eleanor.  It was one of the most inspirational things I have experienced.  

Especially when the girls (in their 20s) explained how learning about Eleanor changed their lives--to become more active and more sharing. Here was another heroine for our daughters...

All her life, Eleanor was maligned--primarily for being unattractive.  Even her mother, who called her 'Granny', never praised her or showed her affection.

Eleanor was married at 21 and while raising 5 children became first lady for 12 years.   Even though he was paralyzed she convinced Franklin to run for office, then campaigned for him for governor and for his four runs for president.  Not happy to be merely a hostess, she redefined the role of First Lady  by campaigning vigorously for him.  

She was controversial (far more than her husband) because of her outspokenness, particularly regarding her stance on racial issues.  She held regular press conferences, wrote a daily newspaper column, wrote a monthly magazine column, and hosted a weekly radio show. Occasionally she would disagree (often quite vocally) with her husband as she advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, for civil rights for Asian and African Americans and for WWII refugees.  

Following Franklin's death President Truman appointed her as our first delegate to the United Nations.  In April of 1946, she became the first chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. 
Numerous sexual scandals, real and fabricated,  followed the Roosevelts for their entire political lives but they overcame all adversity to go on and accomplish great things.   

(Items in Italics from literature at Campobello or Wikipedia)


  1. This is so inspiring! I heard her speak in SF when I was a little girl. She had been on a trip to the Soviet Union and had visited a creche where she saw children being treated in impersonal ways that really shocked her.
    Wasn't she pretty, though! Why she got stereotyped as ugly I'll never know. Maybe because she was tall and gawky? And I also wondered about how closely related she and Franklin were and how that affected their children's heredity.

  2. She and Franklin were 5th cousins. I thought she was very pretty as a young girl but her mother was very cruel and her father was an alcoholic--it was a lot to overcome.

  3. The cousins thing seems (to me) creepy in this day and age, although I know it was not considered an oddity in that era. Loving that white enamel stove!

  4. Thanks for this posting Toni. Very well done.