Rowley explains why she believes FDR didn’t leave his marriage: “FDR still loved Eleanor. He knew what he owed to her; he knew how much he needed her. He asked her forgiveness.”
A few years later, when FDR contracted polio and was paralyzed from the waist down, their lives changed. It was then that their relationship became more unconventional. Much of his time was spent away from his family as he tried to recover with only his personal secretary, Missy LeHand, nearby.
Eleanor stood by her husband and took care of her children, but she left behind the “gentlewoman” ways of her mother-in-law and the ladylike politics of her aunt, Anna “Bye” Roosevelt Cowles. She developed strong friendships, championed causes and set about to helping her husband to continue advancing politically.
The last third of the book covers their marriage during the presidency, serving as merely a historical recap. But even as Lucy Mercer returned to the picture, Rowley points to the 40th anniversary of the Roosevelts’ wedding day as one of her final examples of their strong relationship. That night, FDR told his favorite story of their wedding day, describing how, in the heyday of Theodore Roosevelt, no one paid much attention to the young groom and bride.
FDR retired to bed soon after, and his secretary noted, “Thus another milestone is passed in the career of an extraordinary man and wife.”