“The Indomitable Sara Delano Roosevelt: Mother of Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

Journal of White House History
October 01, 2014

Mary Jo Binker and Diane Lobb-Boyce, “The Indomitable Sara Delano Roosevelt: Mother of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Journal of White House History 36 (Fall/Winter 2014): 4-23.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, is usually portrayed as a remote, dominating dowager who loathed her son's political career. That narrative contradicts the facts. In reality, Sara supported FDR's political ambitions with such enthusiasm that she became a public figure in her own right. From her ghostwritten campaign biography of "My Boy, Franklin" to speeches about Mother's Day and the New Deal, Sara established a public persona that stood in stark contrast to Eleanor Roosevelt's more activist stance. Her emphasis on a more conventional female role gave FDR's administration a patina of traditionalism that helped make it more palatable to potential opponents.  FDR, recognizing Sara's appeal, used his mother as a surrogate at home and on at least one occasion as unofficial ambassador to European heads of state. By the time she died in September 1941 Sara was so well known that Eleanor Roosevelt had to use her syndicated column, "My Day," to acknowledge all the messages of sympathy the White House received. This article will discuss Sara's role in FDR's political career and the evolution of her public role as "first mother of the land."