Winter Chautauqua – Eleanor Roosevelt Show

Event details

  • February 4, 2017
  • 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
  • Wade Hampton High School - 100 Pine Knoll Dr, Greenville, SC 29609
  • 864.244.1499

 View Map  |  Cost: Free  |

Portrayed by Susan Marie Frontczak

Get ready to meet one of the most influential women in world history – Eleanor Roosevelt. Journey with the longest serving First Lady as she travels tirelessly as FDR’s legs. Sit with her at the United Nations table as she hammers out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Stand with her as she works relentlessly for workers’ rights, women’s rights, civil rights and world peace. Hear her speak as the voice of the powerless.

Nationally acclaimed historical interpreter Susan Marie Frontczak creates a compelling portrayal that reveals Eleanor Roosevelt not only as a relentless voice for the powerless, but also as a skilled user of mass media – magazine and news columns – 17 books – 1400 speeches – news reels and press conferences. Hear her speak for herself as she transforms the role of First Lady to become one of the most revered women of her generation.

You’ll laugh – you’ll be challenged – you’ll have lots of questions. And as always at Chautauqua, the audience is part of the show. Bring your stories. Share your experiences. Get inspired. Because it’s not just history – it’s personal.

susan-marie-frontczak-headshotSusan Marie Frontczak is in her twenty-third year as a full time storyteller and living history presenter.  As a Chautauquan she has presented in thirty-six states and nine countries abroad. She authored the handbook for Colorado Humanities’ Young Chautauqua program, and coaches youth throughout the state. Susan Marie’s Chautauqua repertoire includes Marie Curie, Mary Shelley, Eleanor Roosevelt, Irene Castle, and Clara Barton.  Susan Marie finds Eleanor Roosevelt’s life almost too big to hold, and yet is convinced this first lady’s story has a great deal to offer the world today. She says, “In times of strife, we must look to our heroes and heroines. Not only did they pave the way for where we are today, but their forgotten wisdom can guide us as we move forward.”

On Frontczak’s performance as Eleanor Roosevelt – by Kathryn Dietz, Producer of “Eleanor Roosevelt, American Experience”

I came to know and love “ER” over the seven years that I spent researching and then producing my own documentary about the former First Lady, for PBS. As I settled into the performance last Monday evening, my expectations were low: How could one woman possibly capture the tremendous heart, soul, mind and spirit of the real Eleanor Roosevelt? And then, Susan Marie Frontczak moved onto the stage and filled the amphitheater with a performance that was riveting from start to finish. I was moved to tears at several points, because she so perfectly embodied the beautiful heart and mind of the real Eleanor Roosevelt. I felt her pain, enjoyed her humor, and reveled in her brilliance – all of it shining through like the stars above us at Lake Tahoe that gorgeous summer night. Ten thousand stars.

Imagine you’ve decided to start a blog, with a commitment to deliver a 500-word article six days a week. But you have no Internet.  You must telegraph in each article by 7 PM Eastern Time so it can be typeset and printed in sixty to a hundred of the next day’s newspapers.  Six days a week for almost 25 years you never miss a deadline, in spite of the fact that at times you are traveling around the country or even around the world.  This is what Eleanor Roosevelt accomplished, starting on December 31, 1935.  Well, that’s not quite true.  She stopped for three days in April 1945, when her husband Franklin, then president of the United States, died unexpectedly.  And after 24 years and 8 months, at age 75, she took a three week break for medical reasons, then resumed at three days a week for the last couple years of her life.

Mrs. Roosevelt began this column, titled “My Day,” as an informal diary of social engagements.  However, within a few years it grew into a platform from which she addressed a wide range of social and political issues through the lens of her daily activities.  Thusly she discussed such diverse topics as union rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, opportunities for the poor, education, prison reform, racial equality, concerns of youth, and citizen responsibility, as well as addressing key world events. Meanwhile her daily viewership grew to over four million.

For twelve years Eleanor could have drowned in the number of words received from others.  Her first year in the White House 300,000 pieces of mail arrived addressed to the First Lady.   At times she quoted from a letter in her column.  Often she forwarded letters of request to a government department that might be able to help.

“My Day” was not Eleanor Roosevelt’s only verbal outlet.  She also authored numerous essays, chapters, and books; gave speeches; and spoke on both radio and TV. Throughout, she followed her own credo, “No writing has any real value which is not the expression of genuine thought and feeling.” (My Day, December 20, 1939)

If there is one idea that unites all of the issues she addressed, it is the fair and equal rights of human beings who live out their lives in unequal and often unfair circumstances.  Her years and years of communicating with the public can be seen as unconscious preparation for what she thought of as her most significant contribution: shepherding the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration, crafted at the United Nations and formally accepted on December 10, 1948, spells out what rights every human being has, which can never be taken away and should never be violated.

But words alone have no power. She wrote, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”  (You Learn by Living, forward, 1960)

Words might inspire action.  But only actions can change the world.  One could claim, in the end, Eleanor’s small actions wrought the most concrete change, such as inviting a homeless person to the White House and helping him get a job; refusing to sit in the “white” section at a conference in Alabama; visiting a coal mine.

Or, perhaps it is the sum of her words and actions – the example she set and the record she left behind that both drove her, and may inspire any one of us, to live to our highest selves.

  • Oct 11, 1884 – Birth of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
  • 1900-1903 – Studies under Mlle Souvestre at Allenswood School in England
  • Mar 17, 1905 – Marries Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • 1906-1916 – Bears six children.  (Five survive infancy.)
  • 1920’s – Joins League of Women Voters, Women’s Trade Union League, and Women’s Division of the Democratic Party.  Works on Child Labor, Bok Peace Prize, women’s rights, labor rights.  Learns public speaking.
  • 1929-1933 – First Lady of New York to governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Conducts inspections of factories and hospitals on FDR’s behalf.
  • Mar 30, 1933 – April 23, 1945 – First Lady to president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.   Breaks all First Lady traditions by traveling, writing, speaking, and talking on the radio.
  • Jan 1936 – Nov 1962 – Writes “My Day” article, six days a week for over 20 years.
  • 1946-1948 – As delegate to the United Nations, works on Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • 1952-1960 – Travels extensively as “First Lady of the World.”
  • Nov 7, 1962 – Death by rare strain of tuberculosis.
  • “…all wars eventually act as boomerangs and the victor suffers as much as the vanquished.” My Day article, February 7, 1939
  • “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” In Our Hands (1958 speech delivered on the tenth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
  • “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. … 
You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” You Learn By Living, 1960
  • “The greatest and most inspiring adventure of all time probably will be carried out in the next fifty years, the adventure of building a new world.” Tomorrow is Now, 1963 (published posthumously)
Quotes About Words
  • “[I]n an international document you must try to find words that can be accepted by the greatest number of people.  Not the words you would choose as the perfect words, but the words that … will be acceptable to practically everyone sitting round the table.” Essay “Making Human Rights Come Alive” September 1949.
  • “No writing has any real value which is not the expression of genuine thought and feeling.” My Day, December 20, 1939
  • “As long as men are arguing about the situation in words, they are not trying to solve it with bullets.” Tomorrow is Now, 1963
  • “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”
  • “We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk.”
  • Cook, Blanche Wiesen.  Eleanor Roosevelt, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.  Penguin Books Vol 1, 1992; Vol 2, 1999, Vol 3, 2016
  • Goodwin, Doris Kerns.  No Ordinary Time.  Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.  Simon and Schuster, 1994.
  • Lash, Joseph P.  Eleanor and Franklin.  New American Library, 1971.
Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Roosevelt, Eleanor.  The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt.  Da Capo Press, 1992.
  • Roosevelt, Eleanor.  What I Hope to Leave Behind.  The Essential Essays of Eleanor Roosevelt.  Carlson Publishing, Inc, 1995.  This collection spans Eleanor Roosevelt’s entire public life, with essays grouped by topic such as (but not limited to) Personal Reflections, Democracy, Civil Rights, Women, Youth, Education, Politics, War and Peace, and Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Glendon, Mary Ann.  A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Random House, 2002.  Meet the full cast of people who brought the UDHR into being.  Personalities, politics, and world events swirl around this suspense thriller.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Available online from the United Nations at