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Empty without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt & Lorena Hickok
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Empty without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt & Lorena Hickok

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  269 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
In 1978, more than 3,500 letters written over a thirty-year friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok were discovered by archivists. Although the most explicit letters had been burned (Lorena told Eleanor's daughter, "Your mother wasn't always so very discreet in her letters to me"), the find was still electrifying enough to create controversy about the nature ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published October 5th 2000 by Da Capo Press (first published October 1st 1998)
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Susan Albert
Loved this long, intimate look into an evolving relationship between two remarkable women. From passion to deep and enduring friendship at a fascinating time in American history. But watch out for fictionalizations in the chapter intros and explanatory notes: Streitmatter adds gratuitous and incorrect detail and misleading characterizations that aren't supported by sources. Just one example (of several I've documented): the dates in the note on p. 59 are completely wrong, according to the White ...more
Sep 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
I give this book four stars because it must have been an incredible work of scholarship to pull these together and annotate them. The letters are fascinating. All in all, however, I wish the book was written more as a narrative history with excerpts of the letters--which I think would have been more interesting to read.
May 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone squishy
Not only was she a handsome woman, but an obsessive chronicler, dyke and letter-writer who has made me cry on account of Lorena many times.
Jun 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lesbian historians
Now I know how she put up with FDR.
Dec 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This was an interesting insight into the life of Eleanor Roosevelt. Regardless of the nature of the relationship of these two women they both had a really strong bond and loved each other very much.
Jess Kaz
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. Makes me sad to think that the letter writing days are numbered in today's society. It's a beautiful art and this book clearly depicts the deep connection these women shared through their many letters over the years.
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer-lit
Eye-opening. Read as the story of a long and slowly cooling friendship, it's touching and ultimately melancholy. I can't imagine that it would ever be embraced by women's studies departments because it is obvious that Eleanor Roosevelt is skilfully "fending off" Lorena Hickok for so much of their long friendship. Except at the beginning, when she was "full on" and probably sent very mixed signals about what she wanted from Lorena. All the same, there was a loyalty between these two women that la ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book on so many levels. Fascinating to read about Eleanor and Lorena and their relationship through their letters to each other.

It is though a rather sad book in that by the end you've read a lifetime of intimate letters between friends including their endings. You kind of wish when two people share a life of love, and I'm not willing to go so far as to say they loved each other in romantic way for the whole time, or at least not on Eleanor's part, that it could go on forever and nev
Kathy Smuz
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of letters written bewteen Eleanor Roosevelt and her close friend, Lorena "Hick" Hickok, beginning in 1933 when Eleanor began her stint as First Lady and Hick was a reporter assigned to cover her. The bulk of the letters span the first 3 years of Eleanor and Hick's relationship and show a very warm, close and intimate friendship which eventually cooled, although the two continued to correspond until Eleanor's death in 1962. The question of whether or not Eleanor and Hick were lovers ...more
Rebecca Saxon
A fascinating view into the intimate relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. Reading the letters there's no doubt of that they had a romantic relationship. Over the years, though, their relationship becomes more of a friendship but that doesn't diminish the importance they had in each others' lives. The letters also provide a neat glimpse into that time period and how Eleanor Roosevelt shaped the role of First Lady. Admittedly the letters are not always that exciting and I prob ...more
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
The letters were interesting, but Streitmatter's "helpful" comments made Eleanor's messy letters nearly illegible and didn't help clarify what was happening so much as big the reader down. I'd have liked for less footnotes or brief italicized explanations as thoughtful, well-drawn out historical and personal literature with the letters interspersed as sourcing. As it is, I am unimpressed and have not learned much about either Eleanor or her so-called lover Lorena (as I find, after all, that I do ...more
Sharon Younkin
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ca-book-clubs
This is a very interesting compilation of some of the remaining letters between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok (Hick). Although Lorena burned most of her letters, her obligation to Eleanor meant that most of Eleanor's letters have been preserved. Lorena did, however, destroy select letters from Eleanor, most likely those that revealed the most about their relationship. The collection does give you some insight into their complicated and challenging relationship, as well as some interesting ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it liked it
The narrative surrounding these two women is so interesting, and Streitmatter does a wonderful job of providing the context and information needed to read the letters like a story. That said, the First Lady wrote odd diary-style letters simply detailing her days and the majority of the letters in this book are hers, which makes for some slightly dull and incredibly monotonous reading in sections. As the war came on and their relationship strained, the book (and letters) became much more interest ...more
Jean Marie Angelo
Oct 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-politics
How can you not love a book that has the quote, "Had the Supreme Court over to lunch. They seemed to have a good time." ? Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickock were intimate friends and probably lovers. The early letters are passionate and moving. This is an intimate look at these famous women, but also a dose of reality on what it was like to live closeted and secret lives. Wish Lorena could have lived to see a more liberated society.
Cindy Huyser
Jul 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
This excellent collection of letters allows a telling glimpse into a passionate relationship that continued as a friendship for many years. My biggest regret is that Lorena Hickok burned many of Eleanor Roosevelt's letters because they were indiscrete. I was slow in getting into this book in part because of the extensive footnotes, which are a bit distracting if useful (particularly in explaining the many references Eleanor makes to the people in her daily life). Well-worth reading.
Oct 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This book examined the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok over more than a 30 year period through the letters they wrote to each other. Their relationship certainly appeared to be more than platonic especially in the early years. However, what I found interesting about this book was how both these women tried to influence the changing role of women during the 1930's.
Oct 18, 2010 is currently reading it
A must-read for an understanding of how much we owe these two women, Eleanor especially. This country's politics is so not right when we think of Eleanor being in that white-colored house for *twelve* years. It just isn't. We owe her dearly. I haven't gotten all the way through it, but it totally sheds light on so much our grandparents never discussed with us, or even if they did.
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing story about love, friendship and a relationship whose depth was never allowed to show at the surface, spanning through years--amazing journey about our history and the relationship between these two women.
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly *the* most fascinating book I've ever read. With all of the love and affection that each letter was sent, they also contain some serious real-talk history that you just won't find anywhere else.
Sep 29, 2011 rated it liked it
It's such a great opportunity to read so many of the actual letters and the editor's notes were helpful. Having said that, I had to rank it down a little because I couldn't finish it. I ended up skimming the second half.

Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Eleanor Roosevelt has always been of interest to me. Her letters open up a side of the woman few if any of us know. She was able to lead her life during a time when woman in the U. S. had few to no options.
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americanhistory
Intimate look into the love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. Beginning as friends, the relationship turned romantic and grew into a passionate affair. Great insight into the workings of FDR and the political force Eleanor became.
Melissa Lozano
Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read

This is a great an intimate read about one of my hero's. To get an inside view of love in her life and some of the workings of the White House is fun for this history nerd.
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The letters got to be tedious because they describe the very mundane events in Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt's lives. More interesting were the footnotes because I was able to gleam information about the era.
Catherine Jones
Still reading
Kristy Ann
This book was an interesting chronicle of an intimate relationship set against the backdrop of a rich history of the United States.
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading this because I'm doing a reading of a musical based on the letters of Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt. Fascinating relationship, fascinating women, fascinating time.
Britney King
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
A beautiful testament to the power of love, loyalty, and friendship; and in addition an intriguing lesson in history. Glad to have witnessed their story--in large part via their own written word.
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What's not to love about reading a packetful of personal letters that disclose such a significant period in the United States, in the role of women and the personal lives these historical figures.
Donna O'brien
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Extraordinary women and extraordinary friendship.
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Rodger Streitmatter is a journalist and cultural historian whose work explores how the media have helped to shape American culture. He is currently a professor in the School of Communication at American University.
More about Rodger Streitmatter

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“I cannot go to bed tonight without a word to you. I felt a little as though a part of me was leaving tonight. You have grown so much to be a part of my life that it is empty without you.” 5 likes
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