Eleanor Roosevelt was a very staunch Republican.
Okay, not THAT Eleanor Roosevelt.
We’re talking about Eleanor B. Roosevelt, the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fifth cousin.
Eleanor B. Roosevelt saw The New Deal for what it really was: a hideous, skull-faced, demonic monkey-scorpion. Or something.
It’s like Mountain Dew’s “puppy-monkey-baby” if it had been conceived by H.P. Lovecraft.
AtlasObscura isn’t usually a site from which we can pull material of political interest but this week it was.
IF YOU WANT TO REGISTER dissatisfaction with a piece of legislation, you’ve got a few options. You can contact your local representative. You can join a protest or campaign. Or—if you want—you can embroider a frightening creature onto a piece of satin, and stitch the name of said legislation underneath it, as above.
This embroidery, which is based on a work usually credited to the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, was made by Eleanor B. Roosevelt.* (She is not to be confused with the other, more famous Eleanor Roosevelt, who probably would have represented the New Deal in a very different way.) Eleanor B. was married to Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt, Jr., the oldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. Both Eleanor and Ted were staunch Republicans: When Ted’s fifth cousin, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, won the Presidency in 1932, Ted resigned his seat as ambassador to the Philippines. When reporter Inez Robb wrote up the embroidery in 1940, she described the couple as “out-of-season Roosevelts.”
Looking at how FDR’s policies helped us on the road to a $20 trillion (and still climbing) national debt, I’d say “out of season Roosevelts” are preferable to almost any other kind of Roosevelt. Eleanor B. seems like she was a great lady.
“It’s the most horrible and gruesome thing I could devise,” Eleanor told Robb. “The evil in it is very subtle.” Subtle may not be the right word for the piece, which apparently was sewn with bright red and gray threads into pale blue satin, and features no fewer than four separate skulls, one of which appears to have had a bite taken out of it.
That is so metal. It’s not quite a Roosevelt original though.
Though Eleanor mentioned having “devised” the creature, her needlework is a clear copy of a 1910 artwork titled “La Calavera Huertista” (“The Huertista Skeleton”). This relief engraving is the creation of either Posada or one of his contemporaries, Manuel Manilla.*
Eleanor’s penchant for fantastic artwork may have had something to do with her gig on the advisory board for Whiz Comics.
The creature’s hodgepodge nature befits its stitcher. As curator Beverly Brannan details at the Library of Congress, even when she wasn’t creating skillful, politically cutting pieces of needlework, Eleanor was a real Jackie-of-all-trades. She was, at various times, the president of the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York, the head of a YMCA canteen in Paris, and a member of the editorial advisory board for Whiz Comics.
I just want to know where I can get The New Deal monster on a t-shirt.