Reviews

A Hatchery at The Nation

If Eleanor Roosevelt was the self-appointed godmother of post-New Deal liberalism, then Freda Kirchwey was its unelected recording (and traveling) secretary. Each woman understood her role and memorized her lines before assuming her part in her long and stormy run on the political stage.

In preparation for her grand entrance each woman took a good hard look at the man's world that was liberal politics, elbowed her way into those smoke-filled rooms, and proceeded to make her presence known—and indispensable—as a political woman. Not content to organize a ladies auxiliary of American liberalism, each realized that her success depended upon her ability—and willingness—to perform womanly, if not necessarily wifely, tasks.

Mrs. FDR may never have wielded a magic wand, but she was indefatigable in her efforts to keep her worshipers on the (seldom) straight and (never) narrow path of (her definition) New Deal orthodoxy. Mrs. Evans Clark (née Freda Kirchwey) may never have been trained to keep a boss cool and the coffee hot, but she certainly knew how to generate a paper flow and an office hum.

From 1918 when a 2 5-year-old Kirchwey arrived at The Nation to clip international stories, to 1937 when she bought the journal from Oswald Garrison Villard, to 1955 when she sold her interest to Carey McWilliams, Mrs. Clark had an almost uninterrupted reign as the woman emergent, the...

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