From 1908 to 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and their five children, as well as Franklin’s mother Sara Delano Roosevelt, lived in their New York City home in a double townhouse at 47-49 East 65th Street just a few blocks from Hunter College. Franklin and Eleanor became friends of the College by 1940 and in 1942, after the death of Sara, sold their home so it could become a student center at Hunter. With minor renovations, it reopened in 1943 as an inter-faith and inter-racial college community center dedicated as the Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House.
Franklin visited the college just once, in October 1940, to dedicate the new North Building, whose construction had been paid for by funds from his New Deal programs, but recruited Hunter President George Shuster to help place refugee scholars at US colleges during the war. From 1940 to 1962, Eleanor regularly visited Roosevelt House and the college, meeting informally with students and speaking at conferences and graduations. All who heard Eleanor remembered her inspiring words; several interviewees had vivid memories too of Franklin’s 1940 speech.
The Eleanor Project brings together the memories of 39 Hunter College alumnae about Eleanor Roosevelt, Hunter College and Roosevelt House. The Project was supported by Hunter’s President Jennifer Raab, and was developed over the 2008-2009 academic year as a collaboration among students from Hunter’s Macaulay Honors College and the Film/Media Department. Additional support and assistance for the project were provided by Dr. Jay Roman, Chair, Hunter College Department of Film/Media Studies and Peter Jackson, Chief College Lab Technician, Hunter College Film/Media Studio.
The Hunter students, working under the direction of Visiting Professor/Filmmaker Rob Katz, researched the history, drafted questions, and conducted interviews. The interviews took place at the Hunter College Annual Reunions in May 2008 and May 2009, with supplemental interviews conducted by Rob Katz in June 2010. Rob Katz was the Producer for the finished videos and Miah Artola the Editor. The interviews have been transcribed and are available at the Archives & Special Collections in the Wexler Library at the 68th Street Campus, East Building.
The Eleanor Project creators would like to voice a special thank you to the 39 Hunter College alumnae who shared their memories and stories so that these narratives would not be lost to the winds of time.