Eleanor Roosevelt had a career on radio
that began in the 1920s and expanded while Franklin Roosevelt was
president. She had commercial sponsors but gave the money she earned at
this time to charity, such as the American Friends Service Committee.
Speaking in a personal, conversational style, with a high pitched voice and clear, upperclass East Coast diction, ER delivered listeners for her sponsors and proved that she was worth large sums to advertisers. She was especially interested in the participation of women in civic life and issues of education and youth. Between 1933 and 1945 Eleanor Roosevelt’s White House broadcasts addressed the challenges that depression and war posed as well as lighter topics and commentary. After 1945 ER continued her radio broadcasts with a focus on human rights, the Cold War, and world peace.
Beginning in October 1941 ER gave 26 Sunday evening broadcasts sponsored by the
Pan-American Coffee Bureau (eight Latin American coffee growing nations), and earned
a total of $28,000. Through these broadcasts she helped to ready the American people
for war. On the fateful Sunday, December 7, she changed her prepared remarks to rally
her listeners behind the administration as the country entered the war. (source)
For the last year I have been saving a YouTube video of Eleanor Roosevelt's radio address about Pearl Harbor, only to find this week that it has been removed from the internet, and I can't find it anywhere. However, the transcript of her December 7 radio address still exists. From the FDR Library, here's an excerpt of the original draft:
Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. FDR Library.
Draft of Eleanor Roosevelt’s radio address, December 7, 1941.
On the evening of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Eleanor Roosevelt was to give one of her regularly scheduled radio broadcasts for the Pan-American Coffee Bureau. Mrs. Roosevelt set aside her previously prepared text and instead became the first public figure to speak to the Nation about the attack at Pearl Harbor. She urged her listeners to rally behind the President and his Cabinet as they led the nation in war, called on women and young people to support the war effort, and sought to calm fears. She confidently proclaimed, “Whatever is asked of us, I am sure we can accomplish it; we are the free and unconquerable people of the U.S.A.” (source) - [and yes, she does typos too!]
From the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project comes the full transcript of her address on such a significant day in American history:
Eleanor Roosevelt's RemarksDecember 7, 1941
Pan American Coffee Bureau (ER's regular weekly radio broadcast)
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, I am speaking to you tonight at a very serious moment in our history. The Cabinet is convening and the leaders in Congress are meeting with the President. The State Department and Army and Navy officials have been with the President all afternoon. In fact, the Japanese ambassador was talking to the president at the very time that Japan's airships were bombing our citizens in Hawaii and the Phillippines and sinking one of our transports loaded with lumber on its way to Hawaii.
By tomorrow morning the members of Congress will have a full report and be ready for action.
In the meantime, we the people are already prepared for action. For months now the knowledge that something of this kind might happen has been hanging over our heads and yet it seemed impossible to believe, impossible to drop the everyday things of life and feel that there was only one thing which was important - preparation to meet an enemy no matter where he struck. That is all over now and there is no more uncertainty.
We know what we have to face and we know that we are ready to face it.
I should like to say just a word to the women in the country tonight. I have a boy at sea on a destroyer, for all I know he may be on his way to the Pacific. Two of my children are in coast cities on the Pacific. Many of you all over the country have boys in the services who will now be called upon to go into action. You have friends and families in what has suddenly become a danger zone. You cannot escape anxiety. You cannot escape a clutch of fear at your heart and yet I hope that the certainty of what we have to meet will make you rise above these fears.
We must go about our daily business more determined than ever to do the ordinary things as well as we can and when we find a way to do anything more in our communities to help others, to build morale, to give a feeling of security, we must do it. Whatever is asked of us I am sure we can accomplish it. We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America.
To the young people of the nation, I must speak a word tonight. You are going to have a great opportunity. There will be high moments in which your strength and your ability will be tested. I have faith in you. I feel as though I was standing upon a rock and that rock is my faith in my fellow citizens.
Now we will go back to the program we had arranged......
ER goes into a script in which she interviews a young soldier. This program was scheduled before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Eleanor Roosevelt also wrote a regular column called "My Day" and on December 8, 1941 she wrote - in part:
DECEMBER 8, 1941WASHINGTON, Sunday—I was going out in the hall to say goodbye to our cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Adams, and their children, after luncheon, and, as I stepped out of my room, I knew something had happened. All the secretaries were there, two telephones were in use, the senior military aides were on their way with messages. I said nothing because the words I heard over the telephone were quite sufficient to tell me that, finally, the blow had fallen, and we had been attacked.Attacked in the Philippines, in Hawaii, and on the ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii. Our people had been killed not suspecting there was an enemy, who attacked in the usual ruthless way which Hitler has prepared us to suspect.Because our nation has lived up to the rules of civilization, it will probably take us a few days to catch up with our enemy, but no one in this country will doubt the ultimate outcome. None of us can help but regret the choice which Japan has made, but having made it, she has taken on a coalition of enemies she must underestimate; unless she believes we have sadly deteriorated since our first ships sailed into her harbor.The clouds of uncertainty and anxiety have been hanging over us for a long time. Now we know where we are. The work for those who are at home seems to be obvious. First, to do our own job, whatever it is, as well as we can possibly do it. Second, to add to it everything we can do in the way of civilian defense. Now, at last, every community must go to work to build up protections from attack.We must build up the best possible community services, so that all of our people may feel secure because they know we are standing together and that whatever problems have to be met, will be met by the community and not one lone individual. There is no weakness and insecurity when once this is understood....
The rest is here.
Within two hours, six battleships had been sunk, another 112 vessels sunk or damaged, and 164 aircraft destroyed. Only chance saved three US aircraft carriers, usually stationed at Pearl Harbor but assigned elsewhere on the day.The attacks killed fewer than 100 Japanese but more than 2,400 Americans died - 1,000 of those were on the battleship Arizona which was destroyed at her mooring. Another 1,178 US citizens were injured.
The next day, President Roosevelt called the attack on Pearl Harbor "a day that will live in infamy" and America declared war on Japan ending its policy of isolationism. ...
That excerpt is part of a column I wrote in 2010: Pearl Harbour: "By 9:55 it was all over. .." and there is included a timeline of the events on that terrible day, plus a first person account.
Lest We Forget.