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What Really Happened Between Eleanor Roosevelt & Lorena Hickok? A First Lady Explainer

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It’s hard to tell what really goes on behind the closed doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For centuries, famous first families have come in and out of the White House, and so much of their personal lives has unfolded on the world’s stage. Showtime’s series The First Lady has sought to uncover (and dramatize) a number of the interactions and exchanges the historic women who embodied the role had with White House staff, guests, and the president himself. But Sunday’s episode dives into one piece of first lady history we’re particularly excited to see: the enigmatic, real-life relationship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (played by Emmy winner Gillian Anderson) and journalist Lorena Hickok. Before you watch the next episode, here’s what you have to know about their relationship.

In the early years of her time in the White House, Eleanor became close with the Associated Press reporter, known as “Hick.” The pair developed a friendship that lasted until Eleanor’s death — roughly 30 years. But their relationship sparked some interest — were they purely platonic? Or was there a romantic aspect to their bond? Well, author Susan Quinn did a deep dive into the pair’s relationship with her 2016 book Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady.

'Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady' by Susan Quinn $13.98 on Amazon.com Buy now Sign Up

Quinn’s illuminating book lifts the veil on Eleanor and Hickok’s relationship. In one section of the book, the author writes about one particular drive the first lady and AP reporter took together, at which point, Quinn notes that the two were “together as a couple, all day and all night,” per an excerpt from the New York Times. Quinn even pulls from their correspondence, which demonstrated just how deep Eleanor and Hickok’s bond went.

Lazy loaded image
Eleanor Roosevelt, wearing a white hat, on a street in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with former Associated Press reporter Lorena Hickok (second from right of Mrs. Roosevelt) on March 15, 1934 AP.

“No one is just what you are to me,” the first lady once wrote to Hickok. While we’ll never know the full extent of Eleanor and Hickok’s relationship, Quinn shines a light on nearly every aspect of their bond. From Hickok’s encouragement of Eleanor to have a weekly press conference for women only to their potential physical relationship and even the extent to which Eleanor turned to Hickok more often than her own husband.

Per Eleanor and Hick, Eleanor and Hickok’s relationship might’ve been more intimate than many initially thought. The pair are described by Quinn as lovers and confidantes, advisors and friends throughout their decades-long friendship. We’re sure The First Lady will take some artistic license with their interpretation of Eleanor and Hickok’s relationship, but the inspiration behind what we’ll see on the small screen remains tethered to truth: Eleanor and Hickok’s bond was special to both women.

Before you go, click here to see the biggest presidential scandals in US History.
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