Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 45

with the media and their perception of ER as one of “the prominent people”: “Damn the newspapers! Here I am, keen to know what you said last night and how it went. And what do the papers carry? One of them described you in a blue velvet dinner gown, described all the prominent people present and ‘Mrs. Roosevelt’ leaving after her speech but not a word on the content—I hated it” (qtd in Streitmatter 138–9). Sadly, the media’s attention to prominent figures’ wardrobes, as opposed to their public words and actions, continues to be the norm in the twenty-first century. 13 “God damn it,” Hickok continues, “none of us ought to be wearing velvet dinner gowns these days. Not when, as the chief attendance officer in the Baltimore public schools said today, 4,000 Baltimore children couldn’t go to school in September because they didn’t have clothes” (qtd. in Streitmatter 139). Hickok’s obvious frustration with economic inequality in Baltimore includes criticism directed at ER, and Hickok is quite frank in her articulation of the contrast between ER’s privileged attire and the vast poverty in the city. “As [the chief attendance officer] was saying that,” Hickok admits, “the thought of you in a blue velvet dinner gown—even though you are my friend and I love you—irritated me profoundly. Sometimes I get so sick of this whole damned mess! . . . Darling—in a blue velvet dinner gown or out of it—I love you” (qtd. in Streitmatter 139). The juxtaposition of ER's public life (complete with public attire) next to her private life (with optional attire) reflects the benefit of private record exposure, as private words "encapsulate [lives] because they show rather than tell us what a person was like" (O'Connell 61). Readers and future generations are better able to step into the lives of past figures when reading private material, as opposed to just hearing about those lives from a temporal and edited distance as public works dictate. Personal requests for correspondence from the FDR Presidential Library and Museum National Archives coinciding with Hickok’s stay in Baltimore in late 1934 produced a collection of thirty letters: three from Hickok and twenty-seven from ER. Hickok’s three letters are all written on Lord Baltimore Hotel Stationary. 14 ER’s letters are penned on stationary from various 13 The Huffington Post has an entire section devoted to “First Lady Fashion,” which has included articles such as “Michelle Obama Continues China Tour in Printastic Outfits” and “Michelle Obama, Senegal’s First Lady Marleme Faye Sall Pose in Coordinating Pastels” (“First Lady Fashion”). 14 The previous year, ER had dined at the Lord Baltimore Hotel in the company of another pioneering woman— Amelia Earhart. On April 20, 1933, Earhart “broke up a White House dinner party” by inviting ER and guests (ER’s brother, the president of Eastern Air Transport, and the parents of author Gore Vidal) to accompany her on a 40