Digital Project Proposal: @Eleanor Roosevelt

What if Eleanor Roosevelt was on Twitter? It’s not such a far stretch when you consider that she published a column of her daily thoughts, six days a week for nearly thirty years. For my digital project I plan to bring Eleanor Roosevelt’s My Day column to twitter. 

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had a very active media presence, both during her time in the White House, and after. She is notably the first first Lady to ever hold a press conference. Along with radio addresses, Eleanor engaged with the public through newspapers, starting with a monthly column in Women’s Home Companion and several one-off articles in various publications. 

This then progressed into her nationally syndicated column My Day, which ran six days a week. She began publishing these columns in 1936 and continued until she died in 1962. Eleanor’s My Day columns are a wealth of insight into the political affairs of the day, as well as her everyday life. She talks about her children and grandchildren right alongside her accounts of World War II, civil rights, and her time in the UN. Eleanor was involved in so many things and was outspoken about issues that are still relevant today. 

George Washington University is the home of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers and has an extensive collection of diaries and letters in addition to publications. Luckily for me, they have digitized all of the My Day columns and made them very accessible. My plan would be to create a twitter account that tweets an excerpt from her column on the anniversary of the day it was published. I would do this by compiling excerpts from the columns based on exact dates, and scheduling tweets that correspond.

Currently there are a few Twitter accounts that focus on Eleanor Roosevelt.  When I searched for “Eleanor Roosevelt My Day” on twitter, nothing came up. There were individual tweets about it, but no accounts. However, there are a few accounts that just focus on Eleanor in general. One account tweets a single, out of context quote every day. It also only follows other daily quote accounts. I don’t really think it is effective. The twitter account that is closest to what I want to do is actually run by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. Every day they tweet a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt with the year, which leads me to believe that the quote comes from somewhere in her papers on that date in history. However, the context is never clear, and they do not mention where in her papers the quote came from. The account follows various historians, presidential historic sites, and political figures, and has a relatively large audience at a little over 7,000 followers.

I would like to improve on both of these accounts by being more specific. The twitter account I create would tweet an excerpt from the My Day column once every day. The tweets will state exactly where the quote came from, and provide a link to the digitized version of the column. This will allow anyone who sees the tweet to look into the broader context fairly easily, without having to do any digging of their own. I also think that twitter is at its best when a short tweet can say a lot and lead you somewhere bigger. I don’t think it’s effective or exciting to read a long chunk of text. Short bursts of history can be a good way to welcome people in and keep them engaged. 

For this reason, I think it’s time for ER to tweet!

2 Replies to “Digital Project Proposal: @Eleanor Roosevelt”

  1. I love this idea! I like that you are taking an idea that already exists and improving upon it. I think you’re right, there needs to be more context (and appropriate credit) provided to history accounts particularly in places like Twitter, where you have limited space to make your point. One thing I’m curious about is what kind of program do you plan to use to automatically tweet and how long do you see this project lasting for? Is there enough content for a few months, or a year?

  2. Hi Katie,

    I really like the way you relate Eleanor Roosevelt’s My Day column to its own kind of twitter like social media of its day.

    Setting up a project that publishes comments/thoughts from her that are from that day in history on social media is a great idea. I think it could really draw out and connect her words into a contemporary context. Solid public history concept.

    It’s great that you can include direct links to the sources in your tweets. It is also great that this can build directly on the work that archivists and librarians have done at GW to get these collections online and accessible. If you do run with this as your project, I would suggest reaching out to them to share out about your project, see if they have any particular ideas for you, and also to see if they would be up for sharing out about your project with others since it is ostensibly a great example of the way that they would like to see people making use of collections like this.

    Overall great idea and I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes together.

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