Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the country’s most famous First Ladies, and has long been regarded as a women’s rights icon. One lesser known aspect of her activism is how she insisted that only female reporters would be allowed at her press conferences. This ensured that any newspaper who wanted access to her would have to have a woman on staff. Over her husband’s twelve year term, she hosted 348 conferences, first discussing household issues, and then later on expanding to deeper political issues and bringing in special guests. This included female members of President Roosevelt’s administration and foreign dignitaries like Soong Mei-ling, wife of Chinese president Chiang Kai-Shek.
One of the female journalists, Lorena Hickok, may have been closer than just a colleague to the First Lady, or closer than even a good friend. Hickok was assigned to cover Mrs. Roosevelt in 1932, and she eventually gave up her position to move into the White House in the room next door to the First Lady. The two exchanged thousands of letters, sometimes even two a day, with one quote from Hickok reading “I want to put my arms around you and kiss you at the corner of your mouth” and another from Roosevelt “I ache to hold you close. Your ring is of great comfort. I look at it and think she does love me, or I wouldn’t be wearing it.” The women remained close their entire lives.