UWG Students Explore the Personal Side of Eleanor Roosevelt
One evening, decades ago, a grandmother motioned to her granddaughter as she was about to head out the door. The elder woman gave her a scarf. Later, when the girl tried to return it, she insisted that she keep it.
“It’s turquoise with gold embellishments of handmade silk from India,” said Kaitlin Costley, a UWG undergraduate majoring in history.
The scarf belonged to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Her granddaughter, Nina Roosevelt Gibson, shared the scarf and stories about her family with Kaitlin for an exhibit that will become part of the Little White House Historic Site in Warm Springs. The exhibit will be ready in October.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed there seeking relief from his polio. While there he worked on the pressing issues of his presidency, including the development of New Deal programs.
Although Eleanor did not spend a lot of time at the Little White House, the couple had several Thanksgiving Day meals there and she visited him on his birthday, Kaitlin said. Eleanor also visited the nearby Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, which Franklin founded in 1927.
“The connection I made, in speaking with Nina, was that Eleanor was a normal person. She happened to be a famous person. She was down to earth and wanted to give back to the world,” said Kaitlin, who is interning at the Little White House.
The exhibit includes a clutch purse Eleanor owned and a letter from her to the artist Madame Shoumatoff, who was painting a portrait of Franklin when he died.
Kaitlin researched Eleanor’s life and interviewed Nina to give the exhibit a personal dimension of the First Lady. Two UWG art majors, Ashley Schooley and Crystal Sutz, designed the panels for the exhibit as independent study projects.
The three students worked together to develop the exhibit’s look and feel.
“Kaitlin told us she wanted a vintage feel. She wanted to combine feminine aspects with Eleanor’s power and strength,” said Ashley, who will graduate in December.
The process included choosing the appropriate fonts to get that balance. The students also had to wait to have their work approved by officials.
“The state had to approve it. Her boss had to approve it. They all had ideas, they all had critiques,” Ashley said. “It was like you had your work at museum or a big company in Atlanta. It was fun.”
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