“IT IS SO COLD I AM WRAPPED IN EVERYTHING I OWN”: WONDERFUL AUTOGRAPH LETTER WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN ELEANOR ROOSEVELT’S HAND TO HER CLOSE FRIEND, PROFESSOR AND WOMEN’S ACTIVIST ESTHER LAPE CONCERNING A LETTER BY PRIME MINISTER NEHRU, LAPE’S LATE PARTNER ELIZABETH READ, AND ROOSEVELT’S 1958 TRIP TO MOSCOW
ROOSEVELT, Eleanor. Autograph letter initialed. Moscow, September 18, . Single sheet of stationery, measuring 6 by 7 inches; pp. 2. $2600.
Original autograph letter written entirely in Eleanor Roosevelt’s hand and sent from Moscow in 1958 to her close friend, university professor and women’s activist Esther Lape, thanking Lape for sending “the Nehru letter,” referencing her warm memories of Lape’s late partner, Elizabeth Read, sharing Roosevelt’s post-Moscow travel plans, and initialed in closing by Eleanor Roosevelt.
This most desirable letter was written during the second of Eleanor Roosevelt’s two trips to Russia—in the fall of 1958, as evident from Roosevelt’s reference to how “mail has improved this year as everything else has.” Dated “Moscow, Sept. 18th” and written on Eleanor Roosevelt’s personal letterhead, the letter reads in full: “Dearest Esther, It is so cold I am wrapped in everything I own, but I want to write a line of thanks for the Nehru letter, very thought provoking & ideas of all kinds are seething through my head for the four columns I’ll write on getting home. I loved Peggy’s letter & Elizabeth must have helped so many of us to honesty & maturity. What a wonderful person she was. I never find her long out of my thoughts. I think the mail has improved this year as everything else has in the material line since last year. your letter of the 11th came this morning. we are seeing what we want & are so nearly through that we plan to leave the 26th by jet in the a.m. & be in Paris about 11 a.m. & take four days before going home. I am glad as Edna & David will enjoy it & so will I. My dear love to you E.R.” This letter was written to Esther Lape, one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s closest friends. Lape was an English professor at Barnard, Swarthmore, and the University of Arizona. She also distinguished herself through her participation in the Women’s Trade Union League and as one of the founders of the League of Women Voters. Additionally, Lape was the life partner of Elizabeth Read, Eleanor Roosevelt’s personal attorney and financial advisor. It was that association that brought Lape to the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt and resulted in their friendship. As early as 1920, the three women already had a close professional association, working together on matters pertaining to the League of Women Voters. In 1921, they began meeting as friends, collaborating on the New Women movement. In 1923, Lape and Roosevelt worked alone for the first time, holding a competition for the Bok Peace Prize. When the Senate launched an investigation into whether the Bok Prize was a tool of “foreign governments or foreign institutions,” Lape identified Roosevelt as one of the most influential members of the selection committee for the prize. The hearing were suspended with Wilson’s death and never revived. Throughout the 1930s, Lape and Roosevelt worked together on issues such as healthcare and United States recognition of the Soviet Union. With the war, their interests diverged somewhat, but their friendship remained as strong as ever. Lape and her partner Read owned a building in Greenwich Village and Roosevelt, desperate for an escape from the pressures of life as first lady, rented an apartment there. Lape and Read’s country home in Connecticut provided similar refuge. When Read died in 1943, Lape and Roosevelt grew even closer, holding up the memory of a beloved partner and friend. Upon Roosevelt’s death, Lape fought to get a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize for Roosevelt, but failed in that endeavor.
A fine autograph initialed letter with an outstanding association.