A wealthy American who lived his life approximating that of an English country gentleman, James Roosevelt went out of his way to ensure that he had nothing to do with politics. He met Sara Delano, who was many years his junior, and married her immediately. FDR was their only son.
Known for her beauty and wealth, Sara Delano came from a family that rivaled the Roosevelt name for prestige. She married very young and her near-death during Franklin's birth prevented her from having any more children. She doted on FDR, especially after the death of her husband, and often tried to keep him under her control by controlling his purse strings.
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States. He is famous for his enormous personality, a trait that outranks his acts as President in the memory of most Americans. He was a firm believer in the extension of America's sphere of influence, adding the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which allowed him to intervene in the private affairs of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Although Roosevelt handpicked his successor, Taft, he grew angry with his policies and ran against him and Woodrow Wilson in the next election. By splitting the Republican vote, he gave Wilson the win.
After a difficult childhood, Eleanor married FDR when they were both very young. Initially constrained by the duties of being a wife and a mother, Eleanor's discovery that her husband was having an affair freed her to come into her own politically. Her liberal thinking and progressive ideals pushed FDR to further extremes in his policies. She often embraced causes and figures that he had overlooked and used her position to get them national attention. She was the first socially conscious and active First Lady, and set a fine example for all presidential spouses after her to follow.
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States. He began his career in academia, becoming president of Princeton University, and his academic air was obvious his speeches and his ideals. He was one of the most morally upright presidents in American history. He passed laws by directly addressing Congress, the first President to do so since Jefferson's time, and speaking directly to the public to gain their support. His achievements include leading the country through WWI, fighting trusts and monopolies at home, and implementing reforms such as child labor laws and solutions for the problems of urbanization. His biggest disappointment, which he carried with him to the grave, was his inability to convince an isolationist America and Congress to enter the League of Nations after the war.
FDR met Howe when Howe interviewed him about his involvement in the insurgency against Tammany Hall. Howe presented the case in Roosevelt's favor in the papers, but both saw more potential in each other, as friends and as political allies. Howe's first success as FDR's campaign manager was running his campaign for the Senate without a candidate (Roosevelt was sick with typhoid). The partnership and friendship eventually led to the White House, where Roosevelt considered Howe his most trusted and objective advisor. The partnership did not end until Howe finally succumbed to a lifetime of gnawing illness, and Roosevelt never found an advisor who he trusted as much, a great drawback to him especially in the court-packing case.
Daniels had been appointed by Wilson to be Secretary of the Navy, and asked Roosevelt on the morning of the inauguration whether he wanted to be his assistant. Daniels was the opposite of everything that Roosevelt was. He was a Southern, while FDR was a blueblood Yankee. He had no knowledge of ships, whereas FDR was an avid sailor. He also staunchly opposed Roosevelt's policies during WWI. Unlike FDR, who believed that military preparedness was essential, Daniels, like most Americans who watched the war across the Atlantic with detachment, did not believe in preparing for a war that the country was not planning to enter.
Lucy Mercer came from a distinguished family whose fortune had dwindled and was forced to work for society women in order to make her means. She became Eleanor Roosevelt's social secretary while she was in Washington for the first time during her husband's tenure as Assistant Secretary of War. During this time, Lucy began a love affair with FDR, which was abruptly ended when Eleanor discovered their letters upon FDR's return from Europe. Lucy eventually married Lord Rutherford, a widower many years her senior. Near the end of his life, FDR rekindled his acquaintance with her, this time probably as a strong friendship. Regardless of the nature of their relationship, what is sure is that Lucy provided companionship to FDR during his loneliest years in the White House, a service that his daughter Anna Roosevelt, and other members of his family, greatly appreciated.
Perkins was Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945. She had built up her career in New York as a reformist, becoming the authority on factory hygiene and safety, and lobbying for shorter hours and safer workplaces for New York's workers. Governor Al Smith initially appointed her to his administration, but it was FDR who appointed her to significant positions of power among his cabinet. Her appointment as Secretary of Labor marked the first female in the presidential Cabinet in the United States, and was roundly criticized by conservative leaders throughout the nation. Her most important achievement in office was the Social Security Act.
Garner was a Senator from Texas who served as Roosevelt's vice president for his first two terms. Garner was also a candidate for the presidency in the 1932 election, and the Democratic Party convention was bitterly divided on which candidate to choose. Rather than see his party fall victim to division, Garner gave his 100 votes to Roosevelt, giving him the nomination. Although he had no interest in the Vice-presidency, thinking it rightly a powerless job, Roosevelt offered him the post in return and he accepted for two terms.
Churchill first made a name for himself as a journalist covering the Boer War. He was first elected to Parliament in 1900 as a Conservative. His party affiliation soon changed to Liberal, and he reached the position of chancellor of the exchequer while a Constitutionalist. He was chosen Prime Minister in 1940. Neither a financial innovator–his conservatism was known to rankle John Maynard Keynes–nor a supporter of labor nor colonial self- determination, his popularity as a British statesman came from his masterful handling of the Second World War. His refusal to back down from Hitler inspired his countrymen, and his excellent relationship with Roosevelt, in which he gracefully acknowledged his position of the leader of the less powerful nation, was the keystone of the Great Alliance. He also attended a great number of international conferences and negotiated a place of importance for Great Britain in the twentieth century and beyond.
Hitler began his career as a high school dropout and art school reject. He was always violently anti-Semitic and blamed the loss of WWI, in which he fought for the Bavarian army, on the Jews and Marxists. He became chairman of a political group of nationalist veterans called the National Socialists, or the Nazis. In 1923, he was arrested after leading the "beer hall Putsch," an attempted coup in Munich. In prison, he wrote his famous treatise Mein Kampf (My Struggle) which was full of lust for power and anti-Semitic sentiments. Upon his release from prison, he began in speeches to provide Germans suffering from rabid inflation and war debt, scapegoats and dreams of world domination. By 1933 he had been appointed chancellor of a coalition cabinet, which he changed into a dictatorship by killing off his opposition. Frenzied German supporters addressed him as the Fuhrer, and with the death of his President, all leadership of the country was embodied in Hitler's diminutive person. Hitler was now poised to pursue his plans for world domination. He became first Mussolini's ally and turned Italy effectively into a German satellite. He signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin to invade Poland, but violated it in 1941 by invading Russia. By this time, Hitler had taken complete control of military strategy to disastrous consequences. By July of 1944, the German army was wasted and his former colleagues attempted to assassinate him. Finally on April 30, 1945, Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun, committed suicide in the basement of a bunker rather than face the complete defeat of Germany.
Although Mussolini was originally a member of the Socialist party, he abruptly turned nationalist during WWI, and rose to the rank of corporal in the Italian army. In the postwar period he and his followers practiced aggressive nationalism and practiced terrorism during times of unrest in Italy. He finally was asked by King Emmanuel III to form a cabinet. He quickly turned his role as premier into a fascist dictatorship, and organized the country along those lines. Mussolini's followers addressed him as "il Duce," or "leader." His ambition to restore Italy to its former glory was expressed in his instatement of monuments and support to extreme nationalist groups. His attack on Ethiopia led to Italy's isolation from the rest of Europe and drove Mussolini to join ranks with Hitler in his plans to annex Austria. His implementation of Hitler's anti-Semitic and other policies in Italy were not greeted with support and he was eventually denounced by the Fascist council and arrested, and later shot.
Stalin rose to power in the administration under Lenin. The relationship between Stalin and Lenin is not well understood, and although Lenin regarded Stalin as a good administrator, he was not considered a great theoretician or leader. After Lenin's death, Stalin outmaneuvered Trotsky and a number of other contenders for the leadership of the Communist party and rose to power. Under Stalin's rule, the totalitarian state was glorified rather than the state disappearing as Marx envisioned. He maintained his power by destroying all opposition brutally in the famous political purges of the 1930s. Stalin signed the non-aggression treaty with Hitler because he desperately desired to stay out of WWII. The attack from Germany in 1941 took him entirely by surprise. Stalin proved to be an able military leader and diplomat in WWII, fighting the only front in Europe for most of the war, and negotiating in the conferences at Tehran and Yalta for the creation of satellite states to protect Russian borders in the future.
Harry Hopkins was an eager social worker in New York. While Roosevelt was governor of New York, he put Hopkins in charge of the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. Hopkins willingness to spend federal money freely for welfare during hard times endeared him to Roosevelt. Hopkins soon became one of Roosevelt's most trusted advisors, running the successful Civil Works Administration which helped Americans survive the harsh winter from 1933–1934 and the Works Progress Administration, which put millions to work, including writers and artists such as Steinbeck and de Kooning on projects for public display. Hopkins lived in the White House until Roosevelt's last term when he married and left, and remained to his death, one of FDR's closest friends.
By trade a businessman in the mining industry, Hoover first made a political name for himself chairing the Commission for Relief in Belgium during the First World War. He later became Secretary of Commerce for Harding and Coolidge. He became the 31st President of the United States in 1928, and it was not long before the country fell into the depths of the Great Depression. Hoover, a staunch conservative who firmly believed in the basic soundness of the economy, was reluctant to increase federal involvement. He did approve the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which gave out loans not available elsewhere. However, most Americans saw him as impotent against the economic crisis. He was roundly defeated in the election of 1932 by an optimistic and, most importantly, vigorous Roosevelt.