Why Liberal Icon Eleanor Roosevelt Packed Heat

The First Lady had a permit for a .22 pistol
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2015 2:18 PM CDT
In this June 12, 1942 black-and-white file photo, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt joins her guests as she entertained on the South Lawn of the White House.   (AP Photo, File)
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(Newser) – Eleanor Roosevelt took her politics and self-preservation seriously—and the two concerns seemed to coincide. The famous politician, activist, and liberal icon had a permit for a .22 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports. The permit went on display in June at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, where the First Lady once lived. "She made an off-handed comment that she sometimes did carry a gun when she traveled and she knew how to use it," says Bob Clark, acting director at the library and museum. "She also made the comment, 'I hate guns.'” Following an assassination attempt against her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in February 1933, Eleanor's bodyguard taught her how to shoot a pistol, Clark says.

That's when she got her first license; the surviving one, issued in 1957, coincides with her travels in the South to push for civil rights, which earned her death threats. Naturally, her gun ownership is prompting political remarks: Eleanor's "true understanding of what your Second Amendment rights are, as an American, is just incredibly enlightening," says a local Republican chairman. A Democratic chairwoman sees it differently, saying that "she needed protection because of her liberal, civil rights circumstances. She needed protection." Meanwhile, the Sun-Sentinel reports that portrait photographer Charlotte Kapp, who snapped a shot of Eleanor in 1959, wants to see it on the $10 bill—which will bear a woman's face by 2020. "It would be a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman," Kapp says.

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