Please note: Because author Charlotte Gray is unable to travel, we must postpone the event Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons, scheduled for December 11. Hopefully, this event will be rescheduled soon.
Roosevelt House is pleased to present a discussion of the new book Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons: The Lives of Jennie Jerome Churchill and Sara Delano Roosevelt by Charlotte Gray. In this captivating dual biography, Gray delivers a unique exploration of the parallel lives of two famous women whose sons would change the course of the 20th century. The author will be in conversation with historian Amanda Foreman.
Born into upper-class America in the same year, 1854, Sara Delano and Jennie Jerome refused to settle into predictable, sheltered lives as little-known wives to prominent men. Instead, as Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons shows, both women focused much of their energies on helping their sons—Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill—reach the epicenter of political power on two continents.
Raised with privilege but subject to the constraints of women’s roles at the time, Sara and Jennie learned how to take control of their destinies—Sara in the prosperous Hudson Valley and Jennie in the glittering world of Imperial London. Yet, through Gray’s vivid portrayal, readers learn that their personalities and choices were dramatically different. A vivacious extrovert, Jennie married Lord Randolph Churchill, a rising politician and scion of a noble British family. Her social and political maneuverings benefited not only her husband but, once she was widowed, her ambitious son. By contrast, Sara Delano married a man as old as her father and, once widowed, she made Franklin, her only child, the center of her existence. Thanks in large part to her financial support and to her guidance, Franklin acquired the skills he needed to become a successful politician.
Set against one hundred years of history, and impeccably researched, Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons is an absorbing study in loyalty and resilience. Gray argues that Jennie and Sara are too often presented as lesser figures in the backdrop of history—rather than as two remarkable individuals who shaped their sons’ characters and prepared them for the world stage. Filled with intriguing social and political insights, Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons breathes new life into Sara and Jennie—and shows how leaders are not just made, but born.
Charlotte Gray, one of Canada’s best-known writers, is the author of 12 acclaimed books of literary nonfiction, including The Promise of Canada: 150 Years—People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country. Her bestseller The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial That Shocked a Country won the Toronto Book Award, the Heritage Toronto Book Award, and the Canadian Authors Association Lela Common Award for Canadian History. An adaptation of her bestseller Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike was broadcast as a TV miniseries. An adjunct research professor in the department of history at Carleton University, Gray was awarded the Pierre Berton Award for distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Amanda Foreman is the author of the prize-winning best sellers, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire: A Epic History of Two Nations Divided, an account of the American Civil War from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2016, Foreman served as chair of The Man Booker Prize. That same year, her BBC documentary series, The Ascent of Woman, was released. In 2019, she was invited to curate a special exhibition for Buckingham Palace as part of its summer opening. She has been a columnist for The Sunday Times and the Smithsonian Magazine. Currently, she is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Her next book, The World Made by Women: A New History of Humanity, is scheduled to be published in 2024.