Roosevelt House is pleased to present a discussion of the new book The First Lady of World War II: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Daring Journey to the Frontlines and Back by Shannon McKenna Schmidt. In this captivating, action-packed history, Schmidt delivers the first full account of Eleanor Roosevelt’s unprecedented and courageous trip to the Pacific Theater during World War II. The author will be in conversation with preeminent Eleanor Roosevelt biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook.

On August 27, 1943, news broke in the United States that the First Lady was not secluded at home as most Americans believed, but in a war zone on the other side of the world. A closely guarded secret, she had left San Francisco aboard a military transport plane as Allied forces battled the Japanese for control of the region.

Deeply researched and full of vivid detail, The First Lady of World War II captures the dramatic significance of Eleanor Roosevelt’s five weeks in the South Pacific—on a mission as First Lady to experience first-hand what the war was like for the U.S. servicemen who were fighting in it. Lending them her inspiring support, she also gathered information to report back home.

That September the Washington Times-Herald called Roosevelt’s voyage “The most remarkable journey any president’s wife has ever made.”

Shannon McKenna Schmidt is the co-author of Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West and Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads. In addition, Schmidt has written for National Geographic, TravelerShelf Awareness,, and Arrive magazine. She has appeared as a guest on television and radio programs including Morning Joe, WHYY’s Studio 2, The Travel Show with Arthur & Pauline Frommer; and she has  been featured as a public speaker at the New York Public Library, the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, the Texas Book Festival, and the Dallas Museum of Art.​

Blanche Wiesen Cook (’62) is Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her definitive three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt was called “monumental and inspirational…[a] grand biography” by the New York Times. Volume One, on the Times bestseller list for three months, received many awards, including the 1992 Biography Prize from the Los Angeles Times, and the Lambda Literary Award. Volume Two was also a Times bestseller. 

Shannon McKenna Schmidt — The First Lady of World War II: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Daring Journey to the Frontlines and Back | Posted on September 11th, 2023 | Book Discussions, Public Programs