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In the appendix to his book Certain Trumpets, author Garry Wills states, "I was not looking for the greatest or best leaders but those who can be seen, at some point in their career, exemplifying a distinctive kind of leadership," (271). For each of the sixteen leadership styles Wills outlines, he puts forth one notable human figure who he feels most aptly demonstrates through their life the essential features of that kind of leader. What each of these disparate leaders demonstrates, in spite of their differences, is a sphere of influence specific to their lifestyles, cultural context, personality, and talents. Each of these leaders was successful in leaving an impact on the world even though their approaches to leadership differed greatly. Eleanor Roosevelt, an almost reluctant leader who walked solidly between the two poles of radicalism and conservatism, exemplified the ability to execute reform in American political and social realities. Her Victorian upbringing and values prevented her from becoming a dynamic, charismatic leader, but her dedication and solid rationality made her extremely successful in affecting change. Roosevelt deftly used her position as First Lady to accomplish her goals, which ranged from feminist causes to helping the poor. Ironically, her dispassionate personal life and her initial dependence on men were precisely what make Eleanor Roosevelt a true reformist, for she affirmed the need not for radical breaks from the past but rather for grounded, steady progress. Both Mary Baker Eddy and Dorothy Day had a wilder streak and applied this fervent spirit to their life's work. Eddy and Day, unlike Roosevelt, rooted their actions in an almost mystical, visionary spirituality that Roosevelt would have thought to be too radical. Eddy and Day also employed tactics in their leadership that Roosevelt might have frowned upon, for the First Lady "would not break the law" as Day did nor would she have retreated to a spiritualist inner world as Eddy had (63). However, all three of these American women share several features in common, having made deep impacts on the worlds of politics, women's lives, and socio-cultural realities in spite of personal hardships and the essential struggle of being a woman in a male-dominated society.
Eleanor Roosevelt, unlike Dorothy Day or Mary Baker Eddy, grew up a woman of privilege and lived largely in the lap of luxury throughout her life. As Wills notes, "She did not renounce wealth or position but used both to good purpose," (54). Capitalizing further on her White House connections, Eleanor Roosevelt has made for herself a name and legacy that few people cannot admire. While Dorothy Day and Mary Baker Eddy were not destitute, they did not experience the level of economic or political power that Roosevelt did. Moreover, both Mary Baker Eddy and Dorothy Day created enough controversy in their lives to warrant significant criticism from various camps. While Wills admits that Roosevelt too did and still does have critics on both the right and the left, the First Lady did and still does command respect. Eleanor Roosevelt, unlike Dorothy Day especially, was essentially asexual and prudish, probably due to her Victorian upbringing. However, these three women were nearly contemporaries and none of them would have experienced the full brunt of women's sexual liberation that occurred more than halfway through the twentieth century. In fact, all three of them struggled with their roles as women, as wives, and as mothers. Roosevelt married early and resented her dependency on her husband's family. She felt uncomfortable and inadequate as a mother too, for her children were in large part usurped by her in-laws, molded by them and cared for by strangers. Wills states that she felt "uneasy" as a mother, even as a "failure" in that role (57). Similarly, Eddy must have been supremely uneasy in the maternal role, as she gave up her only child for adoption when he was six years old. Dorothy Day also had a tumultuous time as a mother, being forced to leave the father of her child because he refused to marry her and the church refused to Baptize her unwed. Unlike Eddy or Roosevelt, Day had several affairs and numerous pregnancies including at least one abortion; yet like Roosevelt, she too was not completely liberated and disdained lesbian behavior, which she witnessed while in jail. None of these women found comfort or solace in traditional female roles as wives or mothers, yet each channeled their maternal energies into their respective projects.
Like Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Baker Eddy was caught at the crossroads of Victorianism and modernity. For Roosevelt, however, this fork in the road was felt purely on a secular level, as most if not all of her endeavors were political, not religious, in nature. Eddy, on the other hand, thrived on the newly emerging spiritualities that attempted to offer deeper meaning to an increasingly rational world. Moreover, both Eddy and Roosevelt used illness as a means for self-discovery: Roosevelt dealt with her husband's condition while Eddy dealt with her own. In fact, both these women needed illness to motivate them. Eddy's sickness and injuries directly prompted her starting the Christian Science movement. Her interactions with Phineas Quimby and her exposure to trains of thought like animal magnetism and mesmerism led Eddy to spawn a new church that was rooted in pseudoscientific healing. Eleanor Roosevelt had little to do with such a spiritual reform movement, but her life's work cannot be easily separated from that of her husband, who was bound to a wheelchair. Dorothy Day was not as affected by physical illnesses or setbacks as either of the other two women were.
If Eleanor Roosevelt remains a supremely strong female secular leader, both Mary Baker Eddy and Dorothy Day emerge as eminently powerful female spiritual leaders. Eddy founded her won church, which still survives till this day and which publishes one of the more respected secular newspapers, the Christian Science Monitor. In fact, all three of these women used the power of the written word to affect change. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote her own books, speeches and articles. Eddy published books and wrote poetry. Day was involved with socialist and Catholic periodicals such as Commonweal and started the Catholic-Communist paper Catholic Worker. If Roosevelt epitomizes the secular reform leader and Eddy the church reform leader, then Day straddles both these roles as the saintly leader. Her political activism does not outshine her devotion to a certain brand of Catholicism and vice-versa. More than either Roosevelt or Eddy, Day combined elements of political activism and spirituality in her role as a leader.
Dorothy Day was undeniably a radical. She befriended radicals, admired them, and went to jail with them. She espoused communist and socialist beliefs, protested against McCarthyism and nuclear proliferation, and participated in hunger strikes in jail. However, she denounced promiscuity, drugs, and homosexuality and fell short of being a totally liberal radical. Her devotion to the Catholic Church proves and supports this and Day showed a remarkable ability to mix and mingle her traditional Catholic beliefs with her radical political and social views. Similarly, Eleanor Roosevelt sympathized with those whose lives differed from hers; she promoted social welfare programs under her husband's New Deal and proudly stood up for the rights of minorities and the poor. Roosevelt remained, though, conservative in many ways. In fact, all three of these women combined radicalism with conservatism, albeit in different ways. Eddy actually prosecuted a man for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, allegedly of using "Malicious Animal Magnetism." This anachronistic fallback to the early days of American social and religious realities conflicts with her forward-thinking ideals about religion. After all, Eddy proposed a linguistic reform of Christianity, praying to a gender neutral God. It seems, based on the often contradictory actions, and lives of these three women, that all were at the mercy of shifting gender roles and the subsequent confusion that accompanied that shift.
Dorothy Day engaged in and promoted activities that Eleanor Roosevelt would have decried. She was a perpetually moderate reformist who did not believe that breaking the law was a legitimate form of social protest. Although she was not afraid to boldly disagree with her husband's policies or those of other White House officials or politicians, Eleanor Roosevelt used rational, balanced tactics to show dissent and cause change. Moreover, she did not mean to overthrow the economic structure, but to make it more responsive to human need (63). Her responsiveness to the needs of the poor and of disenfranchised minorities was grounded in the overarching American political, social, and economic system. Hence, Wills categorizes Roosevelt as a reform leader, one who re-forms existing institutions without tearing them down completely. On the other hand, Dorothy Day embraced radical politics and socialism and favored a more total transformation. Her championing of workers' rights was inherently subversive, as were her willing bouts with the authorities. Moreover, her radical social and political views were backed up by religious zeal and what Wills characterizes as saintliness. Day did not tout herself as…[continue]
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