Nancy Cook

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Nancy Cook with Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1934

Nancy Cook (August 26, 1884 – August 16, 1962) was an American suffragette, teacher, part owner of the Todhunter School and an intimate of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Birth and early life[edit]

Born in Massena, New York she attended Syracuse University from which she was graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1912.

Career[edit]

She taught first at Fulton, New York, where she taught art and handicrafts to high school students from 1913 to 1918. It was here that she again met Syracuse classmate Marion Dickerman, who taught arts and handicrafts at the same School. These two women become lifelong partners, spending almost their entire adult lives together.

Her respect for Woodrow Wilson's vision overcame her strong antiwar sentiments and she and Dickerman both became active in the Red Cross. As Dickerman later recounted, they "really believed this was a war to end wars and make the world safe for democracy." In 1918, they both traveled to London to assist the women-staffed Endell Street Military Hospital and "scrub floors or perform whatever other chores were required." Cook would, with less than two weeks training, begin to make artificial limbs for soldiers that had lost an arm or a leg.

Cook, who had never felt teaching to be her element, was delighted when Harriet Hay Mills, asked Cook if she would accept the position as executive secretary of the Women's Division of the State Democratic Committee, a post she would hold for nineteen years. She held key responsibility in Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt's gubernatorial and presidential campaigns.

Cook and Dickerman became frequent guests of the Roosevelts. The three women, with FDR's encouragement, built Stone Cottage at Val-Kill, on the banks of the FallKill creek. Cook and Dickerman made this their year around home and Eleanor had her own room, although she rarely spent the night. Cook, an expert woodworker, made all furniture. Towels, linens, and various household items were monogrammed "EMN", intertwining the three women's initials. In 1927, Cook helped start Val-Kill Industries, whose daily operations she would manage until the business closed.

Thrilled with FDR's victory, Cook and Dickerman found it difficult to understand Eleanor's anxiety over her role as first lady. By 1936, when Val-Kill Industries dissolved, Eleanor moved out of the Stone Cottage she shared with Cook and Dickerman and had the factory building remodeled.

Lorena Hickok took an active dislike to Dickerman and this started to unravel the relationship between the three. Dickerman and Cook continued to live in Stone Cottage until after Franklin D. Roosevelt's death in 1945. They sold all interest in the Val-Kill property to Eleanor in 1947 when they moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, where Dickerman became the educational programming director for the Marine Museum.

Cook lived there with Dickerman, her life partner, until her death.

References[edit]