The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


HYDE PARK, Monday—The other day I lunched in New York City with Mrs. Lewis Thompson of Red Bank, N.J., an old friend of mine who had just returned from a trip to Boston where she had attended some of the hearings on the dismissal of Dr. Miriam Van Waters from the Framingham Reformatory. Mrs. Thompson remarked that it had seemed a most extraordinary exhibition of calm and poise where Dr. Van Waters was concerned, and that she had come away with a feeling that this was not the trial of a woman but of her accusers.

In the mail the following day I received a letter from a Miss Miriam Clark Nichols, whom the Boston Evening American correspondent terms a Beacon Hill socialite. Miss Nichols evidently had written an open letter to me in answer to one I had written to Dr. Van Waters' attorney. In it she says that this trial has nothing to do with upholding modern, scientific methods in the reformatory, but concerns the actual breaking of the law by Dr. Van Waters.

This letter reached me after it had appeared in the newspapers, and at the same time I received a letter from another Massachusetts woman whom I do not know and who also lives in Boston.

She writes: "I am sure that you will discount the letter from Miss Nichols, who in her great zeal for upholding the law, forgets entirely the more important law of obeying the basic Christian principles of rehabilitation."

In all this, of course, I am unable to judge the rights and wrongs in the details, but the public hearings should bring out whether there has been any actual breaking of the law by anyone. I can only say that the people interested in the field of penology have long known Dr. Van Waters and both here and abroad the Framingham Reformatory and the methods used there have been considered humane, scientific and successful.

The fact that a state reformatory employs someone with a prison record does not seem to me extraordinary. If rehabilitation is to be effective at all, the state that frees an individual and carries on rehabilitation should be one of the most willing employers. States hardly could expect individuals to employ people whom they had released if they themselves were not willing to do so.

I hope for the sake of the Democratic party that none of its officials is considering this question with the slightest political bias. I have no idea to what party, if any, Dr. Van Waters may belong, but the position of head of this reformatory should be given with regard to ability and character. No political questions should be involved.

My faith in Dr. Van Waters is quite unshaken, and I have read the questions and answers at the hearings as they appeared in one of the Massachusetts newspapers. Some of the questions seem shocking, but the answers are straightforward and completely satisfactory.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Nichols, Miriam Clark [ index ]
         American socialite, social activist, and community organizer
  • Thompson, Geraldine Livingston Morgan, 1872-1967 [ index ]
         American social worker and social reformist
         [ ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC ]
  • Van Waters, Miriam, 1887-1974 [ index ]
         American feminist, prison administrator, reformer, and social worker
         [ LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST | ANB ]
  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 25, 1949

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | LC | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | Wikidata | SNAC ]

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.