Eleanor Roosevelt visits Middleboro

Aug 2, 2023

MIDDLEBORO—The Middleboro Public Library was transformed into a summer evening picnic in the 1940s at Val-kill, one of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt’s homes, on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

Eleanor Roosevelt, portrayed by Carol Cohen, opened her picnic to the public to teach about victory gardens.

Victory gardens were planted for Americans to assist with World War II. By cultivating homegrown fruits and vegetables, more food rations could be used for the war effort.

“I cannot take credit for the idea of victory gardens,” Roosevelt explained. “It was what I learned from my dear friend Edith Wilson back in the early 1900s when she was First Lady.”

The Wilson Administration had created the idea of a White House garden during World War I, which Roosevelt continued and based the Victory Gardens on.

Roosevelt also told stories about how she gained her love for gardening — by visiting her Uncle Teddy Roosevelt and learning about the fragility of life through the gardens.

“Uncle Teddy would take me into the garden and we would sit under a large elm tree,” she said. “He introduced me to vegetable gardening. … They allowed me to stay into the fall and help with the harvest.”

Audience members filled the seats and embraced the roles of the former First Lady’s friends and family to create an immersive picnic experience.

Following the visit from Roosevelt, Cohen gave a presentation on Val-kill and Roosevelt’s gardens.

Cohen said she decided to begin portraying Roosevelt after teaching a history class at Lesley University in Cambridge. An assignment for her students was to act as a historical figure and Cohen decided to take it outside of the classroom for herself.

“I think it just important to understand a woman who sacrificed so much for America,” Cohen said about Roosevelt. “She has never been more important than she is today.”