On her husband’s behalf, Eleanor Roosevelt made a campaign stop in Montville Township. She spoke at the Senior House on Nov. 14, sharing stories about her life. Never mind that the calendar says it is 2011. on this night, in this room, it was 1935 and Franklin Roosevelt was seeking his second term as President and the Social Security Act had just been passed. Mrs. Roosevelt told the audience that she is never surprised when people ask her husband to talk, but is always surprised when she is asked since she holds no political office. She was born in New York on Oct. 11, 1884. Her father was Elliott Roosevelt, the brother of Theodore. Her mother was a socialite. A Thanksgiving visit with her father and grandfather to a club for homeless boys made an impression on the then 6-year-old Eleanor. Even at such a young age, she understood that she was very fortunate and during her life she would do much more to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Her own childhood would not remain so idyllic. When she was 8, her mother died from diphtheria and a brother died six months later from the same disease. Her father died two years later. After her mother’s death, Eleanor and her brothers were sent to live with their maternal grandmother. She was rather isolated and unhappy. As was her mother’s wishes, when Eleanor was 15, she was sent to Allenswood, a girl’s boarding school outside of London. Here, she thrived and did well academically and was popular. During her talk in Montville, Eleanor noted that the school’s head mistress, Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre, took her traveling in Europe and instilled in her a strong sense of independence. At 18, this happy period in her life ended. Eleanor had to return to the United States to fulfill her social obligations, namely to be introduced to society and find a husband. The debutante ball did not produce any suitors. Eleanor told the Montville audience that this was fine. Eleanor turned her attention to social causes, teaching immigrant children how to dance at the Rivington Street Settlement House. The father of one of her students, Maria, wanted to thank Eleanor for the lessons and invited her to their home. The living arrangements were, according to Eleanor, “dreadful,” but in Maria’s eyes, Eleanor could see that the “veil had been lifted,” and the child could see a life beyond her circumstances. It was a moment that Eleanor long remembered. Eventually, Eleanor was reacquainted with her distant cousin, Franklin, and the two were betrothed. His mother was not pleased. In time, she did warm up to Eleanor, but in the early years, the mother-in-law was very domineering. She chose their first home in New York City, one that was connected to her own home, giving her easy access to the young couple. She chose the décor and hired the staff. Years later, when Eleanor threatened to divorce Franklin after learning of his affair with her social secretary, it was Sara Delano Roosevelt who objected. Eleanor said from this, the marriage became a non-traditional partnership. Eleanor went on to see Franklin through poliomyelitis and paralysis, was at his side when he was governor of New York and President of the United States, visiting places he could not and speaking out on social causes and human rights. Concluding her talk in Montville, Eleanor said, “One can learn to overcome obstacles.” She implored the crowd to “live widely and fully,” noting, “it is after all, your birthright.” Of course, Eleanor Roosevelt was not actually in Montville. She was portrayed by Rene Goodwin for the program, “Eleanor Roosevelt: A New Woman,” presented by the Montville Township Historic Society and funded by the Horizon’s Speakers Bureau of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment of the Humanities. Goodwin is part of the American Historical Theatre of Philadelphia. Goodwin never broke from character, not even during the question-and-answer session that followed. The audience responded in kind by addressing questions to Eleanor Roosevelt circa 1935.