The Three Graces of Val-Kill

Eleanor Roosevelt, Marion Dickerman, and Nancy Cook in the Place They Made Their Own

By Emily Herring Wilson

232 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 30 halftones, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3583-5
    Published: September 2017
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7429-2
    Published: February 2023
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3584-2
    Published: August 2017
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5512-1
    Published: August 2017

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The Three Graces of Val-Kill changes the way we think about Eleanor Roosevelt. Emily Wilson examines what she calls the most formative period in Roosevelt's life, from 1922 to 1936, when she cultivated an intimate friendship with Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook, who helped her build a cottage on the Val-Kill Creek in Hyde Park on the Roosevelt family land. In the early years, the three women—the "three graces," as Franklin Delano Roosevelt called them—were nearly inseparable and forged a female-centered community for each other, for family, and for New York's progressive women. Examining this network of close female friends gives readers a more comprehensive picture of the Roosevelts and Eleanor's burgeoning independence in the years that marked Franklin's rise to power in politics.

Wilson takes care to show all the nuances and complexities of the women's relationship, which blended the political with the personal. Val-Kill was not only home to Eleanor Roosevelt but also a crucial part of how she became one of the most admired American political figures of the twentieth century. In Wilson's telling, she emerges out of the shadows of monumental histories and documentaries as a woman in search of herself.

About the Author

Emily Herring Wilson resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is author of No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence and coauthor of North Carolina Women: Making History.
For more information about Emily Herring Wilson, visit the Author Page.


"For general readers, especially those interested in feminist biography. Those curious about the history and landscape of the Hudson Valley will also appreciate this detailed view of the little cottage on Fall-Kill Creek and its environs."—Library Journal

"The Three Graces of Val-Kill is a welcome addition to the books and memoirs about the Roosevelt family, providing a fresh look at Eleanor through the home she shared with Nan Cook and Marion Dickerman."—Susan Ware, author of Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports

"For me, Wilson's book counts as tough and wise, the best yet on the subject of Val-Kill's genesis and history; beautifully written, too."—Eleanor (Ellie) R. Seagraves, eldest grandchild of Eleanor Roosevelt