"A thousand thanks and kisses," Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to her mother-in-law from Germany. "I feel as though we would have such a long arrears of kisses and cuddly times to make up when we get home."

The year was 1905. Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt were on their honeymoon, trotting around Europe, buying dresses, furs, linens, rare books and antiques. They were hobnobbing with the great and near-great, but they never forgot to write to Mama. Sara Delano Roosevelt had tried to break up her son's romance with Eleanor; nevertheless, she was an indulgent mother and a friend in time of...

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