Roosevelt, Dorothy Kemp, 1899?-1985

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Political activist, concert pianist, sister-in-law of Eleanor Roosevelt.

From the description of Dorothy Kemp Roosevelt papers, 1922-1985. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34419327

Second wife of Hall Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt's brother.

From the description of Papers, 1926-1962. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155525233

Dorothy Kemp Roosevelt, political activist, concert pianist, and sister-in-law of Eleanor Roosevelt, was born in October 1898. Her father, Ulysses Grant Kemp, died several months earlier, after being thrown from a horse while training troops for the Spanish-American War. After this unfortunate accident, her mother, the daughter of Amelia Francis and Harry Hopkins, took Dorothy and her sister Amy to live in Detroit with their maternal grandmother and her second husband, Ralph L. Polk. He was founder of the national city directory and direct mail companies of the same name.

Received into the Polk family, Dorothy started studying the piano at the age of five and violin at the age of ten. She studied in Detroit, New York, and at the American Conservatoire at Fontainebleau, France in 1922. Shortly thereafter, she began delivering concert performances and teaching piano. Former Governor G. Mennen Williams was among her early students.

In February 1925, she married G. Hall Roosevelt, the brother of Eleanor Roosevelt. Hall, who came to Detroit in 1922, worked first in the sales department of General Electric, next became a vice-president of the Eastern Michigan Railways and then vice-president of the American State Bank, and later was appointed city controller by Mayor Frank Murphy. After G. Hall Roosevelt left his family in March 1931, Dorothy and her three daughters, Amy, Diana, and Janet, shared a house with Dorothy's mother.

Throughout the Depression Years, Dorothy continued her music career. At the invitation of her sister-in-law, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy made two concert appearances at the White House; as a piano soloist at a musicale in the East Room in 1935 and in a two piano program in 1940. In 1938, she performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., under the direction of Hans Kindler.

In June 1940, Dorothy Roosevelt accepted the position of State Supervisor of the Works Projects Administration Music Project. Later she became Director of the Professional and Service Division of the WPA. From June 1941 to July 1942, Dorothy served as Director of the Wayne County Community Service Department of the WPA. In 1942, Dorothy was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the Seventeenth District, which was then composed of Oakland County and Northwestern Wayne County, including part of Detroit. The first woman to win a primary in Michigan, Dorothy came within 5,000 votes of defeating Royal Oak Republican George Dondero, a five-term incumbent.

From 1943 to 1945, at the request of labor leader Victor Reuther, Dorothy served on the War Production Board in Detroit as a specialist of women's problems in war industries. In this capacity, she worked for adequate restroom facilities and child care for working women. When need for the War Production Board declined, she became Director of the Michigan Citizens Committee, and worked with future Lieutenant Governor Martha Griffiths to continue programs initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dorothy was also a founder of the Birmingham-Bloomfield chapter of the League of Women Voters and served on G. Mennen Williams' Cultural Commission.

From the guide to the Dorothy Kemp Roosevelt Papers, 1922-1985, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949. Papers, 1908-1949 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf Roosevelt, Dorothy Kemp, 1898-1985. Dorothy Kemp Roosevelt papers, 1922-1985. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Dorothy Kemp Roosevelt Papers, 1922-1985 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Blair Moody Papers, 1928-1954, 1934-1952 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf Roosevelt, Dorothy Kemp, 1898-1985. Papers, 1926-1962. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Mann, Thomas, 1875-1955. person
associatedWith Moody, Blair, 1902-1954 person
associatedWith Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949 person
associatedWith Polk, Ralph L. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Amy. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962. person
associatedWith Roosevelt family. family
associatedWith Roosevelt, Hall, 1891-1941. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Janet. person
associatedWith United States. Congress corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y.)
Voyages and travels
Women in politics
Women travelers
Christmas cards


Birth 1899

Death 1985



Ark ID: w6gj2t8z

SNAC ID: 21515045