On this day in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomes approximately 4,000 women attending a women’s division meeting of the Democratic National Committee to Washington D.C. He and his wife Eleanor’s plans to host the event at the White House, however, had to be modified at the last minute, as they had originally expected only 100 guests.
The leadership of this women’s political advocacy group, which included Eleanor, took advantage of FDR’s generous offer to host the meeting at the White House. FDR’s openness to the idea, originally Eleanor’s, reflected his support for women’s political advocacy. In fact, FDR frequently consulted Eleanor on policy matters. FDR initially had agreed to meet the Democratic women’s division in the Executive Office in order to shake hands and have “a little informal chat.” Three weeks before the conference, Eleanor learned that some 600 members planned to attend the conference and suggested they move the reception to the larger White House East Room.
When thousands of women showed up in Washington, D.C. for the DNC conference a few days before the scheduled meeting of the women’s division at the White House, it completely surprised the Roosevelts and their White House staff. Deciding that the gathering would be too large to host at the White House, FDR instead invited the women to meet with him after attending conference activities elsewhere. Documents recounting that day do not reveal exactly how many women showed up at the White House on May 3, nor where on the grounds FDR addressed them. They do reveal, however, that after welcoming the women, he invited them for an informal tour of the mansion with a warm “Come on in!”