Deborah Gardner, Working Group Member
Deborah, a founding member of the NYC Working Group, grew up in a New Deal-oriented household. Her mother went to Hunter College and her father went to City College, which were tuition free back then. Both came of age during the 1930s, and both benefited from the institutions of higher learning that helped many first- and second-generation immigrants move up in the world.
In graduate school, Deborah studied American history and architectural history. One of her most important mentors outside the university was the late, great Margot Gayle, who founded Friends of Cast-Iron Architecture, spearheaded landmarking efforts in Soho, and taught her how to do a walking tour.
Since then, she has served on the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Preservation Committee of the Municipal Arts Society, and is a member of several other local and national preservation groups. She has authored articles and books on many topics, including the history of the Roosevelts in New York.
She is Historian & Curator for Hunter College’s Roosevelt House—a double townhouse located at 47-49 East 65th Street that was Franklin and Eleanor’s family home from 1908 to 1942. Now known as Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter, the property underwent extensive renovation from 2008 to 2010 and then reopened with classes, public programs, and conferences. Since then, Deborah has produced numerous exhibitions in that gracious space, including:
- “My Most Important Task”: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Women Take the Lead: From Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Eleanor Roosevelt, Suffrage to Human Rights
- A Lens on FDR’s New Deal: Photographs by Arthur Rothstein (current)
See these and other exhibits at roosevelthouse.hunter.cuny.edu/exhibits.
Deborah describes her work at Roosevelt House as deeply satisfying as an historian making the past relevant and also fulfilling a family legacy.
She’s the proud owner of a complete set of WPA State Guides. When traveling around the country, she is always looking for New Deal sites, and she relies on the Guides in that quest. Warm weather finds her paddling an old-fashioned wood-and-canvas canoe in Maine, an echo of FDR’s use of birchbark canoes at his vacation home on Campobello Island off the Maine coast.