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Eleanor Roosevelt was my Plan 'foster parent'

Eleanor Roosevelt with 3 Plan-sponsored children

Eleanor Roosevelt being visited by 3 Plan-sponsored children in 1942
Photo credit: Plan Archives, University of Rhode Island

9 December 2010: A former Plan-sponsored child has taken part in a BBC documentary about her Second World War correspondence with her famous ‘foster parent’ - America’s First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Paulette Le Mescam, who is now 78 and lives on the Channel Island of Guernsey, used to write to the White House every week after she was evacuated from the island to Moseley Hall in Cheshire, UK.

She was 7 years old, and one of 1,200 children rescued from Guernsey in 1940, just hours before the island was occupied. 

Enrolled on the ‘Foster Parent Plan for War Children’ scheme (later to be renamed Plan), each child was allocated an American sponsor who would send them letters and parcels each month. Her ‘foster parent’ turned out to be Eleanor Roosevelt - the wife of the then President, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

White House letters

Paulette sent letters to the White House about her life, as well as drawings and pictures. In return, Eleanor Roosevelt told Paulette about life in the White House and sent presents of clothes, chocolate and food parcels.

Paulette says: “I used to get lots of presents from Mrs. Roosevelt and the President - there was a lovely red dress and things like Lux soap which had a beautiful smell.”

Sadly, just one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s original letters remains in Pauline’s possession, in which she explains how impressed she is that Paulette is learning shorthand, describing it as ‘a splendid thing to know and one can almost always obtain work at it’.

Heart-warming discovery

However, while researching the story, the BBC team discovered that The Roosevelt Archive in America has kept copies of all the letters and drawings Paulette wrote to America’s First Lady.

The pictures include a drawing of an owl with the words ‘Why don’t you copy this wise old bird?’ written underneath - innocent words of advice from 7-year-old Paulette to Mrs. Roosevelt and her husband during one of the most turbulent times in world history.

In the documentary, Paulette returns to Moseley Hall for the first time in 65 years, where she is presented with the letters and pictures she sent to Eleanor Roosevelt over 70 years ago.

Watch the ‘Inside Out’ documentary on the BBC iplayer website (available until Monday 13 December).

View a slideshow on the BBC website.

Learn about Plan’s history.