The saga of two strong women who built lives in America—culminating in a fateful dinner with Eleanor Roosevelt.
Dinner With Eleanor is the story of Helen Niemtzow Pratt. In the early part of the twentieth century, Helen’s grandmother, Hannah, is disgraced after a divorce. She leaves the comfort of her family in Russia to build a new life in Philadelphia. Two generations later, her granddaughter, Helen, is the first women in her architecture school class. Her beauty and intellect attract a scion from one of America’s prominent families. But, before they can wed, history’s most influential first lady must approve the union.
While the title refers to a pivotal moment in Helen’s young life, the book details how Helen came to have dinner with America’s beloved first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.
Helen Niemtzow Pratt was born in Philadelphia in 1938, and raised in Freehold, NJ. Helen was celebrated in high school for having the highest math aptitude in Monmouth County. She attended Bryn Mawr College, where she received a BA in Archaeology. She was the first woman to graduate from University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Architecture in 1964, where she studied under Louis Kahn and Romaldo Giurgola. She married fellow architecture student, Roger Sherman Pratt, in 1962. They had two daughters, but the marriage ended in 1973. Helen raised her girls in Philadelphia, practiced architecture, and went on to write several other books, including Helen’s Odyssey and Aristotle and Alexander. She married Eli Pritzker in 1988, and they live in Philadelphia with their cat, Thomas.
"I found solace in reading Dinner with Eleanor. It brought me back to my humble beginnings in Jamaica and my own immigration to America. Just like Channah, my daugher Tiffany and I found ourselves in Philadelphia. Everything was new and foreign, and it was bitterly cold. But we had prayed for it, and I was determined to make the best of it."
– Rosalie Snape-Anderson
"While my journey from Lebanon was a lot easier than Channah's, Helen's story reminded me that in America anything is possible, even dinner with a former First Lady. It truly is the land of opportunity for all of us."