Born October 11, 1884
Died November 7, 1962
Married Franklin Delano Roosevelt March 17, 1905
Six Children: Anna, Franklin Jr. (died in infancy), James,
Elliott, Franklin Jr. and John.
was the favorite niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Al- though born into a prominent family, she endured a troubled
childhood and often experienced life as a shy and inadequate
outsider. Her beautiful mother, Anna, who died when Eleanor
was eight, called her "Granny" and told her,
"You have no looks, see to it that you have manners."
After her alcoholic father Elliott died when she was ten
years old, her dour grandmother sent her to boarding school
in London during her teenage years. There she developed
a life-long fondness for England.
When Eleanor returned home, she was thrilled and amazed
that her distant cousin, the handsome and confident Franklin
Roosevelt, began to court her. Despite the objections of
his overbearing mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor and
Franklin became engaged in 1903. When they married on St.
Patrick’s Day in 1905 in a townhouse off Fifth Avenue,
Eleanor’s Uncle Ted gave her away. Although she was
uncomfortable with child-rearing, Eleanor bore six children
over the next eleven years.
Eleanor became a dutiful political wife, supporting her
husband as a New York State senator from 1910 to 1913 and
then as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in Washington DC
from 1913 until 1920. When he was struck with poliomyelitis
in 1921, she nursed him devotedly and then encouraged him
to lead an active political life- even fighting his mother
who wanted him to retire to the quiet of Hyde Park.
Pursuing her own identity through involvement in women’s
issues, Eleanor became an active Democrat and advocated
better working conditions for women, the abolition of child
labor, supported birth control, championed adequate housing
and world peace. Eleanor made considerable income from radio
shows, lectures, and magazine articles. With a group of
feminist friends, she founded Val-Kill Industries, which
provided jobs for people to make furniture, and the liberal
Todhunter School in Manhattan.
After her husband became governor of New York in 1928, Eleanor
became Franklin’s eyes and ears- reporting on social
conditions in the state and the nation. At first, when Franklin
Roosevelt ran for president in 1932, she dreaded the social
responsibilities. "I did not want my husband to be
president," Eleanor later declared. "It was
pure selfishness on my part, and I never mentioned my feelings
on the subject to him." She believed that her role
as First Lady would signal "the end of any personal
life of my own." However, in the White House she transformed
the role of First Lady by holding press conferences, traveling
ceaselessly to examine how her husband’s New Deal
policies were affecting the nation, and by expressing her
frank opinions in a daily syndicated newspaper column, "My
Day." In the 1930s, Franklin and Eleanor worked closely
together to bring America out of the Depression by improving
economic, social, and working conditions for the nation.
She won widespread respect for her compassion, integrity,
and courage- often serving as the conscience of her husband’s
administration. Her favorite motto was "You must do
the thing you cannot do."
After America entered the Second World War against the dictators
in Europe and Asia in 1941, Eleanor took on the role of
a "universal mother" while visiting U.S. troops
at home and abroad. In the fall of 1942, Queen Elizabeth
invited the First Lady to England where she could observe
the British women’s contribution to the war effort,
and visit U.S. troops. Even Winston Churchill, with whom
she often clashed, acknowledged her extraordinary impact
on Great Britain. The next year she comforted and encouraged
American troops on a lonely and depressing tour of war zones
in the South Pacific.
When she became a widow in April 1945, she told a reporter
that "the story is over." But that December,
she accepted President Truman’s appointment as the
only female delegate to the United Nations. In her seven
years at the United Nations she headed the commission that
created the first international bill of rights, The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, supported both the founding
of the state of Israel and the independence of India, and
took a stand against communist despots. In the 1940s and
1950s, as she traveled the world working indefatigably for
social justice and international peace, President Truman
dubbed her "First Lady of the World."
In her last years, Eleanor had focused her energies on encouraging
younger people: "I think perhaps one of the things
to be desired in old age is the power to acquire new interests
and to meet whatever situation comes with a gallantry which
makes people feel that you are conferring a privilege on
them when you share a little of your life with them."
Only in 1962 did she begin to lose her extraordinary drive
and energy. When she died in November of that year, she
was buried beside her husband at Hyde Park. Four American
presidents were among the mourners at her funeral. After
her death former President Truman nominated her for the