[Eleanor Roosevelt is such a hero of mine, I’m thrilled to write this bio.]
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people”
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
“No one can make you fell inferior without your consent.”
“Remember always: That you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.”
“You must do the thing you think you can not do.”
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA in 1884. Today is the 128th anniversary of her birth.
She was the niece of one US president and the wife of another. She grew up with immense wealth and great personal sorrow. She was a quiet, shy child, so serious that she was nicknamed “Granny”. Her mother died when she was eight of diphtheria. Just months later both her brothers contracted Scarlet fever, one, Elliot, died. Her father died two years later. Orphaned she went to live with her grandmother Mary Ludlow Hall. She was privately tutored until 15. Then she was sent to a finishing school near London, England called Allenswood. It was a progressive school where Eleanor was said to be studious but popular. At Allenswood she learned self-confidence.
Eleanor (she always preferred to be called by her middle name) was presented to society on December 14, 1902 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. As a young woman she volunteered with the New York Junior League and worked in the city’s slums. She taught dancing and calisthenics to children and was a member of the Consumers League (a group that investigated sweatshop conditions in the city.) It was a connection with the poor that she would continue through her life.
“During her time at Allenswood, Roosevelt came out of her shell of childhood loneliness and isolation. She thrived both academically and emotionally. ” [New World Encyclopedia]
When Franklin entered politics Eleanor became his partner in “it” as well. Her role shifted, “I simply knew that what we had to do we did, and that my job was to make it easy.” During World War I she “threw herself into wartime relief.” She worked for the Red Cross and helped with Navy Relief. Her work was outside the scope of what she had done to promote her husband’s career, and, she later noted “I … gained certain assurance as to my ability to run things, and the knowledge that there is joy in accomplishing good.” [The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project]
She had an infamously difficult relationship with her mother-in-law Sara Delano Roosevelt. Franklin was very attached to his mother and the lived in one of her houses. The tide turned when Franklin contracted Polio, Eleanor realized that she had to “stand on her own two feet in regards to her husband’s life, her own life and the rearing of her children. ” [Franklin d. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum]
Together she and Franklin had six children: Anna Eleanor, Jr. ; James (after Franklin’s father James); Franklin Delano, Jr (who died as an infant); Elliott (after Eleanor’s father); Franklin Delano, Jr (the second son named for Franklin); and John Aspinwall.
Although Eleanor never sought elected office she was surely America’s FIRST LADY.
“While she neither drafted legislation nor held elective office, she worked with other reformers outside and inside the administration to shape the contours of the New Deal.” [Franklin d. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum]
She also wrote a syndicated column “My Day” six days a week from 1935 til her death. It was her bully pulpit for social issues.
After Franklin’s death she was
“…Selected to be a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, serving from 1945 to 1953. She also became the chair of the UN’s Human Rights Commission. As a part of this commission, she helped to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” [Biography]
She wrote about her experiences in 1937’s This Is My Story; 1949’s This I Remember; 1958’s On My Own; and 1961’s Autobiography.
President Kennedy asked her to serve as chair of the Commission on the Status of Women and made her delegate to the UN in 1961.