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Who was Eleanor Roosevelt?

Updated on December 3, 2016

Eleanor Roosevelt was an American humanitarian and wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Born Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, at New York, N.Y., October 11, 1884.

Eleanor Roosevelt was born to wealth and social position. Her parents died when she was young, and she was raised by her grandmother. Plain and painfully shy, she was sent to England to study when she was 15. In 1902 she returned for her social debut, and three years later she married a distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She was given in marriage by her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, then President of the United States.

During the first years of her marriage, Eleanor was the conventional wife of an aspiring public official.

She bore six children, one of whom died in infancy. Her life changed abruptly when her husband was stricken with poliomyelitis in 1921. Determined that he should regain his former interest in political affairs, she herself became active in the League of Women Voters, the Women's Trade Union League, and the Democratic Party. She built a factory in 1926 to employ disabled men and bought the Todhunter School for Girls, where she taught history and current events.

Franklin Roosevelt was elected governor of New York in 1928, and Eleanor continued to be actively involved in public affairs. When he became President in 1933, she initiated a weekly press conference with women reporters. She began a daily newspaper column, My Day, in 1936. Emphasizing concern for the underprivileged, she was often criticized for her outspoken opinions on housing, education, health, and racial relations. Although she maintained that she did not influence her husband during his illness, she willingly served as his "legs and eyes." She investigated social conditions in the United States during the Great Depression and visited troops overseas during World War II. In 1941 and 1942 she was Assistant Director of Civilian Defense.

After President Roosevelt died, President Harry S. Truman appointed her a U.S. delegate to the United Nations in 1945. She headed the Commission on Human Rights and worked tirelessly for peace. She resigned from her UN post in 1952, but she was reappointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. In the intervening years she campaigned for Adlai Stevenson and, in 1959, joined insurgent Democrats in New York City to fight Tammany Hall. Because of her sympathetic concern for all peoples, Eleanor Roosevelt came to be called the First Lady of the World.

Eleanor Roosevelt died in New York on November 7, 1962.

Among her many books are This Is My Story (1937) and This I Remember (1949). Biographical studies of her include Joseph Lash's highly acclaimed Eleanor and Franklin (Norton, 1971) and Eleanor: The Years Alone (Norton, 1972).


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    • Hubography profile image

      Hubography 8 years ago

      One of a kind. No wonder she became known as not only the First Lady of America but First Lady of the World.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile image

      Rose Kolowinski 8 years ago

      She was a great lady and a great public servant. Too bad the time period she lived in was not amenable to a woman president. Nice hub. I will definitely be reading more.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Oh, good hub. I just became your fan. Concise, interesting, well-written. Who could ask for more?