Eleanor Roosevelt was the first lady to Franklin D. Roosevelt and an outspoken civil rights activist. She is credited with paving the way for the women’s rights movement and revolutionized the way the First Lady is perceived in the White House. Additionally, she served with the United Nations and wrote a number of inspirational books.
In the Beginning
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884 in the cultural capital of the United States: New York City. She was no stranger to government as she was the niece of then President Theodore Roosevelt, a legend in his own right. One might be surprised to find that Eleanor was a rather shy child, especially given her outspoken nature later in life. Her mother died in 1892, and her father followed suit two years later. If not for being sent for education in England, Eleanor might never have become the outspoken, confident civil rights symbol that she was near the end of her life. Her experiences in England most definitely shaped her and changed the way she carried herself. The 1900’s were the beginning of a new era with the introduction of automobiles by Henry Ford, and Eleanor herself began a new chapter by marrying her distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt. They had six children: Franklin, James, Anna, Elliot, John, and Franklin Delano Junior. Unfortunately, Franklin died as an infant, but it did not deter the Roosevelts from leading a semi-normal home life. Eleanor became a public servant during the First World War by pitching in at the American Red Cross – a vital service for the United States military.
In 1921, things took a turn for the worse when Eleanor’s husband suffered from a polio attack, but she took the initiative and began to help bolster his political career. A little over a decade later, in 1933, Franklin was elected to the nation’s highest office, and Eleanor took the opportunity to redefine what the first lady should be capable of. She participated in a number of different activities including press conferences, and even helped the League of Women Voters. Additionally, she started a newspaper column titled: “My Day." While she would later be regarded as a pioneer in women’s civil rights, she was at the time regarded as a bit of a pariah, with many speaking out against the active role she had decided to take in her government. She was, however, one of the first public officials to use the mass media to bring attention to what would be considered important issues. Life became even more interesting for Eleanor following the death of her husband who unfortunately passed on April 12, 1945. At that time Eleanor had decided that her career in public service would come to an end, stating that the "Story is over" when she spoke to an interviewer. But from 1945 to 1953, she took up the position of delegate to the UN General Assembly. In addition to that she aided in the penning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Most Known For
Eleanor is most known for her contribution to the civil rights movement before and after her husband’s presidency. In addition to that she published a number of books including ‘This is My Story’ in 1937 which spawned the now famous quote: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’. She was without a doubt one of the most outspoken women to reside at the White House, and was considered to be a great humanitarian. She is also one of the most memorable first ladies in history, paving the way for not only better civil rights, but also the women’s suffrage movement that ultimately gave women the same rights as men.
Eleanor Roosevelt succumbed to cancer in 1962, having aged seventy-eight years. She is buried at the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a national historic site located in Hyde Park, New York.