Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt

Born: Oct 11, 1884 in New York City, NY
Died: Nov 7, 1962 (at age 78) in New York City, NY
Nationality: American
Famous For: First Lady for four terms

While many first ladies are commemorated for their focus on human rights, one of the most famous, and most outspoken, wives of a president was Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. Wed to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt led a very active role in the fight for human rights and women’s rights.

Her upbringing was filled with loss, but her life was full, and she had a large family and actively participated in her husband’s politics, something that was not common for women at that time.

Becoming a First Lady

Eleanor Roosevelt’s birth name was actually Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, and she was a niece of Theodore Roosevelt. She was born in New York City October 11, 1884. By the young age of ten, she had tragically lost both of her parents. After a few years of private tutoring, Eleanor then went off to a finishing school in England at the age of 15.

Shortly after her return to the US in 1902, Eleanor met her future husband and distant cousin, Franklin Roosevelt. Despite Franklin’s clear opposition to the union, the two married in 1905 and Eleanor was given away by the then-president, Theodore Roosevelt.

A few years after the birth of their first two children (Eleanor bore six total), Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with polio in 1921 that left his legs paralyzed. Despite his mother urging him to retire, Eleanor convinced Franklin to stay in politics. Eleanor herself also became more immersed in politics and her marriage quickly became a simple political union.

Life Before the White House

With numerous rumors of affairs, lovers, and flings outside of the marriage on both sides, both Eleanor and Franklin focused on politics. Eleanor, especially after her husband’s polio affliction, often made public appearances for her husband and even began working with the WTUL (the Women’s Trade Union League) which worked to maintain a normal work week, a set minimum wage, and to get rid of child labor.

Just before her husband became president, Eleanor worked as a teacher at a girl’s finishing school named the Todhunter School for Girls. She taught literature and history classes there while striving to encourage women to be more independent and up-to-date with current events.

Leadership as a First Lady

In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt became president and Eleanor was quite reluctant at first at the prospect. However, she realized that she could use the new title as a way to further promote women’s independence and rights. This gave her a platform to continue making lectures and speeches. Despite making around $75k annually around those years, she donated almost all of it to various charities.

A large project for Eleanor as First Lady was the Arthurdale project. This consisted of thousands of displaced miners in West Virginia whom she visited and worked with her husband on to get them proper housing. Despite the miners insisting on segregated housing, they completed the project and Eleanor then began to work on racism issues. She was one of the only voices present at the White House to speak up for African American rights.

Post-White House Years

Franklin died in 1945, spurring Eleanor to move out of the White House. She was then appointed as a UN delegate by Truman until she stepped down in 1953. Later, she was encouraged by many to run for various political offices, however she continued to work for various organizations, including the Peace Corps, until she passed away in 1962.