Eleanor Roosevelt

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Biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, an American writer, diplomat and politician. It is considered one of the most influential leaders in the twentieth century.

She was first lady of the United States and president of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Childhood and family of Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in New York. Her parents were Elliot Roosevelt and Anna Hall Roosevelt.

Her father was the younger brother of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Eleanor was always Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite niece.

Teodore Aleanor roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Author, M.P.Rice

In 1886, when Eleanor was two years old, her mother died of diphtheria.

Her brother Elliot died in 1887. In 1888, her father also died.

Eleanor and her younger brother were welcomed by their maternal grandmother, Mary Ludlow Hall, who lived in Manhattan.

Eleanor was educated by private tutors until age 15.

Eleanor Roosevelt
A very young Eleanor Roosevelt. Credit: Wikipedia

In 1899, Grandma enrolled Eleanor at the Allenswood Academy, a boarding school for girls, in London.

With the help of the director, she managed to overcome her shyness and achieve great self-confidence.

Youth and social life of Eleanor Roosevelt

Her formal education ended at age 18, in 1902.

She returned to New York and grandmother Mary Ludlow organized her social debut at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

At that time, she resumed relations with a distant cousin of her father.

His name was Franklin Délano Roosevelt, he was 22 years old and a student at Harvard University.

They were seeing each other in secret, for it was certain that Franklin’s mother would oppose the relationship.

However, they continued to sneak up on each other,

Eleanor Roosevelt married her cousin Franklin

When Franklin’s mother found out, she made her promise to her son that he would not make the commitment public.

Anyway, for added security, she took it with her on a long Caribbean cruise.

However, the matter ended at a wedding, which took place on March 17, 1905.

President Theodore Roosevelt agreed to take the bride to the altar.

After a first honeymoon in Hyde Park, the couple went to Europe for three months.

Franklin and Eleanor had six children, five of whom survived to adulthood: Anna (1906), James (1907), Elliott (1910), Franklin Jr. (1914) and Juan (1916).

In 1910, at the age of 28, Franklin D. Roosevelt began the rise in his political career by being elected as a senator by the State of New York.

Three years later he was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Navy, a position he held until 1920, when he presented himself unsuccessfully to the vice presidency of the United States.

In 1918, a few years after his marriage, Franklin began having an affair with his secretary.

Eleanor, in order not to harm him in his promising political career, chose not to ask for a divorce.

In return, she became increasingly independent and devoted herself fully to political and social causes.

Eleanor activities in public life

While caring for her family during these years, Eleanor Roosevelt worked as a volunteer at the American Red Cross and in the Navy hospitals during World War I (1914-1918).

In the 1920s, she actively participated in the politics of the Democratic Party.

She also participated in activist organizations such as the “Women’s Trade Union League” and the “League of Women Voters.”

In addition, she co-founded Val-Kill Industries, a non-profit furniture factory, in Hyde Park, New York.

In those years, she worked as a professor of American history and literature at Todhunter School, a private school for girls, in Manhattan.

In 1921, a vital and dynamic 39-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt was affected by poliomyelitis that left him paralyzed from the waist down until the rest of his life.

Franklin Délano Roosevelt dedicated himself to politics

After the first months of anguish, Eleanor encouraged her husband to return to politics.

In 1928, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected governor of New York.

Marido de Eleanor Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 27, 1933. Credit: Wikipedia. Elías Goldensky

Eleanor Roosevelt was actively involved in social reform plans and served as a volunteer teacher for poor immigrant children.

She joined the National Consumers League, to help end unsafe working conditions in factories.

By the time they arrived at the White House in 1933 as president and first lady, she was already deeply involved in human rights and social justice issues.

Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady of the United States

In March 1933, Franklin Délano Roosevelt was elected president of the United States of America.

As first lady, Eleanor began to minimize the traditional role of hostess, and was increasing her visible and active participation in matters that resulted in the good presidential management of her husband.

Eleanor Roosevelt presidenta
Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor in March 1933. Credit: web bangordailynews.com

The Roosevelts entered the White House in the middle of the Great Depression, which had begun in 1929.

The president and Congress implemented a series of economic recovery initiatives, known as the New Deal.

Eleanor traveled throughout the United States, acting like the eyes and ears of her husband.

Eleanor Roosevelt was as first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945.

She was one of the first most active ladies in history and a leader in her own right.

Several decades later, another great lady of politics emerged in the USA: Madeleine Albright.

Eleanor Roosevelt was an active advocate for women

Eleanor Roosevelt distinguished herself as one of the first defenders of civil rights for African Americans and women.

She encouraged her husband to appoint more women for federal positions of responsibility.

Women were normally excluded at the White House press conferences.

Eleanor held hundreds of press conferences for women reporters.

She also lavished in the support of government-funded programs for artists and writers.

In 1939, when the African-American contralto Marian Anderson was not allowed to act in the Constitution Hall for being black, Eleanor organized a recital all over the Lincoln Memorial, with an audience of 75,000 spectators and with broad broadcasting throughout the country.

Mari Ann cantante
Thanks to the intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt, Marian Anderson was able to give her recital. Credit: web missedinhistory.com

In addition, for more than 25 years Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a newspaper column entitled “My Day”, to inform about their activities and to publicize their opinions on social and political issues.

Eleanor Roosevelt strong support from her husband

The Franklin-Eleanor Roosevelt couple was one of the most notable political associations in the history of the United States.

Eleanor provided strong support to her husband, but their marriage was never an obstacle for Eleanor to oppose her husband’s decisions, if she did not agree with them.

Such was the case when Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the internment order for 110,000 Japanese and Japanese descendants, on the West Coast of the United States.

During World War II (1939-1945), Eleanor Roosevelt advocated in favor of European refugees who wanted to settle in the United States; promoted volunteerism on the internal front; and defended women who were employed in the defense industry.

She also supported the continuation of the New Deal programs during the war, contrary to the wishes of some of her husband’s advisors.

In November 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected by the American people to continue as president of the nation for a fourth term.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death

However, shortly after, on April 12, 1945, while he was in Warm Spring (Georgia), he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage; and died at the age of 63.

Since 1924, Roosevelt traveled every year to this small spa town, well known for its mineral springs that flow constantly at almost 32 ° C.

He tried to regain strength in his legs, bathing and exercising in the warm water.

Mansión de Eleanor Roosevelt
The so-called “little White House” in Warm Spring. Credit: web nps.gov

Eleanor Roosevelt was in Washington, D.C., when she was informed of her husband’s death.

She immediately called then Vice President Harry Truman to give him the news of the president’s death.

Then she traveled to Warm Spring to take the mortal remains of her husband to Washington.

After the state funeral, Roosevelt’s body was taken to New York, where he was buried on the grounds of his estate, in Hyde Park.

After the president’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt returned to New York.

She divided her time between the cottage in Hyde Park and an apartment in New York City.

In 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt was appointed, by President Harry Truman, delegate of the United States to the United Nations.

In 1948, when she was president of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, she oversaw the drafting and approval of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

She always considered this document as one of her most significant achievements, and worked until the end of her life to achieve acceptance and implementation of the rights established in the Declaration.

In one of her best interventions in support of this Declaration she said: “We are today at the threshold of a great event, both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of humanity. This Declaration may well become the international Magna Carta for all men everywhere.

During the years after the White House, she remained involved in the activities of the Democratic Party, lecturing and campaigning for Democratic candidates, across the country.

In addition, she was a frequent host of radio programs.

President Truman called her “First Lady of the World” for her humanitarian achievements.

Since 1961, at the request of President John Kennedy, she headed the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

She was part of the Board of the “National Association for the Advancement of People of Color” and the “Advisory Council for the Peace Corps.”

Throughout her life, Eleanor Roosevelt published 27 books and wrote more than 8,000 columns in the newspaper entitled “My day.”

Eleanor Roosevelt died at the age of 78, on November 7, 1962, in New York City, from aplastic anemia, tuberculosis and heart failure.

President John Kennedy and former presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower attended her funeral.

Her mortal remains rest with her husband on the grounds of the Springwood estate in Hyde Park, New York.

Springwood was the birthplace, the home of a lifetime and the burial place of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Mansión de Eleano Roosevelt
The home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park is currently “national historic site.” Credit: Sandra Foyt. Web albanykid.com

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