Roosevelt, Eleanor
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Roosevelt, Eleanor

Eleanor Roosevelt

Born October 11, 1884

New York, New York

Died November 7, 1962

Hyde Park, New York

First lady of the United States, social activist

Eleanor Roosevelt served as first lady from March 1933 to April 1945, longer than any other president's wife. She also was one of the first first ladies to work tirelessly for social reforms both in the United States and worldwide. Checking on conditions throughout the nation during World War II (193945) and earlier, she was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (18821945; served 193345; see entry) "eyes and ears." During the war years, she advocated for improved employment opportunities for women and minorities and helped her husband give comfort to the nation during the times of crisis.

Early childhood lessons

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in New York City to Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall Roosevelt. She had two younger brothers. Both of her parents were from wealthy, prominent families in New York society. Elliott's older brother Theodore Roosevelt (18581919; served 190109) became president of the United States in 1901. Anna was beautiful, charming, and very popular within the social world.

Anna was dismayed with her young daughter's plain appearance and often called her "granny," to Eleanor's embarrassment. Elliott had a drinking problem. In December 1892, when Eleanor was only eight years old, Anna contracted diphtheria and suddenly died. Eleanor and her two younger brothers, Elliott and Hall, went to her maternal grandmother's home in New York City. That winter the youngest brother, Elliott, also died of diphtheria. Tragedy struck again in August 1894 when Eleanor's father died.

Little warmth existed in Eleanor's childhood. She was raised by her grandmother more out of duty than love. From her childhood, Eleanor learned that love and approval were hard to find and not likely to last. The resulting feeling of self-doubt would pursue her all her life. Eleanor found great joy in helping others, which gave her a sense of purpose and usefulness.

A calling to social service

In 1899 at the age of fifteen, Eleanor was enrolled in Allenswood, a school near London, England. French head-mistress Marie Souvestre, a strong, liberal-minded woman, liked Eleanor and took her along on travels through Europe during school breaks. Souvestre taught Eleanor about the world of art, encouraged her to think for herself, and stressed service to the less fortunate. This experience would have a lasting effect on Eleanor.

At eighteen, Eleanor returned to New York in 1902 to enter the New York social scene. However, she also began social work that winter, joining the National Consumer's League, which promoted worker safety and taught children of immigrants at a house for the poor, the Rivington Street Settlement House. Later in 1902, Eleanor's distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt began courting her. They would see each other on various occasions such as parties at his Hyde Park home and at White House events. They married just over two years later in March 1905. Her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, gave Eleanor away. Eleanor and Franklin first lived in a small apartment in New York City while Franklin attended Columbia Law School. They would have one daughter and four sons.

Eleanor and Franklin

Eleanor's mother-in-law, Sara Delano Roosevelt, had a very domineering personality. Sara insisted that Eleanor drop her social activism and become a young society matron dependent on others. Eleanor would increasingly resent her intrusion in their lives as the years went by.

Eleanor's first experience in politics came in 1911, when Franklin won election to a seat in the New York State Senate. Two years later, she and Franklin moved to Washington, D.C., when he was appointed assistant secretary of the navy by President Woodrow Wilson (18561924; served 191321). Though Franklin enjoyed the Washington social life, Eleanor at first found it meaningless.

When the United States entered World War I (191418) in April 1917, Eleanor was able to resume volunteer work. She helped operate a Red Cross canteen and tended to navy wounded. She also helped organize the Navy Red Cross. As the war came to an end in November 1918, Eleanor's personal life seemingly fell apart. She discovered Franklin had fallen in love with her own young and beautiful personal secretary, Lucy Mercer. Franklin promised never to see Lucy again, but Eleanor's self-pride and confidence suffered. Out of her marital crisis Eleanor launched a more determined career in social reform and political activism.

Franklin resigned his naval post in 1920 to be the vice presidential running mate of James M. Cox. Though they lost badly, Franklin's campaign abilities proved extremely popular with Democrats. The campaign also put Eleanor in the national spotlight. They returned to New York City and Franklin formed a law partnership.

In the summer of 1921, another tragedy came to the family when Franklin became ill with polio-like symptoms that included paralysis of his legs. For the next seven years, while pursuing her own causes, Eleanor and others kept Franklin informed on political issues. During Franklin's lengthy recuperation, Eleanor served as his "legs and eyes." During the 1920s Eleanor became a leader in four New York groups: the League of Women Voters, the Women's City Club, the Women's Trade Union League, and the Women's Division of the New York State Democratic Committee. The City Club and Trade Union League sought social reform, particularly better working conditions for women. Through these organizations, Eleanor developed friendships with many women activists who would be influential throughout the remainder of her political life.

In 1926 Franklin planned and had built for Eleanor a cottage, called Val-Kill, on the Hyde Park property. At Val-Kill Eleanor operated an Early American furniture manufacturing company with two friends. Also, the threesome bought Todhunter School in New York City, a private school for girls. Eleanor began teaching there in 1927 in several subjects including American history, English, literature, and current events. Eleanor also began making political speeches on her own and continued to relay to the improving Franklin the thinking on various issues. Franklin would rely on Eleanor in this way for the rest of his life.

Recovered such that he could walk with the aid of heavy braces and a cane, Franklin won the 1928 governor's race for New York. The Roosevelts moved to Albany, New York's capital, but Eleanor continued to teach two and a half days a week in New York City.

First lady

In 1932 Franklin handily won the presidential election. The nation was at the depth of the Great Depression (192941). Beginning in the fall of 1929, the Great Depression was the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. Approximately 25 percent of the nation's workforce was unemployed, and many Americans did not have enough food. In this time of national need, Eleanor set the standard for first lady social involvement against which future first ladies would be measured. Even further, she became a role model for women actively involved in their communities and nation.

Eleanor believed government had the responsibility to aid those people struggling most. She made sure that people who do not normally have access to the president, such as women, youth, blue-collar workers, and black Americans, gained his attention. Eleanor's energy and tireless work became legendary. Eleanor pressed for appointments of women to high government positions and for women in general to benefit from government programs. She supported federal antilynching laws that her husband would not endorse for fear of losing Southern votes.

A source of advice and information

From 1933 to 1945 Eleanor would write or dictate thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, publish six books, make numerous speeches, travel thousands of miles, and hold weekly press conferences. Her weekly press conferences were for women journalists only. Media organizations had to employ women reporters on their staff in Washington, D.C. One effect was that it led to national news from a woman's point of view. Thousands of individuals wrote personal letters to Eleanor about their troubles. She often passed requests on to the appropriate agency and personally answered many letters.

Office of Civilian Defense Controversy

Eleanor Roosevelt was very busy during the war trying to keep morale high on the home front and pursuing rights for women and minorities. For five months, beginning in September 1941, she also served as assistant national director for the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD). It was the first government position ever held by a first lady in U.S. history. Roosevelt worked with the OCD director, Fiorello La Guardia (18821947; see entry), to support a wide range of home front volunteer programs in support of the war effort. While La Guardia focused primarily on air raid warning systems, Roosevelt sought to include social services such as nursery schools, recreation centers, and homes for the aged in OCD. These efforts by Roosevelt attracted considerable criticism from the media and Congress. Roosevelt's hiring of a close friend to teach dancing to children was finally the last straw for the critics. Congress even began withholding funds from OCD. The criticism increased to such an extent that Roosevelt finally concluded the mission of OCD was being jeopardized by her involvement. In addition, she and La Guardia were suffering from a conflict in personalities. In February 1942 both she and La Guardia stepped down from their OCD duties. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945; served 193345) restored calm to the agency with new leadership.

At first Eleanor wrote a weekly column for the Women's Home Companion, but she began writing "My Day," which became a syndicated daily column in January 1936. The column continued until her death in 1962. With war developing in early 1941, Eleanor wrote a monthly question-and-answer column, "If You Ask Me," for Ladies' Home Journal from June 1941 to the spring of 1949 and for McCall's from 1949 until her death. Between the years 1933 and 1945 alone, it is estimated she wrote twenty-five hundred newspaper columns and three hundred magazine articles.

In her articles and public appearances during the war, Eleanor answered questions on a wide range of topics, including prospects for continued employment of women after the war, postwar educational opportunities for servicemen, the condition of servicemen overseas following her journeys, women's issues in the service, the conduct of war in China, service allowances for wives of soldiers, various military policies, and rationing.

A spokeswoman for the common person

During the war, Eleanor often boldly spoke out in favor of unpopular issues on the home front. For example, she strongly supported the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) that promoted fairness in the hiring of black Americans and other minorities in the war industries. Despite the criticism directed at Eleanor for her public support, particularly from the South, President Roosevelt never publicly objected to her position on this issue.

Eleanor also took a position supporting the draft of individuals, including women, to work in war industries. By late in 1942 workforce shortages were appearing. Eleanor and others argued that some form of government control was needed to ensure critical war industries had a sufficient and stable workforce. The public opposed Eleanor's position and her husband did as well. The home front draft was never instituted.

America's wartime ambassador

With Franklin hampered by his physical disabilities and busy with the conduct of World War II (193945), Eleanor served as his personal ambassador to other nations. Eleanor

received numerous foreign visitors at the White House, often from countries looking for U.S. assistance.

Eleanor also took extensive trips at home and abroad. For example, after touring the United States in September 1942 with Franklin inspecting war factories, military camps, and navy shipyards, Eleanor left for Britain in October. Queen Elizabeth (19002002) had invited her to see the types of work the women were doing to assist in Britain's war effort and to visit U.S. servicemen stationed there. The following year Eleanor journeyed to the Pacific front, including the South Pacific islands, New Zealand, and Australia. Supporting the American Red Cross, she visited numerous hospital wards where U.S. servicemen were recovering physically and emotionally from severe injuries. In March 1944 she took a thirteen thousand-mile trip to the Caribbean, where U.S. servicemen were stationed, and on to Central and South America.

In April 1945 as the war was winding down, Franklin went to his retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia, for a rest. On the afternoon of April 12 he collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) and died. It was a time of shock and sorrow for the Roosevelt family as well as for the nation.

Serving the postwar world

Eleanor quickly moved from the White House to her Val-Kill cottage. She also maintained an apartment overlooking Washington Square in New York City. She turned the large family house at Hyde Park over to the U.S. government for safekeeping. World War II would end only a few months later. Eleanor regretted that Franklin did not live long enough to enjoy watching the celebrations.

The following year, in 1946, President Harry S. Truman (18841972; served 194553) appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as a delegate to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. The UN delegates elected Roosevelt chairman of the UN's Human Rights Commission. In that position she helped author the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a major worldwide statement of the basic rights of individuals. Roosevelt thoroughly enjoyed her time as a UN delegate traveling throughout the world for humanitarian causes, visiting the Arab countries, Israel, Pakistan, and India. She left the UN in 1953 when Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower (18901969; served 195361) moved into the White House as president. Following her departure from the UN, Roosevelt traveled as a volunteer for the American Association for the United Nations (AAUN), which promoted the need and work of the UN. She traveled to Japan, Hong Kong, Turkey, Greece, and Yugoslavia. In 1957 and 1958 Eleanor traveled to the Soviet Union, meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (18941971).

A full life

After leaving the UN, Roosevelt continued writing her regular newspaper column, published three times a week since 1935. She also wrote a monthly McCall's magazine page, did radio and television work, lectured widely, and served as a volunteer member of the AAUN.

A steady stream of dignitaries, family, and friends made their way to Hyde Park during Roosevelt's last years to pay respects and gain her insights on issues. She also campaigned for various Democratic Party political candidates. Knowing her health was fading, in February 1962 Roosevelt made her last trip to Europe. She died later that year on November 7, 1962, at Val-Kill of a rare ailment, bone-marrow tuberculosis.

For More Information

Books

Freedman, Russell. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery. New York: New Clarion Books, 1993.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Hareven, Tamara R. Eleanor Roosevelt: An American Conscience. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968.

Roosevelt, David B. Grandmere: A Personal History of Eleanor Roosevelt. New York: Warnerbooks, 2002.

Roosevelt, Eleanor. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1961.

Skarmeas, Nancy J., ed. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Photobiography. Nashville, TN: Ideals Publications, 1997.

Winget, Mary. Eleanor Roosevelt. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2003.

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Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), wife of the thirty-second president of the United States, was a philanthropist, author, world diplomat, and resolute champion of liberal causes.

Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City on Oct. 11, 1884, into an economically comfortable but troubled family. Her father was Elliott Roosevelt, the younger brother of Theodore Roosevelt, a future president of the United States. Although handsome and charming, Elliott was plagued by frequent mental depressions and by alcoholism. Her mother, beautiful but neurotic, was preoccupied with the family's image in upper-class society and embarrassed by Eleanor's homeliness. Eleanor's father entered a sanitarium for alcoholics when she was a child. When Eleanor was 8 years old, her mother died, and she and two younger brothers went to live with their maternal grandmother in New York. Shortly thereafter the older brother died, and when Eleanor was not yet ten, she learned that her father was dead. Her grandmother sheltered her from all outside contacts except for family acquaintances.

Eleanor Roosevelt began discovering a world beyond the family at Mademoiselle Souvestre's finishing school at South Fields, England, where she went at 15. Mademoiselle Souvestre taught a sense of social service and responsibility, which Eleanor began to act upon after her return to New York. She plunged into social work, but soon her tall, handsome cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, began courting her. They were married in March 1905. She now had to contend with a domineering mother-in-law and a gregarious husband who did not really understand his wife's struggle to overcome shyness and feelings of inadequacy.

Beginnings of a Public Career

Between 1906 and 1916, the Roosevelts had six children, one of whom died in infancy. The family lived at their estate at Hyde Park, from which Franklin pursued his political ambitions in the Democratic party. He served a term in the New York State Senate before President Woodrow Wilson appointed him assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913. Although Eleanor did much Red Cross relief work during World War I and even toured the French battlefields shortly after the armistice, she remained obscure.

A major turning point in Eleanor's life came in 1921, when Franklin contracted polio and permanently lost the use of his legs. Finally asserting her will over her mother-in-law (who insisted that Franklin quietly accept invalidism), Eleanor nursed him back into activity. Within a few years he had regained his strength and political ambitions. Meanwhile, she entered more fully into public life. Speaking and working for the League of Women Voters, the National Consumers' League, the Women's Trade Union League, and the women's division of the New York State Democratic Committee, she not only acted as Franklin's "legs and ears" but began to acquire a certain notoriety of her own. During Franklin's New York governorship she saw the last of her children off to boarding school and kept busy inspecting state hospitals, homes, and prisons for her husband.

President's Wife

Roosevelt's election to the presidency in 1932 meant, as Eleanor later wrote, "the end of any personal life of my own." She quickly became the best-known (and also the most criticized) First Lady in American history. She evoked both intense admiration and intense hatred but almost never passivity or neutrality.

Besides undertaking a syndicated newspaper column and a series of radio broadcasts (the income from which she gave to charity), she traveled back and forth across the country on fact-finding trips for Franklin. She assumed the special role of advocate for those groups of Americans— working women, blacks, youth, tenant farmers—which Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal efforts to combat the Depression tended to neglect. Holding no official position, she felt she could speak more freely on issues than could Roosevelt, and she also became a key contact within the administration for officials seeking the President's support. In short, Eleanor became an intermediary between, on the one hand, the individual citizen and his government and, on the other, the President and much of his administration.

Of particular concern to her was securing equal opportunities for women under the New Deal's work relief projects; ensuring that appropriate employment for writers, artists, musicians, and theater people became an integral part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program; promoting the cause of Arthurdale, a farming community built by the Federal government for unemployed miners in West Virginia; and providing work for jobless youth, both white and black (accomplished under the National Youth Administration, set up in 1935). Much more than her husband, she denounced racial oppression and tried to aid the struggle of black Americans toward full citizenship. Largely because of her efforts, African Americans, for the first time since the Reconstruction years, had reason to feel that the national government was interested in their plight.

World Figure

As the United States moved toward war in the late 1930s, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out forcefully in favor of the adminstration's policy of aiding antifascist governments. She accepted an appointment as deputy director in the Office of Civilian Defense. She applied herself diligently to her new job but proved inefficient as an administrator and resigned in 1942 in the face of growing congressional criticism. That was her first and last official position under Roosevelt. Once the United States formally entered the war, she made numerous trips to England, Europe, and the Pacific area to boost troop morale and to inspect Red Cross facilities.

After Roosevelt's death in April 1945, Eleanor was expected to retire to a quiet, uneventful private life. By the end of the year, however, she was back in public life. President Harry S. Truman appointed her American delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. As chairman of the Commission, she worked the other delegates overtime to complete the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. She remained in her post at the UN through 1952. She became the target for virulent right-wing attacks during the presidential campaign of that year. After the election of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, she gave up her UN post, but continued to work for international understanding and cooperation as a representative of the American Association for the United Nations.

During the last decade of her life Eleanor Roosevelt traveled to numerous foreign countries, including two trips to the Soviet Union, and authored several books. She continued to articulate a personal and social outlook which, while never profound and sometimes banal and obtuse, still inspired millions. But by the early 1960s, although she had accepted three new government appointments from President John F. Kennedy (delegate to the U.N., adviser to the Peace Corps, and chairman of the President's Commission on the Status of Women), her strength was waning. She died in New York City on Nov. 6, 1962.

Further Reading

Her candid autobiographical writings are invaluable: This Is My Story (1937); This I Remember (1949); and On My Own (1958). These works are combined with an additional updated chapter in Autobiography (1961). An even more intimate view of Eleanor can be gained from Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin: The Story of their Relationship Based on Eleanor Roosevelt's Private Papers (1971) and Eleanor: The Years Alone (1972). Also helpful is Tamara K. Hareven, Eleanor Roosevelt: An American Conscience (1968). James R. Kearney, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt: The Evolution of a Reformer (1968), is less a biography than a topically organized analysis of various facets of Roosevelt's public life. Less critical though useful are Alfred Steinberg, Mrs. R. (1959); Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Friend's Memoir (1965); and Archibald MacLeish, The Eleanor Roosevelt Story (1965). Information about Roosevelt's role in relation to her husband's career is in Frank Freidel's uncompleted biography Franklin D. Roosevelt (3 vols., 1952-1956); Alfred B. Rollins, Roosevelt and Howe (1962); and James MacGregor Burns, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (1963). □

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Roosevelt, Eleanor

Eleanor Roosevelt

Born: October 11, 1884
New York, New York
Died: November 6, 1962
New York, New York

American first lady, international diplomat, writer, and philanthropist

Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 1945), the thirty-second president of the United States. She was a well-known philanthropist (a person who works to aid others through charity). She was also an author, a world diplomat, and a tireless champion of social causes.

A lonely girlhood

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York, New York, on October 11, 1884. Her family was financially comfortable but troubled. Her father was Elliott Roosevelt, the younger brother of Theodore Roosevelt (18581919), who served as president of the United States. Although handsome and charming, Elliott suffered from frequent mental depression and alcoholism. Eleanor's mother was preoccupied with the family's image in upper-class society and embarrassed by Eleanor's appearancewhich was not considered pretty.

Although Eleanor's father was often absent, she regarded him as a glamorous and exciting parent. When Eleanor was a child, her father entered an institution for alcoholics. It was one of many early losses for the young girl, whose mother died when she was just eight years old. After her mother's death, Eleanor and her two younger brothers went to live with their maternal grandmother in New York. Shortly thereafter the older brother died, and when Eleanor was not yet ten, she learned that her father had died. Her grandmother sheltered her from all outside contact except for family acquaintances.

Eleanor Roosevelt began discovering a world beyond her family after entering a school for young women at South Fields, England, at age fifteen. The school's head-mistress (female principal) taught her students a sense of service and responsibility to society. Eleanor began to act upon this teaching after her return to New York, plunging into work for the good of others. At that same time, her tall, handsome cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, began courting her. They were married in March 1905. Eleanor now had to contend with a controlling mother-inlaw and with a husband who loved to be out in public and who did not really understand Eleanor's struggle to overcome her shyness and insecurity.

Becoming a public figure

Between 1906 and 1916, the Roosevelts had six children, one of whom died as an infant. The family lived in Hyde Park, New York, while Franklin pursued his political ambitions to become a leading figure in the Democratic Party. He served a term in the New York State Senate before President Woodrow Wilson (18561924) appointed him assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913. Although Eleanor did much work for the Red Cross (a charitable medical organization) during World War I (191418), she remained out of the public eye.

A major turning point in Eleanor's life came in 1921, when Franklin contracted polio (an infectious disease that can cause paralysis). Franklin suffered from paralysis and permanently lost the use of his legs. Although Franklin's mother insisted that Franklin accept his condition and retire, Eleanor finally asserted her will over her mother-in-law and nursed him back into activity. Within a few years he had regained his strength and political ambitions. Meanwhile, Eleanor had become more of a public figure, speaking and working for the League of Women Voters (an organization that promoted active involvement in government), the National Consumers' League (an organization focused on the welfare of consumers and workers), the Women's Trade Union League (an organization concerned with better working conditions for women), and the women's division of the New York State Democratic Committee. She began to act as Franklin's "legs and ears" and acquired a certain reputation of her own. After Franklin became governor of New York in 1928, she kept busy inspecting state hospitals, homes, and prisons for her husband.

President's wife

Franklin Roosevelt's election to the presidency in 1932 meant, as Eleanor later wrote, "the end of any personal life of my own." She quickly became the best-known (and also the most criticized) first lady in American history. She evoked both intense admiration and strong hatred from her fellow Americans.

As first lady, Eleanor gave radio broadcasts and wrote a column that appeared in newspapers across the country. She traveled throughout the United States on fact-finding trips for Franklin. In particular, she became a voice for those in need, including working women, African Americans, youth, and tenant farmers. Such groups had been severely affected by the economic crisis known as the Great Depression (192939; the longest and most severe economic depression in the United States), which Franklin Roosevelt had tried to combat through the series of social programs known as the New Deal. Eleanor spoke out freely on issues, and she also became a key contact within the administration for officials seeking the president's support. In short, Eleanor became a kind of go-between between the individual citizen and the government, as well as between the president and some members of his administration.

During the 1930s Eleanor was particularly concerned with creating equal opportunities for women and with making sure that appropriate jobs for writers, artists, musicians, and theater people became a key part of the New Deal employment program known as the Works Progress Administration (WPA). She also promoted the cause of Arthurdale, a farming community built by the government for unemployed miners in West Virginia. She was concerned with providing work for jobless youth, both white and black. Much more than her husband, she spoke out against racism and tried to aid the struggle of black Americans toward full citizenship.

World figure

As the United States moved toward war in the late 1930s, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out forcefully in favor of her husband's foreign policy. She accepted an appointment as deputy director in the Office of Civilian Defense but resigned in 1942 after being criticized for being a poor administrator in this position. After the United States formally entered World War II (193945) in 1941, she made numerous trips overseas to boost the spirits of troops and to inspect Red Cross facilities.

After Franklin Roosevelt died in office in April 1945, Eleanor was expected to retire to a quiet, private life. However, by the end of the year she was back in public. America's new president, Harry S. Truman (18841972), made her the American representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She remained in this post through 1952. Later, she continued to work for international understanding and cooperation as a representative of the American Association for the United Nations.

During the last decade of her life Eleanor Roosevelt traveled to numerous foreign countries, including the Soviet Union. She completed her Autobiography (1961), which included her earlier books This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1949), and On My Own (1958). By the early 1960s her strength had lessened. She died in New York City on November 6, 1962.

Despite her shy and lonely girlhood, Eleanor Roosevelt became one of the most important American women of the twentieth century. Her personal and social outlook inspired millions.

For More Information

Freedman, Russell. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery. New York: Clarion Books, 1993.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor RooseveltThe Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Jacobs, William Jay. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Happiness and Tears. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983.

Roosevelt, Eleanor. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1984. Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1992.

Somerville, Mollie. Eleanor Roosevelt As I Knew Her. McLean, VA: EPM Publications, 1996.

Youngs, J. William T. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Personal and Public Life. Edited by Oscar Handlin. Boston: Little, Brown, 1985. Reprint, New York: Longman, 2000.

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Roosevelt, Anna Eleanor

ROOSEVELT, ANNA ELEANOR

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of U.S. President franklin d. roosevelt (FDR), transformed the role of first lady and influenced the course and content of twentieth-century U.S. politics. During FDR's nearly four terms in office (1933–1945), Roosevelt was an acknowledged political adviser with her own progressive agenda.

Roosevelt was a committed reformer. Born into wealth and privilege, she lent early and conspicuous support to child welfare laws, equal pay and employment legislation, civil rights, and women's rights. Her ideals helped define FDR's new deal and modern Democratic liberalism. Although Roosevelt was admired by many, her high political profile was harshly criticized by people who believed she was too opinionated and influential.

After FDR's death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to support social and benevolent causes throughout the United States and the world. Although no longer first lady, she secured her reputation as a tireless activist and humanitarian. Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in New York City. Her parents, Elliott and Anna Hall Roosevelt, were socially and politically prominent. Her father was the younger brother of U.S. President theodore roosevelt.

Roosevelt's childhood was lonely; she had an emotionally detached mother and a loving but alcoholic father. Both parents died by the time Eleanor was ten years old. A serious, timid child, Roosevelt was sent by her grandmother in 1899 to Allenswood, a private girls' school near London. There she overcame her shyness and became an active, well-liked student. When Roosevelt returned to New York, she entered high society. At the same time, she taught at a settlement house in a New York slum.

Roosevelt married FDR, her distant cousin, on March 17, 1905. Her domineering mother-in-law, Sara Roosevelt, disapproved of Roosevelt and put an immediate strain on the marriage. The couple had six children, five of whom survived to adulthood.

Roosevelt was not fulfilled by running a large household and attending social functions. When FDR was elected to the New York State Senate in 1910, she turned her attention to politics. In time, she discovered her talent for political organization and strategy.

FDR became the assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913. After the United States entered world war i, Roosevelt found an outlet for her tremendous energy, organizing Red Cross efforts and working in military canteens.

In 1918 Roosevelt discovered that FDR was having an affair with her social secretary Lucy Page Mercer. The marriage survived but became a union based primarily on politics, not love.

Roosevelt was determined to carve out her own niche in public service and national affairs. She became active in the League of Women Voters (although she had opposed female suffrage at one time) and the Women's trade union League. She assumed an increasingly active role in Democratic politics. In 1926 Roosevelt opened a furniture company in Hyde Park, New York, to provide jobs for unemployed workers. In 1927 Roosevelt and some colleagues founded the Todhunter School, where she was vice principal and taught government and history.

FDR was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for vice president in the 1920 U.S. presidential election. In 1921 he contracted poliomyelitis, which left him permanently disabled. Because FDR could no longer walk independently, Roosevelt became his surrogate, filling in for him at meetings, state inspections, and public appearances. Her political skills and confidence grew in her role as FDR's emissary.

FDR was elected governor of New York in 1928. Four years later he became the thirty-second president of the United States, defeating incumbent Republican President herbert hoover. FDR's mandate was to pull the country out of the Great Depression. His economic recovery plan, popularly known as the New Deal, included sweeping, government-sponsored programs that were supported by Roosevelt.

From the outset Roosevelt was a different kind of first lady. Visible and outspoken, she wrote her own newspaper column, entitled "My Day," from 1935 to 1962. She held regular press conferences with female reporters, and insisted on hard news coverage, not society-page trivia. Roosevelt lectured extensively throughout the United States, donating her fees to charity. Most importantly, she was FDR's legs and eyes, describing to him the actual, on-site progress of his social and economic programs.

Roosevelt wielded considerable influence over the development of the New Deal. She openly supported legislation to create the National Youth Administration, a program that provided jobs for young people. Roosevelt worked hard for measures to improve the lives of children, women, unemployed workers, minority groups, and poor people. She also encouraged the appointment of women to key positions within FDR's administration, such as the appointment of frances perkins to secretary of labor.

Roosevelt demonstrated the courage of her convictions. In 1939 she publicly resigned her membership to the elite Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The DAR had denied permission to African American singer Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall. Outraged at the group's racism, Roosevelt helped organize an alternate concert for Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial.

Roosevelt served in an official public capacity for a short time. From 1941 to 1942, she was assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD). When some of her appointments were criticized, however, Roosevelt stepped down from the position.

The United States' involvement in world war ii meant increased travel for Roosevelt. As a fact finder and a morale booster, she visited U.S. armed forces throughout the world. After the war Roosevelt supported the resettlement of European Jews in newly established Israel.

FDR died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945. After his death Roosevelt remained in the public eye. She was one of the first U.S. delegates to the united nations, appointed by President harry s. truman in December 1945. She served as chair of the Commission on human rights and helped draft the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

Roosevelt also remained active in Democratic politics and organized Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal unit within the party. She backed adlai stevenson in his unsuccessful quest for the U.S. presidency in 1952 and 1956 and was a player in the 1952, 1958, and 1960 Democratic conventions. In 1952, with Republican dwight d. eisenhower in the White House, she resigned from the U.N. Democratic President john f. kennedy reappointed her to the post in 1961.

Roosevelt published several books, including This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1949), On My Own (1958), and You Learn By Living (1960).

"It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself."
—Eleanor Roosevelt

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

further readings

Black, Allida M. 1996. Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Glendon, Mary Ann. 2001. A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New York: Random House.

Hoff-Wilson, Joan, and Marjorie Lightman. 1984. Without Precedent: The Life and Career of Eleanor Roosevelt. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

Purcell, Sarah J., and L. Edward Purcell. 2002. The Life and Work of Eleanor Roosevelt. Indianapolis, Ind.: Alpha.

Youngs, J. William T. 2000. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Personal and Public Life. New York: Longman.

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Roosevelt, Eleanor

Eleanor Roosevelt (Anna Eleanor Roosevelt) (rō´zəvĕlt), 1884–1962, American humanitarian, b. New York City. The daughter of Elliott Roosevelt and niece of Theodore Roosevelt, she was an active worker in social causes before she married (1905) Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a distant cousin. She retained these interests after marriage and while rearing her five children.

When Franklin Roosevelt was stricken (1921) with poliomyelitis, she took a more active interest in public issues in order to restore his links with the world of politics. As wife of the governor of New York and then as wife of the U.S. president, she played a leading part in women's organizations and was active in encouraging youth movements, in promoting consumer welfare, in working for the civil rights of minorities, and in combating poor housing and unemployment. In 1933 she conducted the first press conference ever held by a U.S. president's wife. An accomplished writer, she initiated (1935) a daily column, "My Day," syndicated in many newspapers. She also for a time conducted a radio program, and she traveled around the country, lecturing, observing conditions, and furthering causes. In World War II she was (1941–42) assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense. She also visited Great Britain (1942), the SW Pacific (1943), and the Caribbean (1944).

From 1945 to 1953 (and again in 1961) she was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations, and in 1946 she was made chair of the Commission on Human Rights, a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council. In that capacity, she was a key figure in the creation of the groundbreaking Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). In the 1950s she became a leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. With Herbert H. Lehman and Thomas K. Finletter, she headed a movement in New York City to wrest control of Democratic policy from Tammany Hall. Her dedication to the cause of human welfare won her affection and honor throughout the world as well as the respect of many of her critics. Many of her magazine and newspaper articles have been collected. Her other writings include The Moral Basis of Democracy (1940) and You Can Learn by Living (1960).

See her This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1949), On My Own (1958), and The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961); S. Neal, ed., Eleanor and Harry: The Correspondence of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman (2002); A. Black et al., ed., The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers (2 vol., 2009–); biographies by T. K. Hareven (1968), J. R. Kearney (1968), J. P. Lash (2 vol., 1971–72), and B. W. Cook (2 vol., 1997–99); M. A. Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2001); H. Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor (2010); M. H. Beasley, Eleanor Roosevelt: Transformative First Lady (2010).

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Roosevelt, Eleanor

Roosevelt, Eleanor (1884–1962), first lady, diplomat, journalist, and activist.Eleanor Roosevelt struggled to reconcile an intense abhorrence of war with a realpolitik commitment against totalitarianism. This caused her to weigh deeply held but often conflicting beliefs. In World War I, as wife of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, she worked with shell‐shocked sailors at St. Elizabeth's Hospital and the American Red Cross Canteen, and this introduced her to some of the ravages of war. Later she joined the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and chaired the Bok Peace Prize Committee. Her second monograph, This Troubled World, was a plea for economic deterrence instead of war. However, by late 1939, Adolf Hitler's actions led her to support U.S. military intervention in World War II. As the wife of the president, she urged women to enlist and join defense industries, corresponded with hundreds of military personnel, and used her daily newspaper column to defend the war effort while supporting civil liberties at home. She was a strong critic of Japanese American internment and the administration's policy of limiting the acceptance of refugees, and publicly supported those conscientious objectors who chose medical service and jail over enlistment.

After her husband's death in office in April 1945, as the European War ended, the former first lady urged full employment, a comprehensive veterans benefit package, and a strong United Nations. She supported the atomic bombing of Hiroshima but was silent about Nagasaki. Appointed a UN delegate by President Harry S. Truman, she orchestrated support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and oversaw refugee policy. Opposing Truman, she urged early recognition of Israel and UN oversight of the Marshall Plan, and only reluctantly supported the creation of NATO. As the Cold War intensified in the 1950s, she supported an economic rather than a military emphasis on containment, and in the 1960s, she opposed U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and lobbied against the stockpiling of nuclear weapons. She died still convinced that effective democracy was the most effective deterrence to both communism and war.
[See also Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bombings of; Japanese‐American Internment Cases; World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course.]

Bibliography

Allida Black , Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism, 1996.
Allida Black, ed., Courage in a Dangerous World: Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt, 1999.

Allida Black

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John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Roosevelt, Eleanor." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Roosevelt, (Anna) Eleanor

Roosevelt, (Anna) Eleanor (1884–1962) US reformer and humanitarian, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was a supporter of social causes, including civil rights. She served as US delegate to the UN (1945–52, 1961–62) and chairman of the UN Commission on Human Rights (1946–51).

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