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And strength, courage and confidence she possessed. Forty-six years after Eleanor Roosevelt’s death yet she the former First Lady still remains an influential women in the world. She supported her husband’s political career. In fact, President Franklin Roosevelt often called his wife his “eyes and ears” (Bradgon, McCutchen, and Ritchie 776). Eleanor Roosevelt played a pivotal role in the Roosevelt administration especially when paralysis hit the president (776). She used this power to advocate for civil rights, especially for the women (Goodwin 1998).
The was the first woman to become the voice of the ordinary people, she spoke in national conventions, held press conferences, lectured, and wrote a syndicated column (1998). She fought for the plight of the poor, the women, and the African Americans (777). She was a super woman, so to speak. Her fight for social justice was perhaps what Roosevelt is famed and revered for. She helped laid the cornerstone of the civil rights and women’s movement. It was her greatest achievement, one that the world will forever be grateful for.
Eleanor Roosevelt was born October 11, 1884 to Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall (Caroli 2008). Although she came from an influential family (her uncle was Theodore Roosevelt), her life story did not start out smoothly (2008). Hers was what people would call a “dysfunctional family” (Tindall and Shi 1266). Her father was described was an alcoholic who got servant girl pregnant while her mother was said to be a “cold, self-absorbed socialite” (Tindall and Shi 1266). Despite this, Eleanor loved her parents deeply. However, tragedy struck the family.
By age ten, both her parents died and Eleanor, together with her brother, was brought to be raised by relatives (Caroli 2008). Eleanor’s other brother had died a year before (2008). Eleanor was extremely close to her father and his death deeply affected the young girl (2008). The siblings were brought to their grandmother Mary Hall to become their guardian (Black 2008). An introvert, Eleanor was sent to Allenswood, a girls’ boarding school by age 15 (Caroli 2008). Under the wing of Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre, Eleanor’s intellectual curiosity was awakened.
Souvestre was a confident woman who was a staunch believer in the liberal causes (Black 2008). In Eleanor’s three years at Allenswood, she forged friendship not just with Souvestre but with young girls her age; she learned language, literature and history; expressed her opinions on political events; and discovered Europe in summers (2008). She was, to say the least, transformed into a “tall, willowy, outgoing woman” (Tindall and Shi 1266). In 1902, Eleanor went back to New York for her “coming out” into society (Caroli 2008).
Following her family’s tradition, she immersed herself into social responsibilities, enlisting with the National Consumers League and the Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements (Black 2008). She also volunteered to teach at the College Settlement on Rivington Street (2008). Her endeavors soon reached the attention of the New York reform group (2008). One summer, on a train ride to Tivoli, she bumped into her fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Black 2008). A secret courtship began and on November 22, 1903, the two became engaged (2008). The two were different.
Eleanor was often described as a serious person, someone of “high ideals and principles” while Franklin was a confident man, who grew with love and affection from his family (Tindall and Shi 1267). Franklin’s mother, Sara was against the relationship and tried in vain to separate the two. On March 17, 1905, Eleanor and Franklin were married in New York (2008). The wedding, wherein President Theodore Roosevelt gave the bride away, was on the front page of the New York Times (2008). In a span of 10 years, Eleanor gave birth to six children, one of whom died after birth (Caroli 2008).
In 1911, Franklin won a seat in the New York senate and the family relocated to Albany (Black 2008). Eleanor looked forward to moving out, especially since in their old home, her mother-in-law was constantly breathing down her neck. She was said to comment that the move ignited her desire to become independent and be an individual (2008). As Franklin started to carve his political career, Eleanor took on the role of a political wife- gracing formal parties and “making social calls” (2008). When World War I broke in 1917, Eleanor found herself returning to volunteer work.
She spent her free time helping the Navy- Marine Corps Relief Society and the Red Cross (Caroli 2008). Her unwavering commitment opened another door in her life- that of being able to be of service to others. For some time, she was in the shadow of her political husband. The War ignited her desire to pursue other plans outside her husband. It helped boost her confidence. Ruby Black, Eleanor’s friend, once commented that the war became her first work “outside her family” (Black 2008). But this awakening of sorts was dampened when Eleanor found that her husband was involved romantically with another woman, Lucy Mercer.
Mercer was Eleanor’s social secretary (Caroli 2008). This caused a dent in the couple’s relationship and Eleanor suggested to have a divorce, which Franklin refused (2008). Franklin ended the relationship with Mercer and tried to patch things with Eleanor. Though they continued on with the marriage, it was said that they remained affectionate but no longer intimate (2008). In 1921, Franklin fell ill with polio and was paralyzed (Tindall and Shi 1267). Despite what had happened in their relationship, Eleanor did not leave her husband.
She helped him in his career, attending political gatherings and speaking on his behalf (1267). According to their daughter Anna, polio was instrumental in bringing their parents together (1267). While Eleanor supported her husband, she started to carve her own name. She became active with the Women’s Trade Union League and the Democratic Party of the New York state (Caroli 2008). As Chair of the League of Women Voters Legislative Affairs Committee, Eleanor read the Congressional Record, talked with members of Congress and the State Assembly and presented a report on a monthly basis (Black 2008).
She was especially interested in non-legislative issues like primary reform, voter registration and party identification (2008). Eleanor also wrote for the Women’s Democratic News (2008). Three years after, Eleanor was part of a group whose purpose was to inform women on participating in political and social issues. As board member of the bi-partisan Women’s City Club, Eleanor led the City Planning Department, tackling issues such as housing and transportation, child labor, and the distribution of birth control information on married people (Black 2008). She also taught at a school (2008).
When Franklin was elected governor, Eleanor divided her time equally, ensuring that she pursued her personal interest and that of being a governor’s wife. When the Governor’s inner circle had disagreements with Eleanor’s League of Women Voters, Eleanor acted as arbitrator (Black 2008). Her political grace, no doubt, was shaping up. Following Franklin’s successful crack at the presidential election, the now First Lady continued with her passion. With her own staff, Eleanor carried on with her causes. She had press conferences with women correspondents, something she was keen on.
She also talked to her husband about employing women in his cabinet (Tindall and Shi 1268). In fact, she backed the successful appointment of France Perkins as Secretary of Labor (Caroli 2008). Like the First Lady, Perkins was an advocate of minimum wage and maximum hour laws, child-labor restrictions and other reforms (Bradgon, McCutchen, and Ritchie 776). Eleanor was not afraid to speak her mind, even if it meant carping on her husband’s plan regarding unemployment insurance (Caroli 2008). In 1936, she started her own daily syndicated newspaper column “My Day” (2008).
This was her channel for expressions her opinion publicly. While some greeted her write-up with criticisms, many people admired her for taking interest in their plight. She often tackled child welfare, racial minorities, housing reform and women equality (2008). Following her husband’s death in 1945, President Harry Truman her to the US delegation in the United Nations (UN) (Caroli 2008). She was responsible for the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (2008). The UDHR was approved on Dec. 10, 1948 at a U.
N meeting in Paris, for which the former First Lady received a standing ovation from the delegates (Gardner 1988). The UDHR is deemed the touchstone of human rights (1988). It is also used to measure the performance of UN entities and NGOs (1988). Likewise, the UDHR continued to serve as inspiration for other human rights treaties in Europe and Latin American (1988). Based on the American Bill or Rights, the British Magna Carta, and the French Declaration of the Rights of the Man, the UDHD comprises a preamble and 30 articles on basic rights and freedoms (1988). When John F.
Kennedy became president, she appointed Eleanor as chair of the Commission on the Status of Women (Caroli 2008). She continued to work and fought for the underprivileged. Even at her age, Eleanor travelled the globe to conduct meetings with world leaders (2008). She also did not stop writing books and articles. In 1962, she contacted a rare form of tuberculosis and succumbed. She was buried at Hyde Park.
Black, Allida. “Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. ” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project. Jan. 31, 2008. May 7, 2008 < http://www. gwu. edu/~erpapers/>. Bragdon, Henry, Samuel McCutchen and Donald Ritchie.
History of a Free Nation. Ohio: McGraw-Hill, 1996. Caroli, Betty. “Eleanor Roosevelt. ” Britannica. com. 2008. May 7, 2008 <http://www. britannica. com>. Gardner, Richard. “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Legacy: Human Rights. ” Dec. 10, 1988. May 7, 2008 <http://www. nytimes. com>. Goodwin, Doris. “Leaders and Revolutionaries. ” TIME. com April 13, 1998. May 7, 2008 <http://www. time. com>. Lewis, Jone. “Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes. ” Womenhistory. about. com 2008 May 7, 2008 <http://www. womenhistory. about. com>. Tindall, George and David Shi. America A Narrative History 5th ed. USA:W. W. Norton and Company, 1999.