Source: World Book Encyclopedia, The Quarrie Corporation (1943) © www.arttoday.com
BIRTH DATE: Oct. 11, 1884.
BIRTHPLACE: New York City.
EDUCATION: Attended Allenswood, a finishing school in London, England, from 1899 to 1902.
FAMILY BACKGROUND: Member of longtime affluent New York family. Was a niece of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States and 6th cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of United States, who became her husband. Her parents died when she was a child.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Even without her marriage to Franklin D. Roosevelt, through whose presidency she revolutionized the position of first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt very likely would have still become one of the greatest women of the 20th Century. As a humanitarian and civic leader (among other roles), her work for the welfare of youth, black Americans, the poor, and women, at home and abroad (through the United Nations that she helped to develop) has yet to be equaled.
Growing up a lonely and shy girl in wealth and comfort, she returned to New York from Allenswood, at 18 with confidence in herself and a conscience of a social nature. Her marriage to Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), brought her into the world of politics of which she proved a fast learner. When her husband was Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I, she supported the war effort by volunteering for the Red Cross. She was also an active member of the women's suffrage movement.
In 1921 when a bout with polio left Franklin Roosevelt crippled, her steadfast encouragement enabled him to return to politics and win the governorship of New York (1929-1933). In the process she became his political surrogate, speaking in his behalf to the citizenry, relaying their feedback to him, and giving her input as well. During this period she also opened the Val-Kill furniture factory in New York to provide job relief to the unemployed and became part owner of Todhunter, an all girls private school in New York City.
When FDR was elected to the presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt reluctantly became first lady, yet she proved a great innovator in this capacity. Her tenure (1933-1945) was the longest only because her husband's tenure as president was the longest, but Eleanor Roosevelt became the first activist first lady. With press conferences and her daily column she kept the public up-to-date on White House policies; in particular the New Deal. She persuaded FDR to create the National Youth Administration (NYA), which provided financial aid to students and job training to young men and women. Her concern for disadvantaged black Americans, prompted her to work closely with organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and in 1939 she resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution in protest to their preventing black singer Marian Anderson from performing at Constitution Hall.
After the United States entered World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt channeled her energies into the war effort. She did this first by mustering up civilian volunteerism as assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD), and by visiting U.S. troops abroad.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office in 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt's role as first lady was over, but her career was not. She became a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, specializing in humanitarian, social, and cultural issues. In 1948, she drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirmed life, liberty, and equality internationally for all people regardless of race, creed or color. Additionally, she helped in the establishment of the state of Israel and attempted negotiations, albeit cautiously, with the Soviet Union (now Russia).
She wrote several books about her experiences: This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1950), On My Own (1958), and Tomorrow Is Now (published posthumously, 1963).
DATE OF DEATH: Nov. 7, 1962, age 78 (of bone marrow tuberculosis).
PLACE OF DEATH: New York City.
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