Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

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Eleanor Roosevelt

"First Lady of the World"


Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1898. Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt 1928. Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1950. Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1960.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 11, 1884. Her father was Elliott Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt's younger brother and her mother was Anna Hall, a descendent of the Livingstons, a distinguished New York family. Both her parents died when she was a child, her mother in 1892, and her father in 1894. After her mother's death, Eleanor lived with her grandmother, Mrs. Valentine G. Hall, in Tivoli, New York. She was educated by private tutors until age 15, when she was sent to Allenswood, a school for girls in England, whose headmistress, Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre, had a great influence on her education and thinking. At age 18, Eleanor Roosevelt returned to New York where she resided with cousins. During that time she became involved in social service work, joined the Junior League and taught at the Rivington street Settlement House.

On March 17, 1905, she married her fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and between 1906 and 1916, they became the parents of six children, all of whom are deceased -- the first Franklin Delano, Jr. (1909), Anna Eleanor (1975), John (1981), Franklin Delano, Jr. (1988), Elliott (1990), and James (1991). During this period her public activities gave way to family concerns and her husband's political career. However, with American entry in World War I, she became active in the American Red Cross and in volunteer work in Navy hospitals. After Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with polio in 1921, Mrs. Roosevelt became increasingly active in politics both to help him maintain his interests and to assert her own personality and goals. She participated in the League of Women Voters, joined the Women's Trade Union League, and worked for the Women's Division of the New York State Democratic Committee. She helped to found Val-Kill Industries, a nonprofit furniture factory in Hyde Park, New York, and taught at the Todhunter School, a private girls' school in New York City.

During Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt was an active First Lady who traveled extensively around the nation, visiting relief projects, surveying working and living conditions, and then reporting her observations to the President. She also exercised her own political and social influence; she became an advocate of the rights and needs of the poor, of minorities, and of the disadvantaged. In World War II, she visited England and the South Pacific to foster good will among the Allies and boost the morale of US servicemen overseas.

After President Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945, Mrs. Roosevelt continued public life. She was appointed by President Truman to the United States Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, a position she held until 1953. She was chairman of the Human Rights Commission during the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948.

In 1953, Mrs. Roosevelt resigned from the United States Delegation to the United Nations and volunteered her services to the American Association for the United Nations. She was an American representative to the World Federation of the United Nations Associations, and later became the chairman of the Associations' Board of Directors. She was reappointed to the United States Delegation to the United Nations by President Kennedy in 1961. Kennedy also appointed her as a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps and chairman of the President's Commission on the Status of Women. Mrs. Roosevelt received many awards for her humanitarian efforts.

Eleanor Roosevelt was in real demand as a speaker and lecturer, both in person and through the media of radio and television. She was a prolific writer with many articles and books to her credit including a multi-volume autobiography. In late 1935, she began a syndicated column, "My Day," which she continued until shortly before her death. She also wrote monthly question and answer columns for the Ladies Home Journal (1941-49) and McCalls (1949-62).

In her later years, Mrs. Roosevelt lived at Val-kill in Hyde Park, Dutchess County, New York. She also maintained an apartment in New York City where she died on November 7, 1962. She is buried alongside her husband in the rose garden of their estate at Hyde Park, now a national historic site.

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