Women's History Month Profile: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Posted: March 1, 2007 in Uncategorized

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Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
(1884 – 1962)

First Lady, Activist, Suffragette

Eleanor Roosevelt was born October 11, 1884 in New York City. She and her future husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, were fifth cousins once removed. They married March 17, 1905, and had six children together, four of which survived to adulthood.

FDR was elected president for four terms, dying in office April 12, 1945. During her time as first lady Eleanor Roosevelt worked tirelessly, campaigning for causes she believed in. Civil rights and the rights of women were two of her highest priorities, but she threw herself into a variety of charitable pursuits. During World War II she worked very hard on the home front to boost morale and support the troops in every way possible.

Eleanor endured much private hardship in her marriage to an unfaithful FDR. Franklin carried on a long-standing affair with his secretary, Lucy Mercer, and he was in her company at the time of her death. Eleanor offered Franklin a divorce, but her mother in law promptly told them, “Roosevelts don’t do divorce.” The marriage continued. The affair must have caused Eleanor much grief, but she remained stoic, throwing herself into her causes.

Eleanor herself maintained a very close, and some maintain intimate, relationship with her best friend, Lorena Hickok, a White House correspondent. The letters between Hickok and Roosevelt are published in Roger Streitmatter’s 1998 book Empty Without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok.

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After FDR’s death, President Harry Truman called Eleanor “first lady of the world.” Eleanor didn’t stop being active, even after she was no longer the wife of the president. She became the first chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission, helping to draft the “UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

In 1961, her autobiography was compiled and published as The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt died at her Manhattan apartment on November 7, 1962, at the age of 78. At her memorial service, Adlai Stevenson asked, “What other single human being has touched and transformed the existence of so many?”

In 1968 she was awarded a United Nations Human Rights Prize. There was also an attempt to award her a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize, but that was unsuccessful.

” You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

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