Eleanor Roosevelt

Prajakta Joshi

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The Biography

· Born on October 11, 1884 to Elliot Roosevelt and Anna Hall, both from wealthy families. As a young girl, Eleanor was shy and wanted attention-seeking.

· Elliot, President Theodore Roosevelt's younger brother, had a close relationship with Eleanor but was an alcoholic which led to a rocky marriage with Anna. He was often sent away until he could come back sober. Elliot stayed in a sanitarium in France to get treatment later on, leaving Anna in charge of the children.

· Anna was beautiful but her daughter was not. Eleanor's mother therefore tried to compensate for her lack of beauty by raising her to be a well manner child. This did not distract Eleanor from being conscious that was not up to her mother's expectations. In fact, Anna would call Eleanor "Granny" because she acted in an old-fashioned manner.

· Her mother died of diphtheria in 1892 and she and two younger brothers went to live with her maternal grandmother who raised her strictly. During her time at her grandmother's house, she went with her relatives to help with charitable activities like serving Thanksgiving dinner to the newsboys' club. It was here that she became conscious of class disparities.

· In 1894, her father died, and her grandmother would not allow her to attend the funeral. Her grandmother allowed her less and less contact with a majority of the Roosevelt family, as she though they were too "dynamic" and would encourage her to slip away from her grandmother's control. She was allowed to meet her cousin Alice and Uncle Ted for a short visit in the summer.

· After she turned 15 she was sent to Allenswood Academy, a finishing school in London, under Marie Souvestre who was notable for being a feminist educator.

· Here she developed her talent and grew out of her shyness, to become the self-confident and independent woman that she is characterized as. When she turned 18 she returned to America to begin socializing and attending social parties and debutante balls.

· Around this time she also began to involve herself in reform work, joining the Junior League to volunteer teaching calisthenics and dancing to the poor at the Rivington Street Settlement House. She also became interested in the Consumers League, which showed her the poor working conditions in factories.

· She met Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her fifth cousin once removed, on a train to Tivoli, New York, and soon after began their romance. In 1903 Franklin asked her to marry him and she accepted. However, Franklin's mother did not approve at the time and asked them to wait a year. Their engagement was announced in 1904 and they were married St Patrick's day 1905.

· Franklin and Eleanor had six children: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, James Roosevelt II, Franklin Roosevelt (died after 8 months), Elliot Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., John Aspinwall Roosevelt II.

· The early years of her marriage were dominated by her mother- in-law who wished to keep control over her son and grandchildren.

· Franklin became a senator for New York in 1910 and they moved to Albany for a while, where she first gained independence from her mother-in-law. In 1913 he was appointed as assistant secretary to the Navy. In this time Eleanor involved herself in public services such as the American Red Cross and volunteering in Navy hospitals.

· In 1918 Eleanor found out about Franklin's affair with her secretary Lucy Mercer. Eleanor offered a divorce but Franklin refused because a divorce would Affect his political and public career badly. Furthermore, his mother would not allow him to get a divorce as she had grown fairly attached to Eleanor. Eleanor responded to this by throwing herself into more volunteer works. Their marriage turned into more of a political partnership. Although Franklin said he would stop meeting with Lucy, he continued to do so until his death.

· While FDR was assistant secretary, she developed her skills to maintain contacts in society by visiting wives of officials and dignitaries.

· In 1920 FDR ran for vice president to back Democrat James Cox for president. Warren G Harding and Calvin Coolidge win the election.

· Shortly after she is asked by the League of Women Voters to join their board to report on national legislation.

· In 1921 Franklin in struck with polio, after which he had disengaged himself from public activity, but appeared a few times before running for Governor of New York at Democratic National Conventions. Through this Eleanor came to be familiar with the women's side of this organization and improvements necessary.

· In 1928 Franklin ran for as the Democratic candidate for Governor of New York and won. While governor, Franklin would ask Eleanor to visit state prisons, insane asylums, and hospitals and give reports to him since he could not be out for long. This will model the system they use during Presidency.

· In 1933 Franklin was inaugurated as President. Here began her career as a political activist. She was not very happy with becoming First Lady as she feared the media and politics would interfere with her family and independence.

· She was never directly involved in her husband's political choices. Rather people used her as a means to contact him, and she would pass on their suggestion. There were times in which he would bounce ideas off over her to gain an understanding of what the reaction or argument might be to a particular action. However, this was still a step above the traditional role of First Lady, the social hostess.

· She did organize events outside of the standard events which a First Lady held. For example, she established the Gridiron Widows' party to accept the newspaperwomen and Cabinet and newspapermen's wives.

· Eleanor also held press conferences for newspaperwomen only since they were not allowed other press conferences in the White House.

· She began her newspaper column "My Day" in December 1935. She continued to write these until shortly before her death in 1962.

· Also, she did radio talks, beginning in the height of the depression. She donated the money she earned from these radio talks and her various jobs to charities. With this money she established places where girls could who were unemployed could have food and rest in the Women's Trade Union League clubhouse and in the Girls' Service League headquarters.

· Through these radio talks she made it clear that she was independent from her husband in politics and that she was promoting what she thought was right, not just whatever her husband promoted.

· Two things showed Eleanor's that Eleanor was for racial reform: Authurdale and her vocal support of the civil rights movement. She actively supported anti-lynching laws and sought for the New Deal to cover all equally. Authurdale- her project of a planned community for coal miners- had ended up in a white majority population, and she encouraged the development of similar towns for African Americans.

· During World War II she once again focused on reporting the issues of the soldiers, worked to boost morale, and encouraged volunteering and womens' employment.

· From 1946 to 1953 Eleanor served as a US delegate to the United Nations and oversaw the drafting and passage of the Universal Human Declaration of Rights. She felt this was her most significant achievement.

· Roosevelt later lead the President's Commission on the Status of Women. She also served on the boards for the NAACP and the Advisory Council for the Peace Corps.

-She died in 1962 from tuberculosis

Political Cartoon

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So What Did She Do?

Roosevelt was an political activist was striving for multiple causes, such as the equality of women, African American, and other minorities. She encouraged the promotion of women to public offices and encouraged more racial equality, despite the disagreements she had with her husband's southern supporters. She used her position as First Lady to shed more influence and spread her ideas.

She also was a philanthropist who wanted to see the recovery and prosperity of American economy and society. She recognized the importance of connecting and giving back to the community not just through charity boards but hands-on work and help. She used the money she earned (sometimes up to $3,000 for a single show in the 30s which is $50,000 today) to support charities like the American Friends Service Committee which supported New Deal projects Aurthurdale.

"I took it for granted that men were superior creatures and knew more about politics than women did, and while I realized that if my husband was a suffragist I probably must be, too, I cannot claim to have been a feminist in those early days."

"I could not, at any age, really be contented to take my place in a warm corner by the fireside and simply look on"

Eleanor Today

Eleanor had a skill for communication with people and a passion for the betterment of society and its people. If she were to put to use these skills today she would be widely successful. She would use social media and the news, just as she did so with the radio and later television. Because of the connectivity which social media and media provides now days, she would not need the success of Franklin to garner attention and money. She would still act as a diplomat for the US and would join or found many organizations which would help reduce poverty in the US and around the world.


My first priority, if I had Eleanor's skill set, would be to better the situation of the poor by gathering attention towards them through the means of social media. My work would include various services such as providing meals, clothing, establishing shelters, and setting in place a more accessible education system. With this basis I would move to reaching a broader population by using my wealth to promote awareness of the conditions of the poor. After this system has been set in place, I would focus outward and into politics and diplomatic relations.

In "The First Kitchen", Laura Shapiro explains the different characteristics of Eleanor Roosevelt and brings light to her more forgotten acts which defined her role as First Lady: deciding the White House cuisine. Eleanor, having been so open to the media, was precise about the messages that she wanted her actions in the White House to represent about her. Since she knew that her actions would serve as a role model to women during the Great Depression, she wanted to make an impact on their lifestyle and choose to encourage simple, economical, and expedient recipes over lavish or culturally American dishes. This she did in spite of both her and FDR's love for good food. Shapiro states that Eleanor actually used this as a mode of distancing herself from FDR, whom she did not quite trust, and to engage herself in a program to keep her busy. Eleanor's habits in the White House kitchen served as a small example of her characteristics and motives which applied to all parts of life while living in the White House.

Works Cited

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