The Early Life
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in New York City. Her mother, Anna Hall, was a member of the prominent Livingston family, and her father, Elliott Roosevelt, was President Theodore Roosevelt’s younger brother. Her mother passed away in 1892, and her father in 1894, when she was still a young child. Eleanor moved in with her grandmother, Mrs. Valentine G. Hall, in Tivoli, New York, after the death of her mother. Before attending Allenwood, an all-girls boarding school in England, she was educated at home by private tutors until she turned 15. Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre, the headmistress, showed great interest in young Eleanor and had a profound impact on her development as a student and a person. When Eleanor was 18, she had a newfound sense of self-assurance and returned to New York. She joined the Junior League and started working at the Rivington Street Settlement House, where she eventually became a teacher.
She married her fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt on March 17, 1905; the couple had six children together between 1906 and 1916: Anna Eleanor (1906–75), James (1907–91), Franklin Delano, Jr. (1909), Elliott (1910–90), Franklin, Jr. (1914–88), and John (1916-81). During this time, she stepped away from the spotlight to focus on her family and her husband’s political career. However, after the United States entered World War I, she volunteered with the American Red Cross and served in Navy hospitals. After Franklin Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, his wife became more involved in politics, in part to help him continue to pursue his interests and in part to make her mark. She was active in the Women’s Trade Union League, the League of Women Voters, and the New York State Democratic Committee’s Women’s Division. She worked at the Todhunter School, an exclusive boarding institution for young women in New York City, and also co-founded Val-Kill Industries, a non-profit furniture factory in Hyde Park.
The First Lady
When Eleanor Roosevelt became the first lady in 1933, she told the country not to look for her to be a paragon of elegance, but rather a “plain, ordinary Mrs. Roosevelt.” Regardless of this caveat, she proved to be an exceptional First Lady.
Mrs. Roosevelt’s press conference in 1933 was the first of its kind for a First Lady. She invited only female reporters to the press conference to break the gender barrier at the highest levels of government. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) barred the African-American singer Marion Anderson from performing at their theatre in 1939. Mrs. Roosevelt resigned from the DAR in protest.
During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, Eleanor did a lot of traveling around the country to check on various relief projects and report back to the President on her findings about the state of the economy and the people’s living and working conditions. She was the first lady’s “eyes, ears, and legs,” as she provided her husband with impartial information. After Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into WWII, FDR’s wife ensured that he would not give up on the New Deal’s ideals. She was also a political and social force in her own right.
She eventually became an activist for the underprivileged, the marginalized, and the poor. The First Lady’s exploits and adventures, as chronicled in her syndicated column “My Day,” captivated readers. She started the column in 1935 and continued to write it until her death in 1962.
From 1941 to 1942, she worked as the Assistant Director of Civilian Defense, a position in which she traveled to England and the South Pacific to build relationships with Allied countries and boost the spirits of American troops stationed abroad.
The “First Lady of the World”
Mrs. Roosevelt remained active in politics after her husband’s death in 1945. She was a member of the UN General Assembly thanks to President Truman’s appointment. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948, was largely the result of her tireless efforts as chair of the Human Rights Commission.
Mrs. Roosevelt obediently resigned from the United States Delegation to the United Nations in 1953 so that the position could be filled by an appointee of incoming Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s choosing. She later became a UN volunteer, representing the United States in the World Federation of UN Associations, and working with the American Association for the United Nations. The Association’s Board of Directors eventually elected her as chair. In 1961, President Kennedy reappointed her to her position with the U.S. delegation to the United Nations. A while later, he put her in charge of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and put her on the Peace Corps National Advisory Committee. Mrs. Roosevelt rose to prominence as an advocate for social causes.
In addition to writing, she was also in high demand as a lecturer and public speaker. She used the new medium of television in much the same way that her husband had used radio. She wrote a multi-volume autobiography among her many other works as a writer.
Mrs. Roosevelt spent her later years in New York at Val-Kill in Hyde Park. She also kept up a residence in the Big Apple. The couple’s former estate at Hyde Park is now a national historic site, and she passed away there on November 7, 1962.
Chronology of Mrs. Roosevelt’s Career
First Years, 1884 On October 11th, he was born in New York City.
ER enrols at Allenswood, School that same year (1899). Eleanor, according to Headmistress Madame Souvestre, possesses a brilliant mind and was destined for greatness as a leader.
In 1902, ER leaves Allenswood for her debut at the Altdorf-Astoria in New York City on December 11.
On March 17, 1905, she weds her fifth cousin once removed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in New York City.
On May 3, 1906, ER welcomes Anna into the world.
On December 23, 1907, ER gives birth to her son James.
1909 On March 18, Franklin Jr. was born; on November 20, he passed away from influenza.
On September 23, 1910, ER gives birth to her son Elliott.
1914 Another Franklin Jr. is born on August 17.
On March 17, 1916, ER gives birth to her son John.
To aid American soldiers in World War I, 1918 ER collaborates with the Red Cross and the U.S. Navy.
In 1920, ER accompanies FDR as a “traditional politician’s wife” during his failed run for Vice President on the Cox ticket. In this episode, she meets FDR advisor Louis Howe and strikes up a friendship with him.
After FDR contracted polio in 1921, the ER nurses his illness and supports his desire to rejoin public life.
The wife of the President of the United States
Only female reporters were allowed into ER’s press conference, which she held for the first time in 1933.
In 1935, ER launches the syndicated column “My Day,” which she maintains until her passing in 2005.
In 1939, ER collaborates on plans to bring black singer Marian Anderson to perform at Lincoln Memorial for a crowd of 75,000.
1939-40 To aid the German underground movement against Hitler, ER uses her influence to aid Karl Frank. Many European Labor and Socialist Party lawmakers (and their families) are unable to return to the United States without ER’s assistance.
During 1941–42, ER is an assistant director of civilian defense.
In 1943, ER goes to the South Pacific to raise morale among the troops.
1945 After FDR’s passing, ER retreated to her private life at her beloved Val-Kill cottage in Hyde Park, declaring, “The story is over.”
In 1945, President Truman asked ER to represent the United States at the United Nations, and she agreed.
The General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948 with the support of ER.
In 1950, ER collaborates with her son Elliott, NBC, and notable guests like Albert Einstein and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to produce a television and radio program.
1952: After Republican Eisenhower is elected president, ER resigns from the U.N. delegation.
In 1960, ER opposes the Democratic Presidential Nominee, so she meets with John F. Kennedy at Val-Kill. After learning that Kennedy will collaborate closely with Stevenson, ER becomes more involved in the Kennedy campaign.
1961 Kennedy re-appoints ER to her post at the UN and makes her the first chair of his Commission on the Status of Women.
On November 7, 1962, ER passed away in New York City and was laid to rest in Hyde Park the following day, alongside FDR.
Eleanor Roosevelt Fast Facts
Born: October 11, 1884, in New York City
PARENTS: Anna H. Hall & Elliott R. Roosevelt By the time Eleanor was eight years old, her mother had passed away. When she was just 10 years old, her father—the younger brother of Theodore Roosevelt—passed away.
BROTHERS: Elliott Roosevelt, Jr. (1889-1893) [Gracie] Hall Roosevelt (1891-1941)
EDUCATION: Tutored at home until 1899 Allenswood School, near London, England, 1899-1902
MARRIED: Franklin D. Roosevelt (fifth cousin once removed), March 17, 1905, in New York City.
CHILDREN: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (May 3, 1906 – December 1, 1975); James Roosevelt (December 23, 1907 – August 13, 1990); Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. (March 18, 1909 – November 8, 1909); Elliott Roosevelt (September 23, 1910 – October 27, 1990); Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. (August 17, 1914 – August 17, 1988)
ACTIVITIES: Co-founder of Val-Kill Industries Inc. and teacher at New York City’s Todhunter School for Girls; also a lecturer and author (including “My Day” syndicated King Features newspaper column for a newspaper from December 1935 until October 1962) Member of numerous philanthropic, political, and academic groups; United States delegate to the United Nations General Assembly; Chairman, Human Rights Commission
PHYSICAL APPEARANCE: Brown hair, 5 feet 10 inches tall, blue eyes
DIED: On November 7, 1962, in New York City-cause of death was listed as aplastic anemia, disseminated tuberculosis, and heart failure.