October 11, 1884
Born In: New York City, United States
Died On: November 7, 1962
Career: First lady, Diplomat, Activist
One of America’s most distinguished First Ladies, writer and humanitarian, Eleanor Roosevelt was perhaps one of the most dominating public figures of the last century. Internationally acclaimed, admired and respected for her social and political crusades, Eleanor Roosevelt was one of those few magisterial public figures to dominate both the content and course of twentieth-century US politics. A committed reformer and a humanitarian, Eleanor’s life is a rich tapestry of her feats and accomplishments. A deep glance into her life reveals her unwillingness to succumb to the strict limits imposed by male-dominated society. Despite being born and married into wealth and privilege, Roosevelt snubbed her life of comfort and opulence and chose, instead, to dedicate it to more charitable causes than just managing her household and rearing kids. She carved a niche for herself with her meaningful political stances and activities. She championed the cause of social reform and emerged victorious in her own right.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the greatest social workers of the last century, was born in New York on October 11, 1884 to father Elliott Roosevelt Sr. and mother Anna Hall Roosevelt. Born into one of the elitist and highly esteemed families of New York, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt’s early years were spent fairly unaware of the pretense of high-society. The eldest child and the only daughter of the Roosevelts, her childhood was spent struggling with her own insecurities. Anna lost her mother at the age of eight and was sent away to the custody of her maternal grandmother Mary Ludlow Hall. Her father, the only person she was ever close to, disappointed her with his erratic drinking habits that led to his banishment and death two years later.
Early Life And Education
Eleanor’s life with her grandmother, after her parents’ death, was nothing short of sadness and solitude. She was confined inside the house and spent the life of a loner before being sent away to Allenswood Academy in London in 1899. At Allenswood, she came across Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre, her headmistress, who ignited in her the early sparks of social activism. The three years that Eleanor spent in Allenswood were apparently some of the best of her life. Not only did she excel academically and make new friends, her exposure to language, literature and history as well as her growing understanding of controversial political events also deepened, and helped her enhance her life in a better way and made her more confident and independent.
Marriage And Family Life
After completing her formal education, Eleanor returned to the United States in 1902. It was during this time that she met her father’s fifth cousin, the strikingly handsome and very debonair 20 year old Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was swept off her feet by his romantic overtures and soon began courting him. Franklin, who thus far led a sheltered life under the dominant confines of his mother, was more than thrilled to have Eleanor by his side. It was Eleanor who introduced Franklin to the run-down side of life and the sufferings of the people living in East Side Tenements. He had to face strong disapproval from his mother who was strongly against the match. But his affections for Eleanor couldn’t be dissuaded and on March 17, 1905, Franklin Delano Roosevelt married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. They had six children of which only fived managed to survive infancy. In the mean time, Eleanor got actively engrossed with her husband’s political career and supporting the war efforts during World War I. Nevertheless, sudden discovery of her husband’s illicit love liaison with Lucy Mercer and the apparent threat to their marriage changed Eleanor’s life and beliefs for good.
First Lady of the United States
During Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidential tenure, Eleanor intensely defended the American Civil Rights Movement and African-American rights. However, Franklin wanted the support of Southern Democrats and didn’t approve of her civil rights revolution. Nevertheless, he benefitted largely from her cause of African-American rights that won him the bulk of votes during the presidential elections. Apart from racial inequality, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt did her best to raise awareness towards major concerns of decent housing, healthcare, education and women’s advancement.
Eleanor Roosevelt died at the age of 78 in the year 1962, of bone marrow tuberculosis. She was interred next to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York, on November 10, 1962.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was awarded the United Nations Human Rights Prize in 1968. She won 35 honorary degrees during her life including a Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) and Doctor of Law (L.L.D.).
1884: Eleanor was born on October 11, in New York City.
1892: Her mother died of diphtheria.
1894: Her father died of alcoholism.
1899: She was sent to Allenswood Academy, an English finishing school, where Headmistress Marie Souvestre became her mentor.
1903: Eleanor was engaged to Franklin Roosevelt.
1905: Eleanor married Franklin Roosevelt in New York City.
1906: Eleanor gave birth to daughter Anna.
1907: Eleanor gave birth to son, James.
1908: Eleanor gave birth to Franklin, Jr. who died of influenza the same year.
1914: Eleanor gave birth to the second Franklin Jr.
1916: Eleanor gave birth to son, John.
1918: Eleanor discovered Franklin Roosevelt’s affair with Lucy Mercer.
1919: Eleanor volunteered at St Elizabeth Hospital and visited World War I veterans. She worked as a translator at the International Congress of Working Women.
1920: Eleanor campaigned for Franklin Roosevelt who was bidding for the Vice-President’s post, which, however, proved to be an unsuccessful bid.
1922: Eleanor joined the Women’s Trade Union League.
1932: Franklin Roosevelt won the US Presidential election. She said that the country should not expect the current First Lady to be a symbol of elegance but rather ‘plain, ordinary Mrs. Roosevelt’.
1933: Eleanor became a First Lady. She became the first ‘first lady’ to hold regular press conferences.
1945: Eleanor’s Husband Franklin died in Georgia. She addressed the nation on V-J day (Victory over Japan Day).
1946: US President Truman appointed Eleanor as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.
1958: Eleanor helped launch the New York Committee for Democratic voters.
1960: Eleanor campaigned for John F Kennedy’s Presidential bid.
1961: Eleanor chaired President's Commission on the Status of Women.
1962: Eleanor died of tuberculosis and heart failure in New York City.