Eleanor Roosevelt 1884–1962
During her years as First Lady to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a newspaper column, gave press conferences, and maintained a high public profile. Her outspoken manner was a total departure from the more reticent role previous first ladies played. Eleanor simply saw it as her duty to speak out on behalf of the country’s women and to support the humanitarian causes she felt strongly about.
Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City in 1884 and due to the early death of her parents, was educated in England. There she learned to overcome her shyness and developed a passion for helping others. At the age of 21 she married her distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became part of the world of politics with him. In 1921 FDR contracted polio and for the rest of this life would depend heavily on Eleanor’s help and political intuition.
Eleanor’s public role as First Lady was both praised and criticized. Today, a more public persona for the First Lady is expected but still open to criticism if she steps into the political sphere. After FDR’s death in 1945, Eleanor served as a delegate to the United Nations and was Chair of the UN Human Rights Commission. There, she helped craft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
She wrote several books and was asked to return to the United Nations in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. He also appointed her as Chair on the Commission on the Status of Women. Eleanor died of cancer in 1962 but remains an inspiration to women everywhere.