Born October 11, 1884
Died November 7, 1962
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884 in New York. Even though Roosevelt was born into a wealthy family she had a difficult life as a child. When Roosevelt was eight years old her mother died of diphtheria. Because her father was often ill and unable to care for Roosevelt, she and her two younger brothers went to live with their grandmother. Then when Roosevelt was ten her father died. Roosevelt was educated by private tutors throughout most of her life. Later she was sent to Europe to an exclusive finishing school.
Roosevelt graduated and returned to live in the United States in New York. While she was there Roosevelt was a social worker in the New York City slums. That same year she met a man named Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Because Eleanor Roosevelt’s father was the brother of President Theodore Roosevelt Eleanor and Franklin Delano were fifth cousins once removed. However, they had never met and a courtship ensued. In 1905 Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were married. Eleanor’s uncle Theodore Roosevelt, who was president at the time, gave her away in the ceremony.
In 1910, Eleanor Roosevelt supported her husband as he began a political career elected as New York state senator. Then during World War I, Eleanor became active in the Red Cross. Her husband became ill with polio in 1921 and she nursed him back to health, although from that time on his legs were paralyzed. Still she encouraged her husband, who was able to walk with the aid of a cane, to run for public office. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt became governor of New York in 1928, Eleanor often attended political meetings for him, becoming personally active in human rights organizations.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President of the United States in 1933. Eleanor Roosevelt stayed active in politics all through her husband’s presidency. She believed that all human beings should have the same rights afforded them and promoted laws for civil rights. Having been an active member in the Daughters of the American Revolution, Roosevelt resigned from this organization in 1939 to protest their refusal to allow the black singer Marian Anderson to perform in Washington’s Constitution Hall.
In 1945 many African Americans, upset by their treatment on the basis of race, planned a march on Washington as a protest. Roosevelt urged her husband, the President, to mandate an end to discrimination in defense contracts and government employment. The President did so by issuing an executive order which established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. This commission was authorized to investigate complaints of discrimination based on race, creed, or nationality.
On April 12, 1945 Roosevelt’s husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. When Vice President Harry Truman offered his condolences and asked if there was anything he could do for her, Eleanor Roosevelt answered, "Is there anything we can do for you? You are the one in trouble now."
Even after her husband’s death, Roosevelt stayed active in pursuing humanitarian causes. She began to work in the United Nations in 1945 emphasizing the welfare of children and the poor. In 1948 she was recognized for winning passage of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. In 1961 President John Kennedy appointed Roosevelt to the United States Delegation to the U.N. One year later, on November 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt died. She was considered by many not just as the former First Lady of the United States, but as the First Lady of the World.
Books for Children
- Eleanor Everywhere: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt by Monica Kulling ages 8 and up ( amazon.com has it)
- Eleanor by Barbara Cooney - the story of Roosevelt from childhood through young adulthood, is touching and beautifully illustrated. Appropriate for ages 4 - 9. ( amazon.com has it)
- Eleanor Roosevelt: Tribute to Greatness by Women's International Center.
- Eleanor Roosevelt page by PBS includes a time line, a teacher's guide, and biographical information.