Eleanor Roosevelt

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Roosevelt, Eleanor

(Anna Eleanor Roosevelt) (rō`zəvĕlt), 1884–1962, American humanitarian, b. New York City. The daughter of Elliott Roosevelt and niece of Theodore RooseveltRoosevelt, Theodore,
1858–1919, 26th President of the United States (1901–9), b. New York City. Early Life and Political Posts

Of a prosperous and distinguished family, Theodore Roosevelt was educated by private tutors and traveled widely.
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, she was an active worker in social causes before she married (1905) Franklin Delano RooseveltRoosevelt, Franklin Delano
, 1882–1945, 32d President of the United States (1933–45), b. Hyde Park, N.Y. Early Life

Through both his father, James Roosevelt, and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, he came of old, wealthy families.
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, a distant cousin. She retained these interests after marriage and while rearing her five children.

When Franklin Roosevelt was stricken (1921) with poliomyelitis, she took a more active interest in public issues in order to restore his links with the world of politics. As wife of the governor of New York and then as wife of the U.S. president, she played a leading part in women's organizations and was active in encouraging youth movements, in promoting consumer welfare, in working for the civil rights of minorities, and in combating poor housing and unemployment. In 1933 she conducted the first press conference ever held by a U.S. president's wife. An accomplished writer, she initiated (1935) a daily column, "My Day," syndicated in many newspapers; she continued to write it until 1962. She also for a time conducted a radio program, and she traveled around the country, lecturing, observing conditions, and furthering causes. In World War II she was (1941–42) assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense. She also visited Great Britain (1942), the SW Pacific (1943), and the Caribbean (1944).

After the president's death, from 1945 to 1953 (and again in 1961) she was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations, and in 1946 she was made chair of the Commission on Human Rights, a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council. In that capacity, she was a key figure in the creation of the groundbreaking Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). In the 1950s she became a leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. With Herbert H. LehmanLehman, Herbert Henry
, 1878–1963, American political leader, b. New York City. At first an executive of a textile firm, he became (1908) a partner in the family banking house of Lehman Brothers.
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 and Thomas K. Finletter, she headed a movement in New York City to wrest control of Democratic policy from Tammany Hall. Her dedication to the cause of human welfare won her affection and honor throughout the world as well as the respect of many of her critics. Many of her magazine and newspaper articles have been collected. Her other writings include The Moral Basis of Democracy (1940) and You Can Learn by Living (1960).


See her This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1949), On My Own (1958), and The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961); A. Black et al., ed., The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers (2 vol., 2009–); S. Neal, ed., Eleanor and Harry: The Correspondence of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman (2002); biographies by T. K. Hareven (1968), J. R. Kearney (1968), J. P. Lash (2 vol., 1971–72), B. W. Cook (3 vol., 1992–2016), and D. Michaelis (2020); M. A. Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2001); H. Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor (2010); M. H. Beasley, Eleanor Roosevelt: Transformative First Lady (2010); S. Quinn, Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady (2016).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

Roosevelt, (Anna) Eleanor (b. Roosevelt)

(1884–1962) First Lady, humanitarian; born in New York City (niece of Theodore Roosevelt). Shy and insecure as a child, she was educated privately, and in 1905 she married Franklin D. Roosevelt (a distant cousin). The first sign of her abilities came during World War I when she worked for the Red Cross; after her husband's polio attack and paralysis in 1921, she took an ever more active role on his behalf in New York State politics. With his election as president, she emerged as a truly public figure in her own right, traveling throughout the country, promoting her causes—particularly those helping women, children, and the poor—giving radio broadcasts, and writing a syndicated column, "My Day" (starting in 1935). Although both ridiculed and vilified by some, she continued to speak out even when her views—such as those on racial discrimination—put her well in advance of her husband. During World War II she traveled abroad to visit U.S. servicemen, and following the death of Franklin (1945), she embarked on a new career, serving as a delegate to the UN General Assembly (1945–51), and serving as chairperson of the UN's Human Rights Commission (1946–51) that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She remained an active force in Democratic politics and served as a sort of unofficial American ambassador to the world of the downtrodden. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy reappointed her to the U.S. delegation to the UN; she also chaired the Kennedy administration's Commission on the Status of Women. By the time of her death, she was recognized as the most active and influential of all the U.S. presidents' wives and had earned the sobriquet, "first lady of the world."
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.