People Who Kick Buts: Eleanor Roosevelt
Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.
- Born on October 11, 1884 and passed away on November 7, 1962.
- She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became an advocate for civil rights.
- After her husband’s death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an international author, speaker, politician, and activist for the New Deal coalition.
She worked to enhance the status of working women, although she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because she believed it would adversely affect women.
- In the 1940s, Roosevelt was one of the co-founders of Freedom House and supported the formation of the United Nations. Roosevelt founded the UN Association of the United States in 1943 to advance support for the formation of the UN.
- Active in politics for the rest of her life, Roosevelt chaired the John F. Kennedy administration’s ground-breaking committee which helped start second-wave feminism, the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. In 1999, she was ranked in the top ten of Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.
- Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born at 56 West 37th Street in New York City, the daughter of Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall Roosevelt.
- She was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.
- Two brothers, Elliott Roosevelt, Jr. (1889–93) and Hall Roosevelt (1891–1941) were born later. She also had a half brother, Elliott Roosevelt Mann (died 1941), who was born to Katy Mann, a servant employed by the family.
- Roosevelt was born into a world of immense wealth and privilege, as her family was part of New York high society called the “swells”.
- Roosevelt acted in such an old fashioned manner as a child that her mother nicknamed her “Granny”. Her mother died from diphtheria when Roosevelt was eight and her father, an alcoholic confined to a sanitarium, died less than two years later.
- Roosevelt was tutored privately and, at the age of 15, with the encouragement of her father’s sister, her aunt “Bamie”, the family decided to send her to Allenswood Academy, a private finishing school outside London, England.
- The headmistress, Marie Souvestre, was a noted feminist educator who sought to cultivate independent thinking in the young women in her charge.
- In 1902 at age 17, Roosevelt returned to the United States, ending her formal education. On December 14, 1902, Roosevelt was presented at a debutante ball at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. She was later given a debutante party.
- That same year Roosevelt met her father’s fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was overwhelmed when the 20-year-old dashing Harvard University student demonstrated affection for her. Following a White House reception and dinner with her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, on New Year’s Day, 1903, Franklin’s courtship of Eleanor began.
- Roosevelt, age 20, married Franklin Roosevelt, age 23, her fifth-cousin once removed, on March 17, 1905.
- The Roosevelts had six children.
- Despite its happy start and Roosevelt’s intense desire to be a loving and loved wife, their marriage almost disintegrated over Franklin’s affair with his wife’s social secretary Lucy Mercer (later Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd). When Eleanor learned of the affair from Mercer’s letters, which she discovered in Franklin’s suitcases in September 1918, she was brought to despair and self-reproach. She told Franklin she would insist on a divorce if he did not immediately end the affair. He knew that a divorce would not reflect well on his family, so he ended the relationship.
- Following Franklin’s paralytic illness attack in 1921, Eleanor began serving as a stand-in for her incapacitated husband, making public appearances on his behalf, often carefully coached by Louis Howe, with increasingly successful results.
- Roosevelt was injured in April 1960 when she was struck by a car in New York City. Afterwards, her health began a rapid decline. Roosevelt died at her Manhattan home on November 7, 1962 at 6:15 p.m., at the age of 78.