Eleanor Roosevelt Biography
Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most well-known First Ladies of the United States. Learn more about her life.
Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most well-known First Ladies of the United States.
She was born October 11, 1884 in New York City to Elliot and Anna Hall Roosevelt. By 1894 both of Eleanor’s parents had died. In 1899 Eleanor enrolled at Allenswood School in England. By 1902, just one year after her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt became the President of the United States, Eleanor left Allenswood and made her society debut at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. A few months later Eleanor became engaged to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her fifth cousin once removed. She enrolled in the Junior League of New York where she taught calisthenics and dancing to immigrants. She also joined the Consumers' League and investigated working conditions in the garment districts. On March 17, 1905, Franklin and Eleanor were married. By 1910 they had four children, however one died shortly after birth from influenza.
By 1916 Franklin and Eleanor had five children and by 1918, Eleanor had learned that her husband was having an affair with her personal secretary, Lucy Mercer. From that point on in their relationship changed and they were never as close.
In 1920 Eleanor traveled with Franklin on his campaign trail for the vice presidency; she became a member of the new League of Women Voters. Sadly, in 1921 Franklin was paralyzed from polio. It was in 1925 that Franklin built Val-Kill Estate for Eleanor in Hyde Park and Eleanor created the Val-Kill furniture factory along with two friends. She also purchased the Todhunter School, a girls' seminary in New York, where she taught history and government. In 1928 The Democratic National Committee appointed Eleanor director of Bureau of Women's Activities and her husband was elected governor of New York.
By 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was elected President of the United States and by 1933 Eleanor had become the first wife of a President to hold all-female press conferences.
During the years that followed, Eleanor assisted with the formation of the National Youth Administration, she coordinated meetings between FDR and NAACP leader Walter White to discuss anti-lynching legislation, she coordinated a meeting with FDR and James Farley, head of the Democratic National Committee, and with Molly Dewson, head of the Women's Division of the DNC, to discuss the role of women in political elections. She also published the syndicated column, "My Day." In 1936 FDR ran for and won re-election. It was in 1939 that Eleanor defied segregation laws and sat between whites and blacks at the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in Birmingham, Alabama. Eleanor was also influential with the Army Nurse Corps in convincing it to open its membership to black women.
On July 17, 1940 Eleanor made another first when she gave an impromptu speech at the Democratic National Convention, which helped FDR win an unprecedented third term in office. In 1943 Eleanor toured the South Pacific to boost the soldiers' morale. In this same year, her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, died while staying in Warm Springs, Georgia.
In 1946 Eleanor was elected as head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, she drafted the Declaration of Human Rights, she initiated the creation of Americans for Democratic Action, a group which focuses on domestic social reform and resistance against Russia, she spoke on "The Struggles for the Rights of Man" during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in Paris and she threatened to give her resignation from the UN if Truman did not recognize the newly formed state of Israel.
As late as 1961, when President Kennedy re-appointed Eleanor to the United Nations, she spearheaded an ad hoc Commission of Inquiry into the Administration of Justice in the Freedom Struggle and she monitored the efforts and progress of the fight for civil rights in the United States.
It was in that year that Eleanor Roosevelt died of tuberculosis at the age of seventy-eight.