Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in New York City. She was the oldest child of Elliot Roosevelt and Anna Hall. She lost both parents by the age of ten.1 Following the death of her mother, she was raised by her maternal grandmother, Mary Hall, and later attended a private London finishing school called Allenswood Academy. In 1902, Eleanor returned to the United States for her debut into New York society. She also began her long career in social work, joining the Junior League and teaching immigrant children at the Rivington Street Settlement House.2
On March 17, 1905, she married her fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, walked her down the aisle.3 She gave birth to six children: Anna Eleanor, James, Franklin Delano Jr., Elliott, Franklin Jr., and John; Franklin Delano Jr. died in infancy. When her husband contracted polio in 1921, Eleanor cared for him. As Franklin continued to focus on his political career, Eleanor supported his efforts and helped him advance his goals. She became more active in politics when he was elected governor of New York in 1928.4
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in 1933, Eleanor downplayed the role of first lady, saying “there is going to be just plain, ordinary Mrs. Roosevelt and that’s all.”5 Despite this statement, she went on to transform the role of first lady. She became the first first lady to have her own press conferences for women reporters, holding more than three hundred throughout her twelve years in the White House.6 As her husband’s New Deal policies went into effect, providing relief and helping the nation combat the Great Depression, Eleanor traveled the country, visiting the sites of relief projects, delivering radio broadcasts, and meeting citizens. She recounted her adventures and expressed her opinions in a syndicated newspaper column, “My Day,” which ran from 1935 until her death in 1962.7
Between 1941 and 1942, Eleanor served as Assistant Director of Civilian Defense, organizing volunteer workers.8 After the United States entered World War II, she traveled to England where she spent time with wounded servicemembers and visited military bases and distribution centers. In 1943, Eleanor became the first first lady to travel to an active war zone when she undertook a month-long journey to the warfront in the Pacific. Traveling as a representative of the Red Cross, she went to Australia, New Zealand, Guadalcanal, and numerous Pacific islands, visiting troops, hospitals, and factories.9
She also made an impact at the White House. Serving as first lady during the Great Depression and World War II, she placed emphasis on comfort, practicality, and functionality in her management of the Executive Mansion. Eleanor instructed White House staff to prepare simple American meals, often staying within the wartime rationing guidelines. She also ordered a new State Service of White House china, renovated the White House kitchen, and redesigned the Red Room, the location of her women’s only press conferences.10
Following President Roosevelt’s death in 1945, President Harry S. Truman appointed Eleanor as a delegate to the United Nations (UN). She served as the chair of the Human Rights Commission where she played an important role in drafting the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After resigning her post in 1953, she volunteered with the American Association for the UN. President John F. Kennedy reappointed Eleanor to the UN in 1961 and later appointed her to the National Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps and to the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.11
She spent her later years living between her home Val-Kill and an apartment in New York City. Eleanor Roosevelt passed away on November 7, 1962, at the age of seventy-eight. On November 10, 1962, she was laid to rest beside her husband at their Hyde Park estate, next to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.12
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