A shy, awkward child, starved for recognition and love, Eleanor Roosevelt grew into a woman with great sensitivity to the underprivileged of all creeds, races and nations. Her constant work to improve their lot made her one of the most loved - and for some years one of the most reviled - women of her generation.
She was born in New York City on October 11, 1884, daughter of Anna Hall and Elliott Roosevelt, the younger brother of Theodore. When her mother died in 1892, the children went to live with Grandmother Hall. Eleanor's adored father died only two years later. Attending school in England gave her, at 15, her first chance to develop confidence among other girls.
Tall, slender, graceful of figure but afraid of being a wall-flower, she returned for a debut that she dreaded. In her circle of friends was a distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They became engaged in 1903 and were married in 1905. Her uncle the president gave the bride away. Within eleven years Eleanor bore six children; one son died in infancy.
In Albany, where Franklin served in the state Senate from 1910 to 1913, Eleanor started her long career as political helpmate. When he was stricken with poliomyelitis in 1921, she tended him devotedly. To keep his interest in politics alive, she became active in the women's division of the State Democratic Committee. She dedicated her life to Franklin's purposes. She became eyes and ears for him, a trusted and tireless reporter.
When Mrs. Roosevelt came to the White House in 1933, she understood social conditions better than any of her predecessors, and she transformed the role of first lady. Never shirking her duties as hostess, she broke precedent to hold press conferences, travel to all parts of the country, give lectures and radio broadcasts, and express her opinions candidly in a daily syndicated newspaper column, "My Day." This made her a target for political enemies, but her integrity, her graciousness and her sincerity of purpose endeared her to many. As she had written wistfully at age 14, "no matter how plain a woman may be if truth & loyalty are stamped upon her face all will be attracted to her."
After President Roosevelt's death in 1945, Eleanor returned to their Hyde Park estate, telling reporters: "the story is over." Within a year, however, she began her service as American spokeswoman in the United Nations. She continued a vigorous career until her strength began to wane in 1962. She died in New York City that November, and was buried at Hyde Park beside her husband.
You Might Also Like
Collection Animal Ambassadors
Animals, whether pampered household pets, working livestock, birds, squirrels, or strays, have long been a major part of White House...
Collection The Presidents
Biographies & Portraits
Collection The First Ladies
Biographies & Portraits
Collection Cherry Blossoms
Since the first cherry blossom planting in 1912 by First Lady Helen Herron Taft, Washingtonians have celebrated the scenic beauty and...
Collection White House Women
While there has yet to be a female president, women have played an integral role in shaping the White House...
Bio Grace Coolidge
For her "fine personal influence exerted as First Lady of the Land," Grace Coolidge received a gold medal from the...
Bio Helen Taft
"Nellie" Herron was born in 1861, and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She studied music with enthusiasm, attending a private school...
Bio Hannah Van Buren
Cousins in a close-knit Dutch community, Hannah Hoes and Martin Van Buren grew up together in Kinderhook, New York. They...
Bio Angelica Van Buren
Martin Van Buren never remarried after his wife, Hannah, died on February 5, 1819. He entered the White House in 1837 as a...
Bio Patricia Nixon
Born Thelma Catherine Ryan on March 16, 1912, in Ely, Nevada, "Pat" Nixon acquired her nickname within hours. Her father called her...
Bio Nancy Reagan
"My life really began when I married my husband," says Nancy Reagan, who happily left an acting career for a...
Bio Lucy Hayes
There was no inaugural ball in 1877. When Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife left Ohio for Washington, the outcome of...