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.
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