Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 11, 1884. Her parents, Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall Roosevelt, named Anna after her mother and her aunt, Anna Cowles. Eleanor also had a nickname “Ellie,” after her father. She had always preferred to be called after her middle name though. Eleanor had two brothers, Elliott Roosevelt, Jr. and Hall Roosevelt. She had a half brother also, Elliott Roosevelt Mann, whose mother was Katy Mann, a servant employed by the Roosevelt family. Eleanors family was very wealthy and privileged, and her family was part of the New York high society called the “sweels.” When Eleanor was eight years old her mother died from diphtheria, and her father, who was an alcoholic, died less than two years later. Also, her brother Elliott Jr. died from diphtheria, just like her their mother. Because of the deaths in her family, Eleanor was raised by her grandmother, Mary Ludlow Hall in Tivoli, New York. When Eleanor was 14, she had a clear understanding that everyones goals and where they would go in life were not totally dependent on physical beauty. She considered herself to be “ugly,” so she knew that she would need to have the brain power and not get everything she wanted just from her appearance. Her grandmother had her privately tutored, and at the age of 15, with the encouragement from her fathers sister, Eleanors aunt “Bamie,” the family decided to send Eleanor to Allensdwood Academy, which was a private finishing school right outside of London. The headmistress of the school, Marie Silvestre, was known for her feminist education who looked to cultivate independent thinking with the ladies that she taught at her school. Eleanor learned to speak fluent French and by the time she left the school had gained an abundance of self-confidence. After attending Allenswood, Eleanor later studied at The New School in and during the 1920s.
At age 17, Eleanor went back to the United States and stopped her formal education. She was presented at a debutante ball at the Ealdorf-Asroria hotel on December 14, 1902. Later she was given a debutante party. Eleanor was a member of The New York Junior League, so she volunteered as a social worker in the slums of New York. She was one of the Leagues earliest members after being introduced and hired by the organization founder, Mary Harriman. This same year, Eleanor met her fathers fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was extremely happy when she noticed that the twenty year old, dashing Harvard University student seemed like he had a thing for her. After a White House reception and a dinner with Eleanors uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt on New Years Day. This was the beginning of Franklins courtship of Eleanor. Later on she would bring Franklin along on her rounds of the squalid tenements. The became engaged in 1904 even though the engagement wasnt announced until December 1, 1904, at the insistence of Franklins mother. Franklins mother was not a fan of the engagement and opposed it very much. Sara took Franklin on a cruise in 1904 hoping that the separation of the couple would smash the romance, but after the cruise Franklin returned to Eleanor with more love than ever. The wedding date between Eleanor, 20, and Franklin, 23, was worked around President Roosevelts schedule, because he agreed to give the bride away. Her uncles presence gave the wedding national attention. The wedding was set for March 17, 1905 on St. Patricks Day at the Endicott Peabody in New York City. After the wedding the couple spent their honeymoon at Hyde Park for a week. Later that summer they took a three-moth trip on a tour of Europe for their formal honeymoon. After returning back to the United States, the couple settled in New York City, in a house bought for them by Franklins mother, as well as the familys estate overlooking the Hudson River in Hyde Park, New York. Franklin went to his mother for everything that had to do with the household things instead of his wife so Eleanor did not gain any independence until her husband was elected to the senate and the couple moved away to Albany, New York. She was also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. The Roosevelt??™s had six children, five of them survived infancy. She had one girl, her first born, Anna Eleanor, Jr., and then after that she had 4 boys; James, Elliott, Franklin Delano Jr., and John Aspinwall.
The whole family began spending their summers at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, on the Maine-Canada border. This is where Franklin was stricken with a paralytic illness in August 1921, which ended up in permanent paralysis of his legs. Although the disease was widely believed to be polio, newer research told them that Roosevelts illness was more likely Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Eleanor was the person that prodded Franklin to return to active life. To compensate for his lack of mobility, she overcame her shyness to make the public appearances on his belief. Even though they had a happy start and Roosevelts intense desire to be a loving and loved wife, their marriage almost ended over Franklins affair with his wifes social secretary, Lucy Mercer. When Eleanor learned of the affair from Mercers letters, which she discovered in Franklins suitcases in September 1918, she was devastated. She told Franklin she wanted a divorce as soon as possible if he did not end the affair. He knew that a divorce would not reflect well on his family, so he ended the relationship. Franklins mothers opposition to divorce was so high that she warned her son she would disinherit him if he got one. Franklins political advisors were also influential in persuading Eleanor and Franklin to save the marriage for the sake of the children and Franklins political career. The idea has been put forth that, because Mercer was a catholic, she would never have married a divorced protestant. Her relatives stated that she was willing to marry Franklin. Her fathers family was Episcopal and her mother had been divorced. Even though Franklin agreed never to see Mercer again, she began visiting him in the 1930s and was with Franklin at Warm Springs, Georgia when he died on April 12, 1945. Though the marriage survived, Roosevelt seemed to be a different woman, coming to the realization that she could achieve everything she ever did only through her own influence and actions. Ironically, her husbands paralysis would soon place his political future partially in her hands, requiring her to play an active role in New York State Democratic politics. During the 1920s, as Franklin dealt with his illness, with the coaching of his trusted political adviser, Louis Howe, she became a popular face among Democratic women and a force in New York state politics. Although she and her husband were often separated by their activities during these years, their relationship, though at times strained, was close, despite Eleanors insistence on severing their physical relationship after discovering Franklins affair. He respected her intelligence and honest and sincere desire to improve the world, even if he sometimes found her too insistent and lacking in political suppleness. The skills Eleanor had developed as a political trooper for the womens branch of the New York State Democratic party as well as during her time as New York states First Lady were to stand her in good stead. Howe made immediate use of her in dealing with the problem of the Bonus Army, unemployed veterans of World War I who had marched and encamped in Washington, D.C., demanding payment of the bonuses promised to them for their wartime service. In 1933, Franklin wasnt the only one that had secrets and affairs. Eleanor had a very close relationship with Lorena Hickok, a reporter who had covered her during the campaign and early days of the Roosevelt administration and sensed her unhappiness, which spanned her early years in the White House. On the day of Eleanors husbands inauguration, she was wearing a ring that Hickok had given her prior. It is unknown if her husband was aware of the relationship. Hickoks relationship with Roosevelt has been the subject of much speculation but it has not been stated for a fact whether the two were romantically connected or not. Roosevelt also had a close relationship with a New York State Police sergeant, Earl Miller, who Franklin Roosevelt had assigned personally as her personal bodyguard.
Following the Presidential inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 4, 1933, Eleanor became First Lady of the United States. Having seen the strict role and traditional protocol of her aunt, Edith Roosevelt, during the presidency of her uncle, Eleanor set out on a different course. With her husbands strong support, despite criticism of them both, she continued with the active business and speaking agenda she had begun before becoming First Lady, in an era when few women had careers. Roosevelt held a heavy travel schedule during her 12 years in the White House. Eleanor became an important connection for Franklins administration to the African-American population during the segregation era. During Franklins terms as President, despite Franklins need to placate southern sentiment, Eleanor was vocal in her support of the African-American civil rights movement. One social highlight of the Roosevelt??™s time in office was the 1939 visit of King George IV and Queen Elizabeth, the first British monarchs to set foot on U.S. soil. The Roosevelt??™s were criticized harshly for serving hot dogs to the royal couple during a picnic at Hyde Park.
Her reports stayed true to those issues of the American woman, such as unemployment, poverty, education, rural life, and the role of women in society. The First Lady initially wanted to be the voice of the White House to female journalists, Mrs. Roosevelt??™s news was often about humanitarian concerns. Eleanor held 348 press conferences over the span of her Franklins 12-year presidency. Men were not welcome into these meetings because female journalists were discriminated against. These conferences made it acceptable for women to think in a broader spectrum. Roosevelt??™s newspaper column ???My Day,??? was run from 1936-1962. The column was seen as a diary of her daily activities. Eleanor??™s column often brought up the same issues as press conferences. Concerns based upon the public welfare often intrigued readers but discouraged political experts who said it lacked intelligence. ???My Day??? also kept the First Lady??™s crazy schedule even crazier. The column became somewhat of a newsletter for women in politics. In the spring of 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt signed with Womans Home Companion, a leading women??™s magazine, to do a monthly column. Roosevelt used the column to answer mail she had received from readers. The allotted space allowed her to discuss more social concerns such as prenatal care, better working conditions, American holidays, and New Deal programs to insure mortgages. Readers petitioned for help of all kinds and Eleanor responded graciously. During her time in the White House, Eleanor published over sixty articles in magazines with national circulations.
Once the United States entered World War II, she was active on the home front, co-chairing a national committee on civil defense with New York Mayor and frequently visiting civilian and military centers to boost war morale. Eleanor Roosevelt was vocal against her husband signing Executive Order 9066 that interned thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry. In 1943, Roosevelt was sent on a trip to the South Pacific, scene of major battles against the Japanese. The trip became a legend, her patience while visiting thousands of wounded servicemen through many miles of hospitals made them sing her praises. For going on the long and heart-winding trip and being so kind, she was given a U.S. government-owned C-87A aircraft, the Guess Where II, a VIP transport plane which had originally been built to carry her husband abroad. After figuring out the poor safety record of that aircraft type, the Secret Service forbade the use of the plane for carrying the president, even on trips of short distances, but approved it for the First Lady to use.
In Warm Springs, Georgia, while she remained in Washington, Eleanor Roosevelt learned that her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt, had a horrible stroke that lead to his death on April 12, 1945. After the death of her husband, Eleanor moved from the White House to Val-Kill Cottage in Hyde Park, New York, where she lived for the rest of her life. She was a member of the Brandeis University Board of Trustees. Roosevelt had raised many funds for the construction and dedication to the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. In April of 1960, Eleanor was injured when she was hit by a car in New York City and after that her health had began a fast fall. She was diagnosed with aplitic anemia and then developed bone marrow tuberculosis. Eleanor died at her Manhattan home on November 7, 1962 at the age of 78. All of the flags were lowered to half-staff by the order of President Kennedy. Her funeral at Hyde Park had many important and famous guests such as John F. Kennedy, and former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Adlai Stevenson said at her funeral that Roosevelt was someone “who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.” Eleanor was buried next to her husband at the family compound in Hyde Park, New York on November 10, 1962. A memorial to Roosevelt which was dedicated to Eleanor in 1960, was built at the southern end of New Yorks Riverside Park, at the corner of 72nd Street and Riverside Drive. A bronze statue of Roosevelt at the center of a circular plant bed is the memorials principal feature. The surrounding granite pavement is inscribed with a summary of her achievements, and a quote from her 1958 speech at the United Nations advocating universal human rights. The sculptor was Penelope Jencks; the landscape architects Bruce Kelly and David Varnell; the architect Michael Middleton Dwyer.
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