Friday, October 5, 2007

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born October 11, 1884 in New York City, New York to Elliot and Anna Hall Roosevelt. Before Eleanor(which is what she preferred to be called) was 10 her mother and father had both died. Eleanor was sent to live with relatives and when she was 15 her aunt Bamie Cowles decided she needed to attend Allenswood Academy in England which was a finishing school. This is where Eleanor met Marie Souvestre, the headmistress, who was also a feminist educator that encouraged women to have independent minds.

When Eleanor was 18 she returned to New York and soon a relationship began with Franklin Roosevelt, who was her father Elliott Roosevelt's fifth cousin. Eleanor's uncle Theodore Roosevelt was President at the time Franklin started courting Eleanor in 1903. They were married March 17, 1905. Eleanor's uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt gave the bride away at the wedding. Eleanor is the only First Lady who did not change her name after getting married. She was also the only First Lady to be the wife as well as cousin of one U.S. President and niece of another!

Between 1906 and 1916 Eleanor and Franklin had 6 children, Anna Eleanor, James, Franklin Jr., who died in infancy, Elliott, a second Franklin Jr., and John.

During World War I Eleanor became a volunteer for the Red Cross and worked in Navy hospitals. She was also an active member of the suffrage movement. When Franklin was paralyzed by polio in 1921 Eleanor became even more active in politics and asserted her own personality and goals. She was active for the League of Women Voters and joined the Women's Trade Union League. Eleanor also worked for the Women's Division of the New York State Democratic Committee and in the early 1930's opened the Val-Kill furniture factory in New York to help provide jobs to the unemployed. She was also part owner and teacher of Todhunter, an all girls private school in New York City.

After Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President and Eleanor became First Lady she went on national lecture tours. She held over 350 press conferences for women reporters only! She wrote a daily newspaper column called My Day and wrote articles for several magazines. Eleanor donated her hefty speaker's fees to charities that helped women.

As if that weren't enough, Eleanor traveled around the nation, visiting relief projects, and surveying working and living conditions. She was quite vocal in supporting the African American Civil Rights Movement. In 1939 when a black singer, Marian Anderson, was blocked by the Daughters of the American Revolution to have access to the Washington Constitution Hall, Eleanor arranged a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and then promptly resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleanor was important to the African Americans during the segregation era.

During World War II, Eleanor helped to establish Freedom House, co-chaired a national committee on civil defense and often visited civilian and military centers. She was very supportive of more opportunities for women and African Americans. Eleanor was noted for The Tuskeegee Airmen to successfully become the first black combat pilots. When she flew with the black pilot, C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson, she brought more attention to the Tuskeegee's pilot programs.

In 1946 Eleanor was named a U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly by President Harry S. Truman. Eleanor, along with others, were credited with drafting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in December 1948. This was largely Eleanor's work and the delegates rose in a standing ovation to acknowledge her.

In 1961 John F Kennedy appointed Eleanor to chair a new "President's Commission on the Status of Women." This was a large study that was to "restate a decades old stance that female equality was best achieved by recognition of gender differences and needs and not by an Equal Rights Amendment." Eleanor died before the commission issued its final report.

Eleanor received 35 honorary degrees. Her first was a Doctor of Human Letters or D.H.L. in 1929, this was also the first honorary degree awarded by Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. Her last was a Doctor of Laws, L.L.D. degree from what is now Clark Atlanta University in 1962.

Eleanor was injured when struck by a car in New York City in 1960 at the age of 76. She was then diagnosed with aplastic anemia. She also developed bone marrow tuberculosis that stemmed from an infection in 1919. She died November 7, 1962 in her Manhatten apartment. She was 78 years old. Adlai Stevenson spoke at her memorial service and said "What other single human being has touched and transformed the existence of so many?" He also said Eleanor was "one who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness." Eleanor's favorite word was hope.
Eleanor had many famous quotes some of which are:

"A woman is like a teabag--you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."

"Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art."

"Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people."

"If someone betrays you once, it is their fault; if they betray you twice, it is your fault."

"It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself."

"Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself."

"Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life."

"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste the experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

"People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built."

Eleanor wrote four books; This is My Story in 1937, This I Remember in 1950, On My Own in 1958 and Tomorrow is Now, published after her death in 1963. There is a documentary thru PBS about her life also. To find out more you can look in Wikipedia.

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