If we could only use one noun to describe Eleanor Roosevelt the word probably would have to be "humanitarian". She was married to Franklin Delano Roosevelt [FDR] and as such she was the First Lady during the twelve year period FDR served as President of the U.S.A. It is fair to say that her accomplishments during the FDR presidency far exceeded what is expected of a First Lady.
Eleanor was a person of enormous energy, curiosity and empathy for the downtrodden. She touched and influenced millions of people through her travels, lectures, causes and writings. Upon her death in 1962 she was widely recognized as the most influential woman of the twentieth century. She supported movements for social change that were considered radical for the then prevailing attitudes and institutions. Her causes included civil rights for black Americans, full equality for women, and a federal government functioning as a positive and caring force for the betterment of all its citizens.
During the FDR administration from 1933 to 1945 she accomplished many of her humanitarian goals by convincing FDR to implement many of her suggestions. After all she had direct contact with him on a daily basis and ever since he was stricken with polio in 1921 she had taken over many of his public relations tasks in support of him. At the time of his polio attack he was governor of New York State. There is little doubt that many of the actions taken to pull America and its people out of the 1930's depression by the federal government were taken at the initiative and full support of Eleanor.
Eleanor was not just a Democratic politician; she was also a liberal democrat and a strong equal rights supporter. In 1933 Eleanor became the first First Lady to hold a press conference so that women reporters, then barred from attending the regular presidential news conferences, could attend. That was one visible and dramatic gesture for women's equal rights.
In 1939 Marion Anderson was barred from giving a concert in Washington's Constitution Hall. Eleanor made arrangements to have Anderson perform from the Lincoln Monument on the Washington Mall. The 70,000 people who attended made a strong statement for equal rights for black Americans.
After FDR's death in 1945, Eleanor became more involved with international causes. In 1945 President Truman appointed her to be a U.S. delegate to the United Nations. In 1946 she was appointed to the chairmanship of the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, part of the U.N. Economic and Social Council. In that position she became the key figure in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the U.N. in 1948. She served in the U.N. until 1952, when the Eisenhower Administration forced her to give up her position. She was reappointed to the U.N. by John Kennedy in 1961, and served until her death a year later.
Eleanor was also quite capable of communicating her ideas through the written word. From 1935 until her death in 1962 she wrote a daily syndicated column entitled, "My Day". In 1937 she published her autobiography covering the period from childhood until 1924. In 1938 she wrote "The Troubled World", a book outlining what was needed for world peace. In 1940 she wrote "The Moral Basis of Democracy" calling for a moral awakening. In 1946 she wrote "If You Ask Me", a response to questions submitted to "The Ladies Home Journal". And in 1949 she wrote the second part of her autobiography, covering the period from 1924 to 1945. It was regarded as the best autobiography ever written by a First Lady.
Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt were distantly related and it is clear that the families knew each other. This clearly played a role in leading to their eventual marriage. Eleanor was born on October 11, 1984 in New York City. She was the oldest child of Elliott Roosevelt and Anne Hall Roosevelt. Elliott was the younger brother of Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. President in the early part of the twentieth century. Both of Eleanor's parents died at a rather young age. Her father died when Eleanor was only ten years old. She was raised by her maternal grandmother who was emotionally cold and autocratic.
Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were married on March 17, 1905 in New York City. They had five children who lived to adulthood. They were: Anne , James , Elliott , Franklin Jr.  and John . Upon FDR's death in 1945 Eleanor and Franklin had been married for 40 years. Eleanor lived for another seventeen years until 1962 when she passed away at the age of 72.
The Roosevelts, Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor, also known as Anne Eleanor, were all descendants of Claes Martenszen Van Rosevelt [?-1658] and Jannetje Toms [?-1660]. The original Roosevelts were both part of the contingent of Dutch immigrants who settled in New Amsterdam in the 1640's. Their grandsons, Jacobus Roosevelt [1692-1776] and Johannes Roosevelt [1689-1750] became the forefathers of two Roosevelt clans that produced the two Roosevelt presidents. The Jacobus branch was called the Hyde Park branch and the Johannes branch was called the Oyster Bay branch.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the great great great grandson of Jacobus Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt was the great great great grandson of Johannes Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was a niece of Theodore Roosevelt. She was thus a fifth cousin once removed of her husband Franklin Roosevelt.
For more detailed Roosevelt family relationships see the appendix included in the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's bio profile.
Ferris, Gary , "Presidential Places: A Guide to the Historic Sites of U.S. Presidents", Winston Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher
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