Eleanor Roosevelt

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 − November 7, 1962) was an American diplomat and political activist. She was the first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945 as the wife of the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was also the first lady of New York from 1929 to 1933 when her husband was governor.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt portrait 1933.jpg
Roosevelt in 1933
1st Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women
In office
January 20, 1961 – November 7, 1962
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byEsther Peterson
1st United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
In office
January 27, 1947[1] – January 20, 1953[2]
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byMary Pillsbury Lord
1st Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
In office
April 29, 1946[3] – December 30, 1952[4]
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byCharles Malik
First Lady of the United States
In role
March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byLou Henry Hoover
Succeeded byBess Truman
First Lady of New York
In role
January 1, 1929 – December 31, 1932
GovernorFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byCatherine Smith
Succeeded byEdith Lehman
Personal details
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

(1884-10-11)October 11, 1884
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 7, 1962(1962-11-07) (aged 78)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting placeSpringwood Estate, Hyde Park, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(m. 1905; died 1945)
RelativesRoosevelt family

Roosevelt was a member of the prominent and wealthy American Roosevelt and Livingston families and a niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.[5] Historians have consistently ranked Roosevelt as the greatest first lady in American history.[6]


Early life

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in Manhattan, New York City,[7][8] to Anna Rebecca Hall and Elliott Roosevelt.[9] From an early age she preferred to be called by her middle name, Eleanor. Through her father, she was a niece of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States.[10]

Roosevelt had two younger brothers named Elliott Jr. and Hall Roosevelt. She also had a half-brother named Elliott Roosevelt Mann.

Her mother died from diphtheria on December 7, 1892, and Elliott Jr. died of the same disease the next year.[11] Her father died on August 14, 1894, after jumping from a window during a fit of delirium tremens. He survived the fall but died from a seizure.[12] Her brother Hall later suffered from alcoholism.

After the deaths of her parents, Roosevelt was raised by her maternal grandmother, Mary Livingston Ludlow Hall in Tivoli, New York.[13]


Roosevelt was to Allenswood Academy at the age of 15, a private finishing school in Wimbledon, London, England,[14] where she was educated from 1899 to 1902. The headmistress, Marie Souvestre, took a special interest in Roosevelt, who learned to speak French fluently and gained self-confidence.[15]

Roosevelt was active with the New York Junior League, that taught dancing and calisthenics in the East Side slums.[16]

Marriage and family

Roosevelt in her wedding dress, 1905.

In the summer of 1902, Roosevelt met her father's fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on a train to Tivoli, New York.[17] The two began a secret romance, and got engaged on November 22, 1903.

The got were married on March 17, 1905, in New York City.[17][18] President Theodore Roosevelt's attendance at the ceremony was front-page news in The New York Times and other newspapers.

Roosevelt with their first two children, 1908.

They had six children named, Anna Roosevelt Halsted, James Roosevelt II,Franklin Roosevelt, Elliott Roosevelt,Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., and John Roosevelt.

First Lady, 1933–1945

Roosevelt and her husband ride in Los Angeles, 1935.

Roosevelt became the first lady of the United States when her husband was sworn in as the 33rd president on March 4, 1933. As first lady, Roosevelt was vocal in her support of the civil rights movement. She became one of the only voices in her husband's administration insisting that benefits be equally extended to Americans of all races.[19]

She was the first presidential spouse to hold regular press conferences and in 1940 became the first to speak at a national party convention.[20] She also wrote a daily newspaper called, "My Day". She was the first for a presidential spouse to do this.[21][22] She was also the fist presidential wife to write a monthly magazine column and to host a weekly radio show.[23]

In the first year of her husband's administration, Roosevelt earned $75,000 from her lectures and writing, most of which she gave to charity.[24] By 1941, she was receiving lecture fees of $1,000,[25] and was made an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa at one of her lectures to celebrate her achievements.[26][27]

Civil rights activism

Roosevelt also broke with tradition by inviting hundreds of African-American guests to the White House.[28] In 1936 she became aware of conditions at the National Training School for Girls, a predominantly Black reform school once located in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington, D.C. She visited the school, wrote about it in her "My Day" column, where she asked for additional funding, and pressed for changes in staffing and curriculum.[29]

Roosevelt later presented Anderson to the King and Queen of the United Kingdom after Anderson performed at a White House dinner.[30] She also arranged the appointment of African-American educator Mary McLeod Bethune, with whom she had struck up a friendship, as Director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration.[31][32]

Roosevelt lobbied behind the scenes for the 1934 Costigan-Wagner Bill to make lynching a federal crime, including arranging a meeting between Franklin and NAACP president Walter Francis White.[33]

Roosevelt's support of African-American rights made her an unpopular figure among whites in the South. At the same time, she grew so popular among African-Americans.

World War II

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt spoke out against Japanese-American prejudice. She also privately opposed her husband's Executive Order 9066, which required Japanese-Americans in many areas of the U.S. to enter internment camps.

On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, As the U.S. began to move toward war, Roosevelt found herself again depressed, fearing that her role in fighting for domestic justice would become fail, and cause the nation to focused on foreign affairs.

She briefly considered traveling to Europe to work with the Red Cross, but was warned by presidential advisers that the president's wife could be captured as a prisoner of war.[34] She soon found other wartime causes to work on, however, beginning with a popular movement to allow the immigration of European refugee children.[35]

She also lobbied her husband to allow greater immigration of groups persecuted by the Nazis, including Jews, but fears of fifth columnists caused Franklin to restrict immigration rather than expanding it.[36] Roosevelt successfully secured political refugee status for eighty-three Jewish refugees from the S.S. Quanza in August 1940.[37]

Life after the White House

After her husband died on April 12, 1945, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. Roosevelt moved into an apartment at 29 Washington Square West in Greenwich Village. In 1950, she rented suites at the Park Sheraton Hotel (202 West 56th Street). She lived here until 1953 when she moved to 211 East 62nd Street. When that lease expired in 1958, she returned to the Park Sheraton as she waited for the house she purchased with Edna and David Gurewitsch at 55 East 74th Street to be renovated.[38] The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum opened on April 12, 1946.[39]

United Nations

Roosevelt holding the poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1949.

In December 1945, President Harry S. Truman appointed Roosevelt as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.[40] In April 1946, she became the first chairperson of the preliminary United Nations Commission on Human Rights.[41] Roosevelt remained chairperson when the commission was established on a permanent basis in January 1947.[42] Along with René Cassin, John Peters Humphrey and others, she played a key role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Roosevelt at the United Nations.

Roosevelt also served as the first United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights[43] and stayed on at that position until 1953, even after stepping down as chair of the commission in 1951.[44] The UN awarded her one of its first Human Rights Prizes in 1968 in recognition of her work.[45]

In the 1940s, Roosevelt was among the first people to support the creation of a UN agency specialized in the issues of food and nutrition.[46]

Other activities

In 1949, she was made an honorary member of the historically black organization Alpha Kappa Alpha.[47][48]

She resigned from her UN post in 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president. She addressed the Democratic National Convention in 1952 and 1956. President John F. Kennedy later reappointed her to the United Nations, where she served again from 1961 to 1962, and to the National Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps.[49]

In 1961, President Kennedy's undersecretary of labor, Esther Peterson, proposed a new Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Kennedy appointed Roosevelt to chair the commission, with Peterson as director. This was Roosevelt's last public position.[50]

Roosevelt receiving the Mary McLeod Bethune Human Rights award, November 1960.

Throughout the 1950s, Roosevelt went on countless national and international speaking engagements. She continued to pen her newspaper column and made appearances on television and radio broadcasts. She averaged one hundred fifty lectures a year throughout the 1950s, many devoted to her activism on behalf of the United Nations.[51]

Roosevelt received the first annual Franklin Delano Roosevelt Brotherhood Award in 1946.[52] Other notable awards she received during her life postwar included the Award of Merit of the New York City Federation of Women's Clubs in 1948, the Four Freedoms Award in 1950, the Irving Geist Foundation Award in 1950, and the Prince Carl Medal, from Sweden in 1950.[52]

Death and funeral

In April 1960, Roosevelt was diagnosed with aplastic anemia soon after being struck by a car in New York City. She died on November 7, 1962, aged 78, of resulting cardiac failure at her Manhattan home at 55 East 74th Street on the Upper East Side.[53][54] President John F. Kennedy ordered all United States flags lowered to half-staff throughout the world on November 8 in tribute to Roosevelt.[54]

Funeral services were held two days later in Hyde Park, where she was buried next to her husband in the Rose Garden at Springwood Estate, the Roosevelt family home.[55]

Historical reputation and legacy

1949 portrait of Roosevelt by Douglas Chandor.

In 1966, the White House Historical Association purchased Douglas Chandor's portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt; the portrait had been commissioned by the Roosevelt family in 1949. The painting was presented at a White House reception on February 4, 1966, that was hosted by Lady Bird Johnson and attended by more than 250 invited guests. The portrait hangs in the Vermeil Room.[56][57][58]

Roosevelt was posthumously inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1973.[59]

In 1989, the Eleanor Roosevelt Fund Award was founded.[60]

Eleanor Roosevelt Monument in Manhattan.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Monument in New York's Riverside Park was dedicated in 1996, with First Lady Hillary Clinton serving as the keynote speaker. It was the first monument to an American woman in a New York City park.[61] The centerpiece is a statue of Roosevelt sculpted by Penelope Jencks. The surrounding granite pavement contains inscriptions designed by the architect Michael Middleton Dwyer, including summaries of her achievements, and a quote from her 1958 speech at the United Nations advocating universal human rights.[62]

Eleanor Roosevelt statue in 2011.

In 1997, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C. was dedicated; it includes a bronze statue of Eleanor Roosevelt standing before the United Nations emblem, which honors her dedication to the United Nations. It is the only presidential memorial to depict a first lady.[63]

In 1998, President Bill Clinton established the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights to honor outstanding American promoters of rights in the United States. The award was first awarded on the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, honoring Eleanor Roosevelt's role as the "driving force" in the development of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The award was originally presented from 1998 to the end of the Clinton Administration in 2001. In 2010, then-Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Clinton revived the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and presented the award on behalf of the then-President of the United States Barack Obama.

The Gallup Organization published the poll Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century, to determine which people around the world Americans most admired for what they did in the 20th century in 1999. Eleanor Roosevelt came in ninth.[64]

In 2001, the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee was founded by Judith Hollensworth Hope, who was its president until April 2008. It inspires and supports pro-choice Democratic women to run for local and state offices in New York.[65]

In 2007, Eleanor Roosevelt was named a hero by The My Hero Project.[66][67]

In 2020, Time magazine included Eleanor Roosevelt on its list of 100 Women of the Year. She was retroactively named Woman of the Year 1948 for her efforts on tackling issues surrounding human rights.[68]

Eleanor Roosevelt Women's Quarter.

Roosevelt was honored on an American Women quarter in 2023.[69]

Places named for Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt School, also known as the Eleanor Roosevelt Vocational School for Colored Youth, Warm Springs Negro School, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Rosenwald School, which operated as a school from March 18, 1937, until 1972, was a historical Black community school located at 350 Parham Street at Leverette Hill Road in Warm Springs, Georgia. As of May 3, 2010, the school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Meriwether County, Georgia.[70][71]

The Norvelt firefighter's hall is named Roosevelt Hall in her honor.[72]

In 1972, the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute was founded; it merged with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Foundation in 1987 to become the Roosevelt Institute. The Roosevelt Institute is a liberal American think tank.[73][74]

Eleanor Roosevelt High School, a public magnet high school specializing in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering, was established in 1976 at its current location in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Val-Kill Historic Site, Hyde Park, New York

In 1977, the home was formally designated by an act of Congress as the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. The Roosevelt Study Center, a research institute, conference center, and library opened in 1986. It is named after Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt, all of whose ancestors emigrated from Zeeland to the United States in the seventeenth century.

In 1988, Eleanor Roosevelt College, one of eight undergraduate residential colleges at the University of California, San Diego, was founded. Eleanor Roosevelt High School, a small public high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, was founded in 2002.[75] Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale, California, opened in 2006.[76]

Eleanor Roosevelt Media


  1. "Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman Correspondence: 1947". trumanlibrary.org. November 14, 2015. Archived from the original on November 14, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  2. "Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman Correspondence: 1953–60". trumanlibrary.org. September 24, 2015. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  3. Sears, John (2008). "Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (PDF). FDR Presidential Library & Museum.
  4. Fazzi, Dario (December 19, 2016). Eleanor Roosevelt and the Anti-Nuclear Movement: The Voice of Conscience. Springer. p. 109, Note 61. ISBN 978-3-319-32182-0.
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named bioER.
  6. "Ranking the First Ladies". Elections Daily. Retrieved February 26, 2024.
  7. "Question: Where did ER and FDR live?". The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project. gwu.edu. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  8. "The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project". gwu.edu.
  9. "Eleanor Roosevelt Biography". National First Ladies' Library. Firstladies.org. Archived from the original on June 9, 2010. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
  10. Graham, Hugh Davis (Spring 1987). "The Paradox of Eleanor Roosevelt: Alcoholism's Child". Virginia Quarterly Review. 63 (2): 210–230. PMID 11618247. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  11. Goodwin 1994, p. 94.
  12. Goodwin 1994, p. 95.
  13. Black, Allida (2009). "Anna Eleanor Roosevelt". whitehouse.gov. Retrieved March 13, 2010 – via National Archives.
  14. Wiesen Cook, Blanche (1992). Eleanor Roosevelt: 1884–1933. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-80486-3.
  15. "Marie Souvestre (1830–1905)". The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at George Washington University. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  16. Beasley, Maurine Hoffman; Holly Cowan Shulman; Henry R. Beasley (2001). The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia. Greenwood. pp. 469–70. ISBN 978-0-313-30181-0. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "1884–1920: Becoming a Roosevelt". The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project via George Washington University. Archived from the original on November 16, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  18. "FAQ: Marriage and Family". National Park Service. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
  19. Goodwin 1994, p. 162–163.
  20. Goodwin 1994, p. 10, 133.
  21. Goodwin 1994, p. 10.
  22. "Primary Resources: My Day, Key Events". American Experience. Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on October 28, 2012. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  23. "Little-known facts about our First Ladies". Firstladies.org. Archived from the original on July 14, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  24. Cook 1999, p. 3.
  25. Goodwin 1994, p. 209.
  26. Brody, J. Kenneth (2017). Crucible of a Generation: How the Attack on Pearl Harbor Transformed America. Taylor & Francis. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-351-62432-9.
  27. "Phi Beta Kappa Society". Facebook. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  28. Goodwin 1994, p. 163.
  29. Beasley, Maureen Hoffman (1987). Eleanor Roosevelt and the Media: A Public Quest for Fulfillment. pp. 102.
  30. Beasley 1986, p. 68.
  31. Cook 1999, p. 159.
  32. "Mary McLeod Bethune". American Experience. Archived from the original on November 21, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  33. Cook 1999, p. 179–181, 243–247.
  34. Goodwin 1994, p. 82–83.
  35. Goodwin 1994, p. 98–101.
  36. Goodwin 1994, p. 102–103.
  37. Goodwin 1994, p. 174–175.
  38. Rowley 2010, p. 289.
  39. "History of the FDR Library and Museum". Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Archived from the original on December 3, 2012. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  40. Rowley 2010, p. 294.
  41. Glendon 2001, p. 31.
  42. Glendon 2001, p. 33.
  43. Mrs. Roosevelt Sees U.S. Uncertain on U.N.. February 18, 1947. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1947/02/18/87505662.pdf.  (subscription needed)
  44. "Human Rights Commission". Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. 2003. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  45. "The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights" (PDF). United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 30, 2012. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  46. "Document card | FAO | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations". www.fao.org. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  47. Deborah Elizabeth Whaley (September 1, 2010). Disciplining Women: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Black Counterpublics, and the Cultural Politics of Black Sororities. SUNY Press. pp. 43–. ISBN 978-1-4384-3274-8.
  48. Austin Bogues (July 14, 2008). "Sorority Celebrates Michelle Obama's Acceptance". The New York Times. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/sorority-celebrates-michelle-obamas-acceptance/. 
  49. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named NFFL.
  50. Lois Scharf in Beasley, ed. Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia pp. 164–65.
  51. Critical Lives: Eleanor Roosevelt p. 242
  52. 52.0 52.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named NYTobit2.
  53. "Health". in Beasley, Maurine Hoffman; Holly Cowan Shulman; Henry R. Beasley (2001). The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 230–32. ISBN 978-0-313-30181-0. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  54. 54.0 54.1 "U.S. Flags Flying at Half-Staff As a Tribute to Mrs. Roosevelt". The New York Times. November 9, 1962. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1962/11/09/87005303.pdf. Retrieved April 1, 2009. 
  55. Dunlap, David W. (November 7, 2012). 50 Years After Her Death, Eleanor Roosevelt's Admirers Will Celebrate Her Life. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/07/fifty-years-after-her-death-eleanor-roosevelts-admirers-will-celebrate-her-life/. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  56. "Eleanor Roosevelt's White House Portrait Session". White House Historical Association. February 4, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  57. Roosevelt, Eleanor (December 16, 1949). "My Day". The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Digital Edition. Department of History, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  58. "Public Tour by Room; Vermeil Room". whitehouse.gov. Retrieved December 8, 2016 – via National Archives.
  59. "Roosevelt, Eleanor – National Women's Hall of Fame". Womenofthehall.org. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  60. Resources Tools & References. "Eleanor Roosevelt Fund Award". AAUW. Archived from the original on August 26, 2016. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  61. Martin, Douglas (October 5, 1996). Eleanor Roosevelt Honored in Hometown Today. https://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/05/nyregion/eleanor-roosevelt-honored-in-hometown-today.html. 
  62. Jean Parker Phifer, Public Art New York (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009).
  63. "The White House / The National Archives". Clinton2.nara.gov. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  64. The Gallup Poll 1999. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc. 1999. pp. 248–249.
  65. "Campaign Trainings for Women". Center for American Women and Politics. Archived from the original on October 8, 2014.
  66. "Eleanor Roosevelt". The My Hero Project – Eleanor Roosevelt. December 6, 2007. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  67. "Bibliography" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  68. "1948: Eleanor Roosevelt". Time. March 5, 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  69. "2023 American Women Quarters™ Program Honorees Announced". U.S. Mint. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  70. "Eleanor Roosevelt School, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, NPS Form 10-900". United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. April 16, 2010.
  71. "Eleanor Roosevelt School, NPGallery Asset Detail". National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  72. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Pittsburgh Trib2.
  73. "About Us". Roosevelt Institute. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  74. Ahsan, Naomi; Morris, Jessica (February 20, 2013). Roosevelt Institute Campus Network Offers Summer Opportunities for Student Organizers. http://www.thenation.com/blog/173031/roosevelt-institute-campus-network-offers-summer-opportunities-student-organizers. Retrieved June 2, 2015. 
  75. "ERHS History: Overview". Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  76. Bennett, Andrea (September 5, 2006). "Eleanor Roosevelt High opens its doors". Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.