Woman Making History #44: Eleanor Roosevelt

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Eleanor RooseveltEleanor Roosevelt gets trotted out as an example of mid-century feminism all the time. Generally by people who can't come up with another name. For this reason, I, frankly, get kind of tired of her. But for the purposes of this project, I've tried to take a step back and reconsider what she actually did.

Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City in 1884. Both of her parents died when she was a child, and she lived with their grandmother before going to boarding school in England. As a child and a young woman, Roosevelt was plagued by feelings of insecurity due to her "plain" looks and shyness.

Roosevelt returned the U.S. after high school, where she married a distant cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, in 1905. Eleanor's uncle (and godfather), president Theodore Roosevelt, gave her away at their wedding.

The Roosevelts lived in Albany, New York, where Franklin served in the Senate and Eleanor had six children. Franklin then served as Assisant Secretary of the Navy, before getting polio in 1921. While her husband recooperated, Eleanor became heavily involved in the women's division of the State Democratic Committee. After making his recovery (though he used a wheelchair for the rest of his life), Franklin became for New York State Governor in 1928. In 1933, as the country faced the Great Depression, the Roosevelts moved into the White House.

Eleanor Roosevelt upheld all of the traditional social duties of the First Lady, but she also broke the mold, holding her own press conferences, traveling, giving lectures and speaking on the radio, and writing a daily syndicated newspaper column.

After President Roosevelt died in 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt moved back to New York. However, her political activities did not cease. She was instrumental in drafting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and served as the first chair of the UN Human Rights Commission. She was an American spokesperson to the United Nations and remainded active in the Democratic Party until her death in 1962.

Sources:
The White House
Wikipedia
Time

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