Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
October 11, 1884, in New York, New York
November 7, 1962, in New York, New York
Eleanor Roosevelt served as first lady throughout her husband Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms of office from 1933 until his unexpected death in 1945. Eleanor was 48 years old when she became first lady.
Eleanor raised the bar for all her successors by transforming the role of first lady into a position focused on communication and social activism rather than as primary White House hostess. As first lady Eleanor dedicated herself to improving basic human rights, a passion that developed into a lifelong pursuit. Though many of her predecessors had served as political partners to their husbands, Eleanor actually traveled and spoke on her husband’s behalf, sitting in on meetings and even speaking for him at the Democratic Party Convention. During World War II she served as an ambassador for the president by visiting American troops around the world and touring Europe. Her legacy is nonetheless highlighted by her tireless efforts advocating for the expanded rights for women, children, and African Americans. Though Lou Hoover had often addressed the nation via the radio, Eleanor was the first to meet with reporters on a weekly basis and write a weekly newspaper column. To help initiate more jobs for women, Eleanor insisted that only female reporters show up at her press conferences. Following her husband’s death, Eleanor continued her passionate work for human rights and worked as a delegate to the United Nations, where she helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that outlines the basic principles of human rights around the globe.
As a 14-year-old girl, Eleanor commented about beauty, “ . . . no matter how plain a woman may be if truth and loyalty are stamped upon her face all will be attracted to her.”
Regarding the future, Eleanor wrote, “The future is literally in our hands to mold as we like. But we cannot wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow is now.”