Sunday, August 03, 2014

First Lady Profile #1--Eleanor Roosevelt!

There was once a young woman, born in 1884, who grew up in the old aristocratic society of New York City and its more exclusive environs.  She conformed to her caste's attitudes toward minorities, women, marriage, and her place in the world.  Yet by the time Eleanor Roosevelt died in 1962, she was known as the First Lady of the world and the champion of African Americans, Jews, women, the young, the poor--virtually all who ever needed a champion.--Diana Dixon Healy
--I love learning about and studying the U.S. Presidents and the First Ladies.  I have a lot of books about them, many from used book sales and thrift stores.

--My goal is to visit every single Presidential home and museum some day.  So far, I have been to 8:
Dwight Eisenhower
Gerald Ford
Abraham Lincoln
Harry Truman
Ronald Reagan
Richard Nixon
Herbert Hoover
Ulysses S. Grant
--I thought I would do a series of profiles on first ladies, and collect the books that I own about them.  I'm starting with Eleanor Roosevelt since I own quite a few books about her.

--I may not agree with some of FDR's policies, but I love the woman that Eleanor Roosevelt was.  She revolutionized the role of first lady.  She advocated for the poor, African Americans and women.

--She was born on October 11, 1884 in New York.  She was named Anna Eleanor by her parents Anna and Elliott Roosevelt. Elliott Roosevelt was the younger brother of Teddy Roosevelt, making Teddy Eleanor's Uncle.
--She was given the nickname "Granny" by her mother, but her father called her, "little golden hair".
--Her mother died when she was 8 of diphtheria, and her father, an alcoholic, died 2 years later from an alcohol related illness.  She was sent to live with her Grandmother.
--She had an unhappy childhood, but flourished when she was sent to a boarding school in England called Allenswood at the age of 15.

--She married Franklin Roosevelt (a distant cousin) on St. Patrick's day in 1905 at the age of 20.  Her Uncle, then President Teddy Roosevelt gave her away at the wedding.
--Her Mother-in-law, Sara was very controlling.  She even bought adjoining townhomes so that she could come over to Franklin and Eleanor's house whenever she wanted.
--Eleanor gave birth to 6 children, 5 boys and 1 girl.  The boys were James, Franklin, Elliott, Franklin Delano, John and the girl was named Anna.  The first Franklin died as an infant.  
--Franklin got elected to the New York State Senate and then became assistant secretary of the navy.  Both of these positions enabled Franklin and Eleanor to move away from Sara.

--World War I enabled Eleanor to stop doing things she hated, like having dinners and teas as social events.  Instead, she was able to jump into volunteer work full-time.  She worked in a canteen at the railroad, the Naval League, visited the naval hospital, worked for the Navy Red Cross and the Navy Relief Society.
--During this time, Eleanor learned of her husband's affair with her social secretary, Lucy Mercer, and was crushed.
--Franklin was stricken by polio in 1921.  His mother wanted him to become an invalid and retire to Hyde Park.  But Eleanor was finally able to stand up to her mother-in-law and fought for Franklin to continue to be active in politics.  Eleanor had this to say about Franklin's illness:
It made me stand on my own two feet in regard to my husband's life, my own life, and my children's training.
--In 1928, Franklin was elected Governor of New York.  This provided a new set of opportunities for Eleanor.  She began traveling and speaking out against segregation in the south.  She taught at a girls' school called Todhunter.  She traveled with her husband to inspect state hospitals and prisons.  She also became active in the women's division of the Democratic party, the Women's Trade Union, and the League of Women Voters.  A historian had this to say about Eleanor:
She became famous not as FDR's wife, but as a major political force to be reckoned with.
--In 1932, Franklin was elected President of the United States.  Eleanor broke all the rules/traditions of what the first lady's role was.  She didn't allow the Secret Service agents to follow her, and instead carried a pistol for protection.
--She held her own press conferences with only women reporters present.  The White House Press Corps called her: "God's gift to newspaperwomen".
--She was the first First Lady to travel across the country.  She traveled and spoke all over the country and didn't shy away from controversial topics, such as child labor in sweatshops.  She gave 70 speeches a year.
--In 1936, she started writing a daily newspaper column entitled, My Day.  By the time of her death she had also written 500 magazine articles and 23 books.
--She fought for women's rights and encouraged them to get involved in politics.  She also fought against racism/prejudice against minorities.

 --She resigned from the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) when they wouldn't rent space to the African-American opera singer Marian Anderson.  She ended up having Anderson sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where 75,000 people attended.

--During World War II, she visited soldiers to boost morale.  In the end, she visited 400,000 soldiers and traveled 23,000 miles.  And she didn't just drop into the hospitals.  Admiral Halsey said when she visited the hospitals:
She went into every ward, stopped at every bed and spoke to every patient.
--On April 12, 1945, Franklin Roosevelt died.  Eleanor was asked by Franklin's successor, Harry Truman to be one of three U.S. delegates to the United Nations.
--She continued to speak out for human rights and civil rights, and to fight for what she believed in.
--She died on November 7th, 1962 at the age of 78.

My Eleanor Roosevelt Books:
-Anna Eleanor Roosevelt--Dan Santow
-You Learn by Living--Eleanor Roosevelt
-This I Remember--Eleanor Roosevelt
-Eleanor: The Years Alone--Joseph P. Lash
-Eleanor and Franklin--Joseph P. Lash
-America's First Ladies--Diana Dixon Healy
-First Ladies--Betty Boyd Caroli
-First Ladies of the White House--Nancy J. Skarmeas
-Who's Who of Women in the Twentieth Century--Jean Martin

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