Day 52 - Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, holding the post from 1933 to 1945 during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt's four terms in office. President Harry S. Truman later called her the "First Lady of the World" in tribute to her human rights achievements.
Born into a wealthy and well-connected New York family, the Roosevelts, Eleanor had an unhappy childhood, suffering the deaths of both parents and one of her brothers at a young age. At 15, she attended Allenwood Academy in London, and was deeply influenced by feminist headmistress Marie Souvestre. Returning to the US, she married her cousin Franklin Roosevelt in 1905. The Roosevelts' marriage was complicated from the beginning by Franklin's controlling mother, Sara and after discovering Franklin's affair with Lucy Mercer in 1918, Eleanor resolved to seek fulfillment in a public life of her own. She persuaded Franklin to stay in politics following his partial paralysis from polio, and began to give speeches and campaign in his place. After Franklin's election as Governor of New York, Eleanor regularly made public appearances on his behalf. She had also shaped the role of First Lady during her tenure and beyond.
Though widely respected in her later years, Roosevelt was a controversial First Lady for her outspokenness, particularly her stands on racial issues. She was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention. On a few occasions, she publicly disagreed with her husband's policies. She launched an experimental community at Arthurdale, West Virginia for the families of unemployed miners, later widely regarded as a failure. She advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans and Asian Americans, and the rights of World War II refugees.
Following her husband's death, Eleanor remained active in politics for the rest of her life. She pressed the US to join and support the United Nations and became one of its first delegates. She served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later she chaired the John F. Kennedy administration's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. By her death, she was regarded as "one of the most esteemed women in the world" and "the object of almost universal respect". In 1999, she was ranked in the top ten of Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.