Eleanor Roosevelt, who lived from 1884-1962, is often known as "The First Lady of the World."
She was the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is remembered for her work as a humanitarian (someone who helps others) and as a powerful, outspoken First Lady!
Eleanor Roosevelt lived during a time when women were not always considered equal to men. There were also many racial inequalities at this time, meaning that people were sometimes treated unfairly based on the color of their skin. Much of the work she did was considered controversial because she supported equal rights for all people (regardless of race or gender) at a time when much of the public had still not accepted that as fair.
She also worked for some time as a teacher, wrote daily a newspaper column, held special White House conferences, and spent time speaking out for her various causes at meetings and conferences, bringing those subjects into the spotlight and prompting change! In spite of doing things that were often controversial or unpopular, Eleanor maintained many people's respect because she conducted herself honorably and with good manners. In addition to her volunteering and other work, Eleanor also traveled and toured on behalf of her husband during his political career and presidency. Because he had suffered from polio (a disease that left him paralyzed from the waist down), Eleanor often had to step in as his "eyes and ears," traveling around the country on his behalf! She also led a committee on human rights (equalities for all people) while serving as a delegate to the United Nations, helping to create a special document that declared equal and fair treatment for all people around the world!
While serving as a delegate to the United Nations, Eleanor Roosevelt helped to write a famous document known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which outlined basic common standards of fairness for the treatment of all people worldwide. What do you think are some important qualities and ideas that should be in a document like this? Have a grown-up help you write your own version!
One good example of the way Eleanor supported the rights of women was through special White House press conferences for women only that she established while she was the First Lady. Many organizations did not employ women, so anyone who wanted access to the conferences was forced to hire female employees! Eleanor also supported equalities for all races. At a public meeting in Alabama, for example, Eleanor protested that the room that had been seated separately by race, and instead brought her own folding chair so she could sit in the middle of the room!
Up for discussion
Should First Ladies use their position to fight for a cause?
Why did women have much less rights at the time Eleanor Roosevelt lived? Do you think women are treated equally today?
Why do you think no woman has been elected President of the United States yet?