Thursday, October 11, 2018

Happy Birthday, Eleanor Roosevelt

Today is the birthday of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), certainly one of America’s most consequential First Ladies and a significant figure during the FDR years and after.  

Sometimes known as “First Lady of the World,” Eleanor overcame personal heartaches and insecurities to emerge a staunch supporter of human rights, at home and abroad.  Perhaps her greatest contribution was her work at the United Nations, including the drafting of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt held strong views and could be stubborn.  She had an uneasy early  relationship with John F. Kennedy, somewhat related to her dim view of his father but also because of his youth (relative to her), his unwillingness to take on Senator Joseph McCarthy, and her longtime support for the presidential aspirations of Adlai Stevenson.  She once said to JFK in a telegram (1959):  “My dear boy I only say these things for your own good.’’ The relationship latler improved.

When she died President Kennedy said, “One of the great ladies in the history of this country has passed from the scene.  Her loss will be deeply felt by all those who admired her tireless idealism or benefited from her good works and wise counsel.”  He spoke for many Americans.

Photo from the National Archives.

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