Friday, July 26, 2013

Eleanor Roosevelt

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born at 56 West 37th Street in New York City on October 11, 1884, and died at 55 East 74th Street in Manhattan on  November 7, 1962.  Eleanor, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States. The "First Lady of the World" held the post from 1933 to 1945 during the Great Depression and World War II.

Born into a wealthy family, Eleanor was tutored privately prior to attending Allenswood Academy, a private finishing school near London, England, at the age of 15. Upon returning to the United States, she was introduced into New York society with a debutante party but chose the career path of 
a  social worker, working in the slums of New York's East Side.  

Eleanor met  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her fifth cousin, on a train to Tivoli, New York, in 1902. Sara Ann Delano, Franklin's mother, opposed the courtship so the two began a secret correspondence and romance.  They became engaged on November 22, 1903 and married on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, 1905.  The wedding officiant was the Reverend Endicott Peabody, an Episcopal priest who had founded the Groton School attended by Franklin; President Theodore Roosevelt gave away the bride. The newlyweds honeymooned with a three-month tour of Europe in the summer of 1905. During their marriage, the couple had one daughter and five sons, one of whom died in infancy:

  • Anna Eleanor (May 3, 1906 – December 1, 1975)
  • James (December 23, 1907 – August 13, 1991)
  • Franklin Delano, Jr. (March 18, 1909 – November 1, 1909)
  • Elliott (September 23, 1910 – October 27, 1990)
  • Franklin Delano, Jr. (August 17, 1914 – August 17, 1988)
  • John Aspinwall II (March 13, 1916 – April 27, 1981) 
Eleanor was also a political leader in her own right and a great aide to her husband in his roles first, as New York State Senator (1911-1913), and later, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1913-1920)In 1919, she began to fundraise and work for the Women's Trade Union League. She focused on realizing the union goals of establishing a minimum wage, a 48 hour work week, and abolishing child labor.  

In the 1920's, after the passage of the 20th Amendment,  Eleanor  became an influential leader in the New York State Democratic Committee, which greatly aided Franklin with Democratic women.  During this period, Eleanor also taught English and history in New York City at the Todhunter School for Girls. 

Eilleen, Alexandra, Mariesha, and Kathleen Klos visiting the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC

In the summer of 1920, Franklin Roosevelt resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to pursue the Democratic nomination for Vice President.  The 1920 Democratic National Convention chose Governor James M. Cox of Ohio, as their Presidential nominee and balanced  the ticket with Roosevelt as their Vice President candidate.  Roosevelt, at 38, was four years younger than his cousin Teddy had been when he obtained the same nomination from his party.  Despite the defeat of the Cox-Roosevelt ticket by Republican Warren G. Harding, the Vice Presidential nomination nevertheless launched Franklin's national political star.

In the summer of 1921, while the family was vacationing at Campobello Island in Canada, Franklin was stricken with polio.  With his legs now permanently paralyzed, Franklin's influential mother insisted that he retire from politics and become a country gentleman. Eleanor, however,  thwarted Sara Ann Delano's designs and persuaded Franklin to remain in public service.  

Maintaining their contacts, Franklin and Eleanor helped Alfred E. Smith, a Catholic, to win the election for governor of New York in 1922. In 1924 they remained loyal and supported the Democratic Governor's re-election bid against their popular cousin, Republican Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.  

In 1928, Governor Alfred E. Smith, as the Democratic Party presidential nominee, recruited Roosevelt to run for New York governor.  Franklin and Eleanor accepted the nomination, campaigned hard, and Roosevelt was narrowly elected by a one-percent margin. As a reform governor, Franklin established a number of new social programs that were championed by the New York First Lady. Eleanor also continued to teach upper-level college courses in literature and American history, three days a week.

In the 1930's, Eleanor developed very close relationship with Lorena Hickok, an Associated Press reporter,  who covered her during the last months of the 1932 presidential campaign.  According to biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin, she "fell madly in love with her," writing daily daily long letters to "Hick", who was planning to write a biography on the new First Lady.  Lillian Faderman, Hazel Rowley and Maurine Beasley, all Roosevelt scholars, maintain that the friendship contained a sexual component.  In rebuttal, Doris Faber, Hickok's biographer,  insists that the numerous amorous phrases in the letters have misled historians. 

Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Roosevelts, wrote that "whether Hick and Eleanor went beyond kisses and hugs" could not be determined with certainty.  Russell Baker, writing in the The New York Review of Books of two 2011 Roosevelt biographies proclaims, "That the Hickok relationship was indeed erotic now seems beyond dispute".

Although distressed that the sole precedent for the employment of  former First Ladies had been to entertain, Eleanor never shirked that official duty, but far expanded her purview. Consequently, Hickok's biography, subtitled  "Reluctant First Lady," depicts a woman who chose to travel to all parts of the country, deliver lectures and radio broadcasts, and express her political opinions forcefully with the utmost candor.  The First Lady also became the first to have weekly press conferences and a syndicated newspaper column, entitled "My Day." According to Professor Emerita Maurine Beasley: 
The My Day column gave behind-the-scenes glimpses of White House life and served as a platform from which the First Lady could state her personal views. The column was a mixture of political oratory, public relations for President Roosevelt's New Deal, and the perceptions of an individual playing a leading role in the drama of her time. During its first year, "My Day" addressed humanitarian concerns such as poverty, unemployment, conservation, and the role of women, but much of it could be read as ingenious political propaganda during an election year. The column gave the Roosevelt administration a highly flexible weapon in its political arsenal, and Mrs. Roosevelt and the President most certainly conferred on some of its contents. Numerous columns during the years of World War II contained patriotic messages, descriptions of Mrs. Roosevelt's travels to various war areas, letters from servicemen, and advice from the Office of War Information. Beyond its political overtones, "My Day" sent a series of mixed messages regarding the position of women in society. While the column failed to offer a role model of much meaning to the average woman, it nevertheless showed a middle-aged woman continually on the move, establishing a place in the competitive occupation of journalism, and defining a role for herself outside the customary boundaries of her position.  

Typed Letter Signed by Eleanor Roosevelt to Walter White detailing the First Lady's lobbying efforts for federal action against lynchings, 19 March 1936. - Image courtesy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Records. Lynching was undoubtedly the most terrible crime perpetrated by white supremacists against African Americans. From the late nineteenth century through the World War I years, hundreds of blacks were lynched in the South for a variety of alleged crimes, the most heinous of which was the alleged rape of white women. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other civil rights organizations tried unsuccessfully for many years to get a federal antil-ynching law passed. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) and Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes (1874-1952), a one-time president of the NAACP's Chicago chapter, were supportive of the organization's efforts, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) did not share their enthusiasm and believed that pressing for the NAACP's demands would endanger congressional support for his New Deal programs. In her March 1936 letter to Walter Francis White (1893-1955), who served as NAACP executive secretary (later director) from 1931 to 1955, Mrs. Roosevelt stated some of the arguments that were used by the president and others against passage of an anti-lynching bill. It is clear from this "personal and confidential" letter that Mrs. Roosevelt was searching for a tactful means for aiding the anti-lynching cause herself, and she suggested to White various methods for winning the goodwill of members of Congress. - Library of Congress.

On several occasions, Eleanor publicly disagreed with her husband's policies. Her greatest failure, as First Lady, was the  launching of Arthurdale, an experimental West Virginia community for the families of unemployed coal miners.  On the triumphal side,  the First Lady successfully advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans, and the fair treatment of Asian Americans, and championed the rights of World War II refugees.

Following her husband's death, she returned to a cottage at his Hyde Park estate lamenting, "the story is over." A year later, however, she full court pressed Congress to join and support the United Nations and became one of its first delegates. Serving as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Eleanor oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later, President John F. Kennedy appointed her to a Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. 

Eleanor Roosevelt Sketch  
Lamarque, 1904-1999, artist

Eleanor Roosevelt died of  cardiac failure at her Manhattan home at 55 East 74th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, on November 7, 1962, at the age of 78. On November 8th, a New York Times' obituary memorialized Mrs. Roosevelt, First Lady 12 Years, Often Called 'World's Most Admired Woman.'  In 1999, a Gallup Pole ranked her 9th as the Most Admired Person of the Century:  

1. Mother Teresa
2. Martin Luther King, Jr.
3. John F. Kennedy
4. Albert Einstein
5. Helen Keller
6. Franklin D. Roosevelt
7. Billy Graham
8. Pope John Paul II
9. Eleanor Roosevelt
10. Winston Churchill
11. Dwight Eisenhower
12. Jacqueline Kennedy
13. Mahatma Gandhi
14. Nelson Mandela
15. Ronald Reagan
16. Henry Ford
17. Bill Clinton
18. Margaret Thatcher

By: Stanley Yavneh Klos                     Edited by: Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph.D.

  • First United American Republic: United Colonies of North America: 13 British Colonies United in Congress was founded by 12 colonies on September 5th, 1774 (Georgia joined in 1775)  and governed through a British Colonial Continental Congress.  Peyton Randolph and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief;
  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America: 13 Independent States United in Congress was founded by 12 states on July 2nd, 1776 (New York abstained until July 8th), and governed through the United States Continental CongressJohn Hancock and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Third United American Republic: The United States of America: A Perpetual Union was founded by 13 States on March 1st, 1781, with the enactment of the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and governed through the United States in Congress Assembled.  Samuel Huntington and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People  was formed by 11 states on March 4th, 1789 (North Carolina and Rhode Island joined in November 1789 and May 1790, respectively), with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The fourth and current United States Republic governs through  the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled, the U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  George Washington served as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief.

The First United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United Colonies Presidents 
Sept. 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776

September 5, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 26, 1774
May 20, 1775
May 24, 1775
May 25, 1775
July 1, 1776

The Second United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United States Presidents 
July 2, 1776 to February 28, 1781

July 2, 1776
October 29, 1777
November 1, 1777
December 9, 1778
December 10, 1778
September 28, 1779
September 29, 1779
February 28, 1781

Commander-in-Chief United Colonies & States of America

George Washington: June 15, 1775 - December 23, 1783

The Third United American Republic
Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to March 3, 1789

March 1, 1781
July 6, 1781
July 10, 1781
Declined Office
July 10, 1781
November 4, 1781
November 5, 1781
November 3, 1782
November 4, 1782
November 2, 1783
November 3, 1783
June 3, 1784
November 30, 1784
November 22, 1785
November 23, 1785
June 5, 1786
June 6, 1786
February 1, 1787
February 2, 1787
January 21, 1788
January 22, 1788
January 21, 1789

The Fourth United American Republic
Presidents of the United States of America

Capitals of the United States and Colonies of America

Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 24, 1774
May 10, 1775 to Dec. 12, 1776
Dec. 20, 1776 to Feb. 27, 1777
March 4, 1777 to Sept. 18, 1777
September 27, 1777
Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
July 2, 1778 to June 21, 1783
June 30, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783
Nov. 26, 1783 to Aug. 19, 1784
Nov. 1, 1784 to Dec. 24, 1784
New York City
Jan. 11, 1785 to Nov. 13, 1788
New York City
Nov. 1788 to March 3,1789
New York City
March 3,1789 to August 12, 1790
December 6,1790 to May 14, 1800
Washington DC
November 17,1800 to Present

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