Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became an advocate for civil rights. After her husband’s death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an international author, speaker, politician, and activist for the New Deal coalition.
Even at 14, Roosevelt understood that one’s prospects in life were not totally dependent on physical beauty, writing wistfully that “no matter how plain a woman may be if truth and loyalty are stamped upon her face all will be attracted to her.”
Roosevelt was tutored privately and, at the age of 15, with the encouragement of her father’s sister, her aunt “Bamie”, the family decided to send her to Allenswood Academy, a private finishing school outside London, England. The headmistress, Marie Souvestre, was a noted feminist educator who sought to cultivate independent thinking in the young women in her charge. Eleanor learned to speak French fluently and gained self-confidence. Her first-cousin Corinne Robinson, whose first term at Allenswood overlapped with Eleanor’s last, said that when she arrived at the school, Eleanor was “everything”. She would later study at The New School in the 1920s.
In 1902 at age 17, Roosevelt returned to the United States, ending her formal education. On December 14, 1902, Roosevelt was presented at a debutante ball at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. She was later given a debutante party. As a member of The New York Junior League, she volunteered as a social worker in the East Side slums of New York. Roosevelt was among the League’s earliest members, having been introduced to the organization by her friend, and organization founder, Mary Harriman.
That same year Roosevelt met her father’s fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was overwhelmed when the 20-year-old dashing Harvard University student demonstrated affection for her. Following a White House reception and dinner with her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, on New Year’s Day, 1903, Franklin’s courtship of Eleanor began. She later brought Franklin along on her rounds of the squalid tenements, a walking tour that profoundly moved the theretofore sheltered young man.
Following the Presidential inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (“FDR”) on March 4, 1933, Eleanor became First Lady of the United States. Having seen the strictly circumscribed role and traditional protocol of her aunt, Edith Roosevelt, during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909), Roosevelt set out on a different course. With her husband’s strong support, despite criticism of them both, she continued with the active business and speaking agenda she had begun before becoming First Lady, in an era when few women had careers. She was the first to hold weekly press conferences and started writing a widely syndicated newspaper column, “My Day” at the urging of her literary agent, George T. Bye.
Roosevelt maintained a heavy travel schedule over her 12 years in the White House, frequently making personal appearances at labor meetings to assure Depression-era workers that the White House was mindful of their plight. In one widely-circulated cartoon of the time from The New Yorker magazine (June 3, 1933) lampooning the peripatetic First Lady, an astonished coal miner, peering down a dark tunnel, says to a co-worker “For gosh sakes, here comes Mrs. Roosevelt!”
Eleanor became an important connection for Franklin’s administration to the African-American population during the segregation era. During Franklin’s terms as President, despite Franklin’s need to placate southern sentiment, Eleanor was vocal in her support of the African-American civil rights movement. She was outspoken in her support of Marian Anderson in 1939 when the black singer was denied the use of Washington’s Constitution Hall and was instrumental in the subsequent concert held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The first lady played a role in racial affairs when she appointed Mary McLeod Bethune as head of the Division of Negro Affairs.
One social highlight of the Roosevelt years was the 1939 visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the first British monarchs to set foot on U.S. soil. The Roosevelts were criticized in some quarters for serving hot dogs to the royal couple during a picnic at Hyde Park.
Although the First Lady initially wanted to be the voice of the White House to female journalists, Mrs. Roosevelt’s news was often about humanitarian concerns. Her reports stayed true to those issues of the American woman, such as unemployment, poverty, education, rural life, and the role of women in society.第二页继续...
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