Eleanor Roosevelt: 10 Significant Achievements
Described by U.S. President Harry S. Truman as the “First Lady of the World”, Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most famous American diplomats and activists of the 20th century. Not only is she the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, she was also responsible for drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during her time as the chief of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Eleanor Roosevelt made great strides in advocating for the rights of women as well as minorities in the United States. During her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt’s term (1933-1945) in the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt worked very hard to raise the nation’s awareness to the plight of women, African-Americans, and refugees fleeing countries devastated by World War II.
Quick facts: Eleanor Roosevelt
Full name: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
Birthday: October 11, 1884
Place of birth: New York City, United States
Death date: November 7, 1962
Place of death: New York City, U.S.
Burial place: Home of FDR National Historic Site, Hyde Park, New York
Parents: Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt and Anna Rebecca Hall
Siblings: Elliot Jr., Elliott Roosevelt Mann (half sibling), Hall
Education: Allenwood Academy in London, England
Spouse: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Children: Anna, James, Franklin Roosevelt, Elliott, Franklin Jr., John Aspinwall
Positions held: First Chairperson of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (1961-1962); First U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (1947-1953)
Most known for: Longest-serving First Lady of the United States (1933-1945); Inspiring commitment to civil rights and human rights across the world; Drafting the
Achievements of Eleanor Roosevelt
The article below presents 10 significant achievements of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of America’s most renowned First Ladies:
She formed a formidable political partnership with FDR
After her husband’s with a paralytic illness 1921, Eleanor was the one who nursed Franklin. Many historians believe that had it not been her care, Franklin would most likely have succumbed to the illness. Eleanor also encouraged FDR to remain active in politics. This came despite FDR’s mother, Sara Ann Delano, wanting him to retire from politics.
Eleanor Roosevelt also took to giving speeches on her husband’s behalf. And with meticulous guidance from political adviser cum journalist Louis Howe, she grew into the role. She remained beside FDR as he progressed from vice presidential candidate (running mate of James M. Cox in the 1920 presidential election) to New York Governor and then the ultimate office of the land – president of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an influential member of the Women’s Trade Union League
Founded in 1903, the Women’s Trade Union League was an organization made up of women from all walks of life. Eleanor joined the league, which was famous for organizing labor unions and promoting women’s rights at the workplace. She helped in organizing a number of the WTUL events. She was also involved in raising funds for the league in order to champion causes such as the minimum wage, the end of child labor, and the promotion of health and safety regulations at the workplace.
She was at the fore front of promoting education for girls
One of Eleanor’s contributions to the nation came in the form of the tireless work she put into initiatives aimed at educating young girls. In 1927, she partnered with Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerman to acquire the Todhunter School for Girls. The school prided itself with giving top-notch courses to girls who were just about entering colleges or universities. Eleanor also tutored courses (until 1933) such as history and American literature in the school. A massive women’s rights advocate, she inculcated in the girls a sense of social involvement, critical and independent thinking.
Eleanor Roosevelt revolutionized the role of the First Lady of the United States
Amidst the Great Depression of the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt secured a landslide victory at the 1932 presidential election. Eleanor’s husband defeated incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover by winning 472 electoral votes against Hoover’s 59. Upon becoming First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt set out to engage in initiatives other than those confined to hostessing events.
Her husband’s term in office (from 1933 to 1945) meant that she is the longest-serving First Lady of the United States.
Helped assure the nation as it went through the Great Depression
In spite of criticisms from the various conservative elements, she stood her ground and continued being vocal about social issues, raising awareness to issues such as women’s rights and the civil rights of African Americans. Eleanor played a crucial role in communicating her husband’s vision (i.e. the New Deal) to the American public. She also participated in several meetings involving labor in a bid to keep the morale of workers beaten down by the Great Depression.
She deployed the National Youth Administration to good use, using it as a tool for implementing some sections of FDR’s New Deal.
In one incident, she ate and sang with a group of protesting World War I veterans, known as the “Bonus Arm”. The veterans marched on Washington to express their dissatisfaction with the federal government for its failure in paying their veteran bonus. Roosevelt broke bread with the workers, listening to all their concerns. By so doing she was able to amicably diffuse the tension.
Read More: Major Causes of World War I
She was the first First Lady to write a newspaper column
Before Eleanor Roosevelt no other First Lady had ever held regular press conferences. She was also the first First Lady to give a speech at a national party convention. She also holds the record of being the first First Lady to write a daily newspaper column. The column she wrote was known as “My Day”, which delved into a myriad of social issues. The column also gave the public a glimpse into her private and public life as well as her views on issues pertaining to her faith.
Appearing six days a week, Eleanor’s “My Day” column attracted several millions of readers. With the exclusion of four days after her husband’s death, she never missed a day in writing the column, writing consistently from 1935 to 1962.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an outspoken critic against racial discrimination
Eleanor Roosevelt used her position as First Lady of the United States to come to the aid of African American communities across the nation. She was a vocal opponent of racial segregation, be it in housing or other sectors of the economy. She once tried to use the planned community in Arthurdale, West Virginia to create a community with mixed races.
She also tried to give African Americans a fair share of the benefits from the New Deal programs. She held the view that African Americans were discriminated and received relatively lower share of the bail-out in the New Deal.
To drum home her message of desegregation, she often invited African-American community leaders, students, artists and workers to the White House. She used her “My Day” column to call for more funding to predominantly black schools, for example the National Training School for Girls.
She was instrumental in getting an African American – Mary McLeod Bethune – to lead the Division of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration (NYA).
Did you know: Eleanor Roosevelt parted ways with the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939 after the group refused to let African American singer Marian Anderson use the Washington’s Constitution Hall?
More than 300 press conferences during her time as First Lady. She intentional forbade male reporters from attending her press conferences. This allowed for women reporters to remain on the payroll of newspapers.
As First Lady of the U.S., she helped lift the morale of U.S. troops in World War II
Eleanor went on several trips abroad during World War II in a selfless attempt to boost the morale of the brave men and women fighting against Adolf Hitler and the Axis Forces. She even contemplated joining and serving in the Red Cross in Europe.
Eleanor also encouraged the FDR administration to take in women and children fleeing the conflict all across the world. She tried to make the U.S. a safe haven for those ethnic groups running away from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
Prior to the U.S. entering into World War II, she briefly served as the co-chairperson of the Office of Civilian Defense. The other co-chair was Fiorello H. LaGuardia, New York City mayor.
As part of her social reform initiative, she called for African Americans and women to play greater role in the nation’s effort to secure victory in World War II.
Eleanor Roosevelt was involved in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
After her time in the White House as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt was appointed U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. The appointment, which was made by FDR’s successor President Harry S. Truman, came in December 1945. About four months later, she rose to become the chief of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). She stayed in that position until 1952.
Her time as chairperson of the UNCHR was instrumental, as she helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted the declaration on December 10, 1948. She famously described the Declaration as the “International Magna Carta for all men”.
She was the first First Lady of the United States to have a regular radio show
In order to get her message across to a larger audience, Eleanor took to hosting radio shows on a regular basis. Her predecessor – Lou Henry Hoover – was actually the first First Lady to make a radio broadcast. However, what makes Eleanor’s case unique is the frequency at which did those radio broadcasts – many of them on CBS and NBC.
First appearing on July 9, 1934, Eleanor use those radio broadcasts to promote issues pertaining to rights for minorities, women rights and children welfare. It was claimed that she donated all the salaries she earned from those radio shows to charitable causes.
Read More: Eleanor Roosevelt – Timeline and Major Facts