Sunday, December 13, 2009

Eleanor Roosevelt - By Doris Kearns Goodwin Monday, Apr. 13, 1998 – TIME

When Eleanor Roosevelt journeyed to New York City a week after her husband's funeral in April 1945, a cluster of reporters were waiting at the door of her Washington Square apartment. "The story is over," she said simply, assuming that her words and opinions would no longer be of interest once her husband was dead and she was no longer First Lady. She could not have been more mistaken. As the years have passed, Eleanor Roosevelt's influence and stature have continued to grow. Today she remains a powerful inspiration to leaders in both the civil rights and women's movements. Photo

Eleanor shattered the ceremonial mold in which the role of the First Lady had traditionally been fashioned, and reshaped it around her own skills and her deep commitment to social reform. She gave a voice to people who did not have access to power. She was the first woman to speak in front of a national convention, to write a syndicated column, to earn money as a lecturer, to be a radio commentator and to hold regular press conferences… Photo

… But 13 years after her marriage, and after bearing six children, Eleanor resumed the search for her identity. The voyage began with a shock: the discovery in 1918 of love letters revealing that Franklin was involved with Lucy Mercer. "The bottom dropped out of my own particular world," she later said. "I faced myself, my surroundings, my world, honestly for the first time." There was talk of divorce, but when Franklin promised never to see Lucy again, the marriage continued. For Eleanor a new path had opened, a possibility of standing apart from Franklin. No longer would she define herself solely in terms of his wants and needs. A new relationship was forged, on terms wholly different from the old. Photo

She turned her energies to a variety of reformist organizations, joining a circle of postsuffrage feminists dedicated to the abolition of child labor, the establishment of a minimum wage and the passage of legislation to protect workers. In the process she discovered that she had talents--for public speaking, for organizing, for articulating social problems. She formed an extraordinary constellation of lifelong female friends, who helped to assuage an enduring sense of loneliness. When Franklin was paralyzed by polio in 1921, her political activism became an even more vital force. She became Franklin's "eyes and ears," traveling the country gathering the grass-roots knowledge he needed to understand the people he governed.

They made an exceptional team. She was more earnest, less devious, less patient, less fun, more uncompromisingly moral; he possessed the more trustworthy political talent, the more finely tuned sense of timing, the better feel for the citizenry, the smarter understanding of how to get things done. But they were linked by indissoluble bonds. Together they mobilized the American people to effect enduring changes in the political and social landscape of the nation. Photos Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Nowhere was Eleanor's influence greater than in civil rights. In her travels around the country, she developed a sophisticated understanding of race relations. When she first began inspecting New Deal programs in the South, she was stunned to find that blacks were being systematically discriminated against at every turn. Citing statistics to back up her story, she would interrupt her husband at any time, barging into his cocktail hour when he wanted only to relax, cross-examining him at dinner, handing him memos to read late at night. But her confrontational style compelled him to sign a series of Executive Orders barring discrimination in the administration of various New Deal projects. From that point on, African Americans' share in the New Deal work projects expanded, and Eleanor's independent legacy began to grow… Read complete article - Eleanor Roosevelt - By Doris Kearns Goodwin Monday, Apr. 13, 1998 – TIME Photo & video

Eleanor Roosevelt: A Restless Spirit - Video

She is one of the 20th century's most respected and admired figures; a humanitarian who transformed the role of women in societyand in the White House. Photo

Eleanor Roosevelt was the architect behind the now well-established tradition of the First Lady activist. A pioneer among presidents' wives, she formed her own staff, held press conferences, and defined a female agenda beyond that of a homemaker. She fought for the civil rights of women and other members of oppressed society. Yet this monumental public figure was also the unhappy wife of a philandering husband and an orphan whose family was destroyed by alcoholism. In this intimate portrait, experts and scholars come together to make the important connections between Mrs. Roosevelt's public and private lives.

BIOGRAPHY® brings you the complete and inspiring life story of Eleanor Roosevelt, champion of freedom and human dignity.

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