Eleanor Roosevelt in Fight for Equal Rights
In the early 1900s, a woman’s job was to stay at home, taking care of the children, taking care of chores, and running simple errands. Many women knew that this was wrong and that they were capable of so much more than what society was asking of them. It took countless years for women to have their voices be heard as actual voices rather than a nagging wife, sister, or mother. One of the women who helped make this stand in society was Eleanor Roosevelt. She was one of the first First Lady’s to take a stand in politics and fight for equal rights for women. Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady in history so far and a strong humanitarian figure who fought for equal rights for women and made many advancements for women as a group (“Anna Eleanor Roosevelt”).
Eleanor Roosevelt, whose full name was Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, was born in New York City, New York, on October 11, 1884. She grew up in a family of the aristocracy, her mother was an elite tennis player and her father worked in a highly-esteemed real estate agency (“First Lady Biography: Eleanor Roosevelt”). She had two younger siblings, Elliott Roosevelt Jr., and Gracie Hall Roosevelt. Sadly, Eleanor Roosevelt’s childhood was not longlived. Her mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, passed away in 1892 when Eleanor Roosevelt was only 8 years old due to a disease called Diphtheria. Right after her mother passed, her little brother, Elliott Roosevelt Jr. who was only four years old at the time, died from the same illness that their mother unfortunately had. Her father had always dealt with an addiction problem.
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The problem progressed so much so that Eleanor Roosevelt’s uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, took his brother to a sanitarium, which is “an institution for the preservation or recovery of health, especially for convalescence,” (“Sanitarium”). Then, only two years after the death of her mother when Eleanor Roosevelt was 10, her father, Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt, died. All that was left of her immediate family was her younger brother Gracie Hall Roosevelt. Immediately, they were both moved to be cared for by their grandmother. These events happening back to back would be hard for anyone, even adults, to endure, so it can only be imagined the immense pain that such a young girl had to go through. The passing of both of her parents and brother obviously greatly affected her and her living brothers development as children. Eleanor Roosevelt was a more reserved and shy person, only speaking spoken to. It’ quite hard to imagine such an inspirational woman being a quiet young one. However, when she was a teenager, she attended a school in England that helped her to become more open with other people and students and helped her to branch out to many others (“Eleanor Roosevelt”).
This school, called the Allenswood Girls Academy, greatly influenced Eleanor Roosevelt’s life. The school helped her to develop a love of many subjects and experience events she wouldn’t have gotten the chance to experience in a normal school. Marie Souvestre was the woman who ran the academy and she and Eleanor Roosevelt greatly bonded. Marie took Eleanor Roosevelt with her on trips during school breaks, to places such as France and Italy. Marie made sure not to just show Eleanor Roosevelt the happy parts of the country, but also the places that were less privileged than her (“First Ladies Biography: Eleanor Roosevelt”). This helped Eleanor Roosevelt to see that the world is not just but is unfair and later encouraged her to pursue the things she did, including fighting for equal rights.
After returning from school in England, she quickly got involved in the social reform movement of the Progressive Era (“First Ladies Biography: Eleanor Roosevelt”). Her grandmother was not happy about this, along with many other family members, who wanted Eleanor Roosevelt to make her debut into the world as a young and fashionable lady. Instead, she took a stand against injustices she saw in the world, such as defending the working class and those who couldn’t defend themselves. Just like her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt put herself in the environment that were giving their all to make changes to the unfairness of the world today. By doing this, she was able to see how much effort and time it took to make serious changes to laws. This also helped her to realize what she was getting into and help her to prepare for things later in her life to come.
Then, one fateful day, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, better known as FDR, met Eleanor Roosevelt. Though their last names were the same, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were actually very distant cousins. To be exact, Franklin was Eleanor Roosevelt’s fifth cousin, once removed (“First Lady Biography: Eleanor Roosevelt”). Even though Franklin’s mother did not like the courtship between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, that did not stop them. They got married on March 17, 1905. Unfortunately, her awful mother-in-law tried to control every aspect of her life. It got so bad that Franklin’s mother bought them a house, then proceeded to buy the house next door to it, then install a passageway so that they could have access to each other’s homes. Eleanor Roosevelt did not let this happen, thankfully.
As has been clearly seen, life was never really easy for Eleanor Roosevelt. Her husband was diagnosed with infantile paralysis in 1921 after 16 years of marriage. This sickness obviously slowed his movement physically and in the political world. Eleanor Roosevelt served as his nurse, but also did not let him give up on his dream of returning to politics. In the early 1930s, Franklin returned to politics, and not just community or state politics, but the politics of the United States. Franklin ran for president and won in 1933. Eleanor Roosevelt did not let her newfound title of “First Lady” hinder her into the background of domestic issues of the household, rather she used this title to further what she had already been doing for years (“Eleanor Roosevelt”). According to History.com, “she was one of the most active first ladies in history.” She worked diligently with the Democratic party and fought for equal rights among African Americans, women, labor workers, and all those who couldn’t speak up for themselves. Because of her husband’s unusually long presidential terms, serving four terms instead of only two, Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady. She took advantage of the time she had in this high-profile position. She revolutionized the office of the First Lady, changing the job description from ‘pretty hostess’ to ‘involved activist.’
The way people grow up and the environments they grow up in mold them into the people they become. Eleanor Roosevelt could have easily let her childhood keep her in a constant state of self-pity, but instead, she let it help her to become the person she needed to be. The person who would fight for equal rights; for women and all people. Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t let her poor circumstances determine who she would become. Eleanor Roosevelt is an amazing example for all young men and women today.