Friday, October 6, 2023

Eleanor Roosevelt: Woman of Valor

Born October 11, 1884 into wealth and privilege, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt lost both her alcoholic parents and a brother before she was ten years old. Before her father died, he extracted a promise from her that she’d take care of her younger brother Hall which she did until his death in 1941.

In addition to being part of the prominent Roosevelts, Eleanor was also a Livingston, a well-to-do Scottish family that emigrated to the Dutch Republic and then New York during the 1700s. Descendants include Presidents George H.W. Bush and George Bush, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, much of the Astor family, actor Montgomery Clift, and actress Jane Wyatt. Through her father, she was Theodore Roosevelt’s niece.

In 1902, Eleanor encountered her fifth cousin once removed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while on a train trip in New York. The two took up a correspondence, and romance blossomed. They became engaged on November 22, 1903. Franklin’s mother, Sara Delano, was against the relationship and insisted the couple delay the marriage. She took her son on a cruise hoping the separation would cool their feelings. Her plan failed, and the wedding took place on St. Patrick’s Day, 1905 with Theodore Roosevelt giving Eleanor away. Franklin’s mother would prove to be an overbearing and difficult mother-in-law.

By 1921, after Franklin’s paralytic illness (which most scholars agree was polio), Eleanor became his stand-in at many events. She worked with the Women’s Trade Union and helped raise funds in support of their goals to abolish child labor, create a minimum wage, and shorten to the workweek to forty-eight hours. In an effort to help local farming families in New York, Eleanor partnered with several women to create Val-Kill Industries which financed the construction of a small factory that produced furniture, pewter, and homespun cloth.

Eleanor became the first First Lady to hold her own press conferences which she allowed only female
reporters to attend. She traveled extensively visiting relief projects, surveying working and living conditions, and reporting her observations to Franklin. She also became an advocate for the poor, minorities, and disadvantaged providing opportunities for success and developing programs to assist. 

During WWII, she wanted serve overseas with the Red Cross but was told it would be too much of a security risk. Instead, she became the Assistant Director of Civil Defense. She supported increased roles for women and African-Americans in the war effort, and advocated for women to be given factory jobs a year before it became a widespread practice. After Franklin’s death in April 1945, she continued her public work. She was appointed to the United Nations General Assembly and served as chair of the Human Rights Commission, drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948.


In her later life, she volunteered her services to the American Association for the U.N and was an American representative to the World Federation of the U.N. Associations, later becoming chair of the Associations’ Board of Directors. President Kennedy appointed her to the United States Delegation to the U.N. as well as the National Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps and chair of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

A recognized leader in promoting humanitarian efforts, Eleanor Roosevelt passed away on November 7, 1962.


Francine’s Foibles:

She's given up hope. He never had any. Will they find it together?

World War II is finally over, and America is extra grateful as the country approaches this year’s Thanksgiving. But for Francine life hasn’t changed. Despite working at Fort Meade processing the paperwork for the thousands of men who have returned home, she’s still lonely and very single. Is she destined for spinsterhood?

Grateful that his parents anglicized the family surname after emigrating to the United States after the Great War, first-generation German-American Ray Fisher has done all he can to hide his heritage. He managed to make it through this second “war to end all wars,” but what American woman would want to marry into a German family. Must he leave the country to find wedded bliss?

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Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry (of Star-Spangled Banner fame) and has lived in historical places all her life. She now lives in central New Hampshire where she is a volunteer docent and archivist at the Wright Museum of WWII. Visit her website at


  1. Thank you for posting about this amazing woman!! I love reading about her and all she accomplished.