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|White House portrait|
|Chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women|
January 20, 1961 – November 7, 1962
|President||John F. Kennedy|
|Succeeded by||Esther Peterson|
|United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly|
December 31, 1946 – December 31, 1952
|President||Harry S. Truman|
|Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights|
|Preceded by||New creation|
|Succeeded by||Charles Malik|
|United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights|
|Preceded by||New creation|
|Succeeded by||Mary Lord|
|First Lady of the United States|
March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945
|President||Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|Preceded by||Lou Henry Hoover|
|Succeeded by||Elizabeth "Bess" Wallace Truman|
|First Lady of New York|
January 1, 1929 – December 31, 1932
|Preceded by||Catherine A. Dunn|
|Succeeded by||Edith Louise Altschul|
|Born||Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
October 11, 1884
New York City, New York, United States
|Died||November 7, 1962
New York City, New York, United States
|Resting place||Hyde Park, New York|
|Spouse(s)||Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|Children||Anna Eleanor, James, Elliott, Franklin, John|
|Occupation||First Lady, politician|
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt ( / /; October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962) was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, holding the post from 1933 to 1945 during her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt's four terms in office. President Harry S. Truman later nicknamed her the "First Lady of the World" in tribute to her human rights achievements.
Born into a wealthy and well-connected New York family, the Roosevelts, Eleanor had an unhappy childhood, suffering the deaths of both parents and one of her brothers at a young age. At 15, she attended Allenwood Academy in London, and was deeply influenced by feminist headmistress Marie Souvestre. Returning to the US, she married Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1905. The Roosevelts' marriage was complicated from the beginning by Franklin's controlling mother, and after discovering Franklin's affair with Lucy Mercer in 1918, Eleanor resolved to seek fulfillment in a public life of her own. She persuaded Franklin to stay in politics following his partial paralysis from polio, and began to give speeches and campaign in his place. After Franklin's election as Governor of New York, Eleanor regularly made public appearances on his behalf.
Though widely respected in her later years, Roosevelt was a controversial First Lady for her outspokenness, particularly for her stands on racial issues. She was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention. On a few occasions, she publicly disagreed with her husband's policies. She launched an experimental community at Arthurdale, West Virginia for the families of unemployed miners, later widely regarded as a failure. She advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans and Japanese Americans, and the rights of World War II refugees.
Following her husband's death, Eleanor remained active in politics for the rest of her life. She pressed the US to join and support the United Nations and became one of its first delegates. She served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later she chaired the John F. Kennedy administration's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. By her death, she was regarded as "one of the most esteemed women in the world" and "the object of almost universal respect". In 1999, she was ranked in the top ten of Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born at 56 West 37th Street in New York City, the daughter of Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall Roosevelt. She was named Anna after her mother and her aunt Anna Cowles, and Eleanor after her father; she was nicknamed "Ellie" or "Little Nell". From an early age, Eleanor preferred to be called by her middle name. Roosevelt acted in such an old-fashioned manner as a child that her mother nicknamed her "Granny".
Two brothers, Elliott Roosevelt, Jr. (1889–1893) and Hall Roosevelt (1891–1941) were born later. She also had a half brother, Elliott Roosevelt Mann (died 1941), who was born to Katy Mann, a servant employed by the family. Roosevelt was born into a world of immense wealth and privilege, as her family was part of New York high society called the "swells". She was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Her mother died from diphtheria when Roosevelt was eight, and Elliott Jr. died of the same disease a year later. Her father, an alcoholic confined to a sanitarium, died less than two years later when he tried to jump from a window during a fit of delirium tremens. (In 1941, her brother Hall, the only remaining member of her birth family, would also die from alcohol-related causes.) Eleanor's childhood losses left her prone to depression throughout her life.
After the deaths of her parents, Roosevelt was raised in the household of her maternal grandmother, Mary Ludlow Hall (1843–1919) in Tivoli, New York. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, Joseph P. Lash describes her during this period of childhood as insecure and starved for affection, considering herself the "ugly duckling". However, Roosevelt wrote at 14 that one's prospects in life were not totally dependent on physical beauty: "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. Roosevelt attended the school from 1899–1902. The headmistress, Marie Souvestre, was a noted feminist educator who sought to cultivate independent thinking in the young women in her charge. Souvestre took a special interest in Roosevelt, who 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' at the school. She was beloved by everybody." Roosevelt wished to continue at Allenswood, but in 1902 was summoned home by her grandmother to make her social debut.
In 1902 at age 17, Roosevelt returned to the United States, ending her formal education, and was presented at a debutante ball at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel on December 14. She was later given her own "coming out party". Roosevelt was active with the New York Junior League shortly after its founding, teaching dancing and calisthenics in the East Side slums. The organization had been brought to Roosevelt's attention by her friend, organization founder Mary Harriman, and a male relative who "criticized the group for drawing young women into public activity".
Marriage and family life
In the summer of 1902, Roosevelt encountered her father's fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, on a train to Tivoli, New York. The two began a secret correspondence and romance, and became engaged on November 22, 1903. Franklin's mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, opposed the union, and made him promise that the engagement would not be officially announced for a year. "I know what pain I must have caused you," Franklin wrote his mother of his decision. But, he added, "I know my own mind, and known it for a long time, and know that I could never think otherwise." Sara took her son on a Caribbean cruise in 1904, hoping that a separation would squelch the romance, but Franklin remained determined. The wedding date was fixed to accommodate President Theodore Roosevelt, who agreed to give the bride away.
Eleanor, age 20, married Franklin, age 23, on March 17, 1905 ( St. Patrick's Day), in a wedding officiated by Endicott Peabody, the groom's headmaster at Groton School. The couple spent a preliminary honeymoon of one week at Hyde Park, then set up housekeeping in an apartment in New York. That summer they went on their formal honeymoon, a three-month tour of Europe.
Returning to the U.S., the newlyweds settled in New York City, in a house provided by Franklin's mother, as well as at the family's estate overlooking the Hudson River in Hyde Park, New York. From the beginning, Eleanor had a contentious relationship with her controlling mother-in-law. The townhouse Sara gave to Eleanor and Franklin was connected to her own by sliding doors, and Sara ran both households in the decade after the marriage. Early on, Eleanor had a breakdown in which she explained to Franklin that "I did not like to live in a house which was not in any way mine, one that I had done nothing about and which did not represent the way I wanted to live", but little changed. Sara also sought to control the raising of her grandchildren, and Eleanor reflected later that "Franklin's children were more my mother-in-law's children than they were mine". Eleanor's son James remembered Sara telling her grandchildren, "Your mother only bore you, I am more your mother than your mother is."
Eleanor and Franklin had one daughter and five sons, one of whom died in infancy:
- Anna Eleanor (May 3, 1906 – December 1, 1975)
- James (December 23, 1907 – August 13, 1991)
- Franklin Delano, Jr. (March 18, 1909 – November 1, 1909)
- Elliott (September 23, 1910 – October 27, 1990)
- Franklin Delano, Jr. (August 17, 1914 – August 17, 1988)
- John Aspinwall (March 13, 1916 – April 27, 1981)
Eleanor had a self-described dislike of sex; she once told her daughter that it was an "ordeal to be borne". She also considered herself ill-suited to motherhood, later writing, "It did not come naturally to me to understand little children or to enjoy them".
Unpacking a suitcase of Franklin's in September 1918, Eleanor discovered a bundle of love letters to him from her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Confronting Franklin about the relationship, she offered to divorce him. However, following pressure from Franklin's political advisor Louis Howe and from Sara, who threatened to disinherit her son if he divorced, Franklin asked Eleanor's forgiveness, and they remained married. Disillusioned, Eleanor again became active in public life, and focused increasingly on her social work rather than her role as a wife, as she had for the previous decade.
In August 1921, the family was vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, when Franklin was stricken with polio, which permanently paralyzed his legs. When the extent of his disability became clear, Eleanor fought a protracted battle with her mother-in-law over his future, persuading him to stay in politics despite Sara's urgings that he retire and become a country gentleman. This proved a turning point in Eleanor and Sara's long-running struggle, and as Eleanor's public role grew, she became increasingly independent of Sara's control. Tensions between Sara and Eleanor over her new political friends rose to the point that the family constructed a cottage, Val-Kill, which Eleanor and her guests lived in when Franklin and the children were away from Hyde Park.
In the 1930s, Eleanor had a very close relationship with Associated Press (AP) reporter Lorena Hickok, who covered her during the last months of the presidential campaign and "fell madly in love with her". During this period, Roosevelt wrote daily ten- to fifteen-page letters to "Hick", who was planning to write a biography of the First Lady. The letters included such endearments as, "I want to put my arms around you & kiss you at the corner of your mouth," and "I can't kiss you, so I kiss your picture good night and good morning!" At Franklin's 1933 inauguration, Eleanor wore a sapphire ring Hickok had given her. Compromised as a reporter, Hickok soon resigned her position with the AP to be closer to Eleanor, who secured her a job as an investigator for a New Deal program.
Scholars including Lillian Faderman, Hazel Rowley and Maurine Beasley have stated that the pair's relationship contained a sexual component, though this view is not universal. Hickok biographer Doris Faber argued that the seemingly amorous phrases had misled historians, while Doris Kearns Goodwin stated in her 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Roosevelts that "whether Hick and Eleanor went beyond kisses and hugs" could not be determined with certainty. A 2011 New York Times Book Review essay on two new Roosevelt biographies stated, "That the Hickok relationship was indeed erotic now seems beyond dispute".
In the same years, Washington gossip linked Eleanor romantically with New Deal administrator Harry Hopkins, with whom she worked closely. Roosevelt also had a close relationship with a New York State Police sergeant, Earl Miller, whom her husband had assigned as her bodyguard. Roosevelt was 44 years old when she met Miller, 32, in 1929. He became her friend as well as official escort, taught her different sports, such as diving and riding, and coached her tennis game. Biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook writes that Miller was Eleanor's "first romantic involvement" in her middle years. Hazel Rowley concludes, "There is no doubt that Eleanor was in love with Earl for a time ... But they are most unlikely to have had an 'affair'."
Eleanor's friendship with Miller happened during the same years as her husband's rumored relationship with his secretary, Marguerite "Missy" LeHand. Smith writes, "[r]emarkably, both ER and Franklin recognized, accepted, and encouraged the arrangement ... Eleanor and Franklin were strong-willed people who cared greatly for each other's happiness but realized their own inability to provide for it." Eleanor and Miller's relationship is said to have continued until her death in 1962. They are thought to have corresponded daily, but all letters have been lost. According to rumors, the letters were anonymously purchased and destroyed or locked away when she died.
In later years, Eleanor was said to have developed a romantic attachment to her physician, David Gurewitsch, though it was likely limited to a deep friendship.
Public life before the White House
In the 1920 presidential election, Franklin was nominated as the Democratic vice presidential candidate with presidential candidate James M. Cox. Eleanor joined Franklin in touring the country, making her first campaign appearances. Cox and Roosevelt were ultimately defeated by Republican Warren G. Harding, who won with sixteen million votes to nine million.
Following the onset of Franklin's polio in 1921, Eleanor began serving as a stand-in for her incapacitated husband, making public appearances on his behalf, often carefully coached by Louis Howe. She also started working with the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL), raising funds in support of the union's goals: a 48-hour work week, minimum wage, and the abolition of child labor. Throughout the 1920s, Eleanor became increasingly influential as a leader in the New York State Democratic Party while Franklin used her contacts among Democratic women to strengthen his standing with them, winning their committed support for the future. In 1924, she campaigned for Alfred E. Smith in his successful re-election bid as governor of New York State. By 1928, Eleanor was promoting Smith's candidacy for president and Franklin's nomination as the Democratic Party's candidate for governor of New York, succeeding Smith. Although Smith lost the presidential race, Franklin won handily and the Roosevelts moved into the governor's mansion in Albany, New York. During Franklin's term as governor, Eleanor traveled widely in the state to make speeches and inspect state facilities on his behalf, reporting her findings to him at the end of each trip.
In 1927, she joined friends Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook in buying the Todhunter School for Girls, a finishing school which also offered college preparatory courses, in New York City. At the school, Roosevelt taught upper-level courses in American literature and history, emphasizing independent thought, current events, and social engagement. She continued to teach three days a week while FDR served as governor, but was forced to leave teaching after his election as president.
First Lady of the United States (1933–1945)
Following FDR's inauguration on March 4, 1933, Eleanor became First Lady of the United States. Having known all of the twentieth century's previous First Ladies, she was seriously depressed at having to assume the role, which had traditionally been restricted to domesticity and hostessing. Her immediate predecessor, Lou Henry Hoover, had ended her feminist activism on becoming First Lady, stating her intention to be only a "backdrop for Bertie". Eleanor's distress at these precedents was severe enough that Hickok subtitled her biography of Roosevelt "Reluctant First Lady".
With support from Howe and Hickok, Roosevelt set out to redefine the position. In the process she became, according to her biographer Cook, "the most controversial First Lady in United States history". 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 presidential spouse to hold press conferences and in 1940 became the first to speak at a national party convention. She also wrote a widely syndicated newspaper column, " My Day", another first. In the first year of FDR's tenure, determined to match his presidential salary, Eleanor earned $75,000 from her lectures and writing, most of which she gave to charity. By 1941, she was receiving $1,000 apiece for her lectures.
Roosevelt maintained a heavy travel schedule over her twelve 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), an astonished coal miner, peering down a dark tunnel, says to a co-worker "For gosh sakes, here comes Mrs. Roosevelt!"
In early 1933, the " Bonus Army", a protest group of World War I veterans, marched on Washington for the second time in two years, calling for their veteran bonus certificates to be awarded early. The previous year, President Herbert Hoover had ordered them dispersed, and the US Army cavalry charged and bombarded the veterans with tear gas. This time, Eleanor Roosevelt visited the veterans at their muddy campsite, listening to their concerns and singing army songs with them. The meeting defused the tension between the veterans and the administration, and one of the marchers later commented, "Hoover sent the Army. Roosevelt sent his wife."
Roosevelt's chief project during her husband's first two terms was the establishment of a planned community in Arthurdale, West Virginia. On August 18, 1933, at Hickok's urging, Roosevelt visited the families of homeless miners in Morgantown, West Virginia, who had been blacklisted following union activities. Deeply affected by the visit, Roosevelt proposed a resettlement community for the miners at Arthurdale, where they could make a living by subsistence farming, handicrafts, and a local manufacturing plant. She hoped the project could become a model for "a new kind of community" in the US, in which workers would be better cared for. Her husband enthusiastically supported the project.
After an initial, disastrous experiment with prefab houses, construction began again in 1934 to Roosevelt's specifications, this time with "every modern convenience", including indoor plumbing and central steam heat. Families occupied the first fifty homes in June, and agreed to repay the government in thirty years' time. Though Roosevelt had hoped for a racially mixed community, the miners insisted on limiting membership to white Christians. After losing a community vote, Roosevelt recommended the creation of other communities for the excluded black and Jewish miners. The experience motivated Roosevelt to become much more outspoken on the issue of racial discrimination.
Roosevelt remained a vigorous fundraiser for the community for several years, as well as spending most of her own income on the project. However, the project was criticized by both the political left and right. Conservatives condemned it as socialist and a "communist plot", while Democratic members of Congress opposed government competition with private enterprise. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes also opposed the project, citing its high per-family cost. Arthurdale continued to sink as a government spending priority for the federal government until 1941, when the US sold off the last of its holdings in the community at a loss.
Later commentators generally described the Arthurdale experiment as a failure. Roosevelt herself was sharply discouraged by a 1940 visit in which she felt the town had become excessively dependent on outside assistance. However, the residents considered the town a "utopia" compared to their previous circumstances, and many were returned to economic self-sufficiency. Roosevelt personally considered the project a success, later speaking of the improvements she saw in people's lives there and stating, "I don't know whether you think that is worth half a million dollars. But I do."
Civil rights activism
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 his need to placate Southern sentiment, Eleanor was vocal in her support of the African-American civil rights movement. She concluded after her experience with Arthurdale and her inspections of New Deal programs in Southern states that New Deal programs were discriminating against African-Americans, who received a disproportionately small share of relief moneys. Eleanor became one of the only voices in the Roosevelt White House insisting that benefits be equally extended to Americans of all races.
Eleanor also broke with precedent by inviting hundreds of African American guests to the White House. When the black singer Marian Anderson was denied the use of Washington's Constitution Hall in 1939 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Eleanor resigned the group in protest and helped arrange another concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Roosevelt later presented Anderson to the King and Queen of the United Kingdom after Anderson performed at a White House dinner. Roosevelt also arranged the appointment of African-American educator Mary McLeod Bethune, with whom she had struck up a friendship, as Director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. To avoid problems with the staff when Bethune would visit the White House, Eleanor would meet her at the gate, embrace her, and walk in with her arm-in-arm.
Eleanor also lobbied behind the scenes for the 1934 Costigan-Wagner Bill to make lynching a federal crime, including arranging a meeting between Franklin and NAACP president Walter Francis White. Fearing he would lose the votes of Southern congressional delegations for his legislative agenda, however, Franklin refused to publicly support the bill, which proved unable to pass the Senate. In 1942, Eleanor worked with activist Pauli Murray to persuade Franklin to appeal on behalf of sharecropper Odell Waller, convicted of killing a white farmer during a fight; though Franklin sent a letter to Virginia Governor Colgate Darden urging him to commute the sentence to life imprisonment, Waller was executed as scheduled.
Roosevelt's support of African-American rights made her an unpopular figure among whites in the South. Rumors spread of "Eleanor Clubs" formed by servants to oppose their employers and "Eleanor Tuesdays" on which African-American men would knock down white women on the street, though no evidence has ever been found of either practice. When race riots broke out in Detroit in June 1943, critics in both the North and South wrote that Roosevelt was to blame. At the same time, she grew so popular among African-Americans, previously a reliable Republican voting bloc, that they became a consistent base of support for the Democratic Party.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt spoke out against anti-Japanese prejudice, warning against the "great hysteria against minority groups". She also privately opposed her husband's Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese-Americans in many areas of the US into internment camps. She was widely criticized for her defense of Japanese-American citizens, including a call by the Los Angeles Times that she be "forced to retire from public life" over her stand on the issue.
World War II
On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, marking the end of the relatively conflict-free " Phoney War" phase of World War II. As the US began to move toward war footing, Roosevelt found herself again depressed, fearing that her role in fighting for domestic justice would become extraneous in a nation focused on foreign affairs. She briefly considered traveling to Europe to work with the Red Cross, but was dissuaded by presidential advisers who pointed out the consequences should the president's wife be captured as a prisoner of war. She soon found other wartime causes to work on, however, beginning with a popular movement to allow the immigration of European refugee children. She also lobbied her husband to allow greater immigration of groups persecuted by the Nazis, including Jews, but fears of fifth columnists caused Franklin to restrict immigration rather than expanding it. Eleanor successfully secured political refugee status for eighty-three Jewish refugees from the S.S. Quanza in August 1940, but was refused on many other occasions. Her son James later wrote that "her deepest regret at the end of her life" was that she had not forced Franklin to accept more refugees from Nazism during the war.
Eleanor was also active on the homefront. Beginning in 1941, she co-chaired the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) with New York City Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, working to give civilian volunteers expanded roles in war preparations. She soon found herself in a power struggle with LaGuardia, who preferred to focus on narrower aspects of defense, while she saw solutions to broader social problems as equally important to the war effort. Though LaGuardia resigned from the OCD in December 1941, Eleanor was forced to resign following anger in the House of Representatives over high salaries for several OCD appointments, including two of her close friends.
In October 1942, Roosevelt toured England, visiting with American troops and inspecting British forces. Her visits drew enormous crowds and received almost unanimously favorable press in both England and the US. In August 1943, she visited American troops in the South Pacific on a morale-building tour, of which Admiral William Halsey, Jr. later said, "she alone accomplished more good than any other person, or any groups of civilians, who had passed through my area." For her part, Roosevelt was left shaken and deeply depressed by seeing the war's carnage. A number of Congressional Republicans criticized her for using scarce wartime resources for her trip, prompting Franklin to suggest that she take a break from traveling.
Roosevelt supported increased roles for women and African-Americans in the war effort, and began to advocate for factory jobs to be given to women a year before it became a widespread practice. In 1942, she urged women of all social backgrounds to learn trades, saying "if I were of a debutante age I would go into a factory–any factory where I could learn a skill and be useful". Learning of the high rate of absenteeism among working mothers, she also campaigned for government-sponsored day care. She notably supported the Tuskegee Airmen in their successful effort to become the first black combat pilots, visiting the Tuskegee Air Corps Advanced Flying School in Alabama. At her request, she flew with the Chief Flight Instructor Charles "Chief" Alfred Anderson for more than an hour, which had great symbolic value and brought visibility to Tuskegee's pilot training program.
After the war, Eleanor was a strong proponent of the Morgenthau Plan to de-industrialize Germany in the postwar period. In 1946, she attended the "National Conference on the German Problem", which issued a statement that "any plans to resurrect the economic and political power of Germany ... [were] dangerous to the security of the world".
Years after the White House
Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage at Warm Springs, Georgia. Eleanor later learned that FDR's mistress, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, had been with him when he died, a discovery made more bitter by learning that her daughter Anna had also been aware of the ongoing friendship between the president and Rutherfurd. After the funeral, Eleanor packed and moved out of the White House, returning to Val-Kill. In instructions left for Eleanor in the event of his death, Franklin proposed turning over Hyde Park to the federal government as a museum, and she spent the following months cataloging the estate and arranging the transfer. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum opened on April 12, 1946, setting a precedent for future presidential libraries.
State of the Union (Four Freedoms) (January 6, 1941)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt's January 6, 1941 State of the Union Address introducing the theme of the Four Freedoms (starting at 32:02)
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In December 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman appointed Eleanor as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. In April 1946, she became the first chairperson of the preliminary United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Eleanor remained chairperson when the Commission was established on a permanent basis in January 1947. She played an instrumental role, along with René Cassin, John Peters Humphrey and others, in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
On the night of September 28, 1948, Eleanor spoke in favour of the Declaration, calling it "the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere". The Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The vote was unanimous except for eight abstentions: six Soviet Bloc countries as well as South Africa and Saudi Arabia. Roosevelt attributed the abstention of the Soviet bloc nations to Article 13, which provided the right of citizens to leave their countries.
Roosevelt also served as the first United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and stayed on at that position until 1953, even after stepping down as chair of the Commission in 1951. The UN posthumously awarded her one of its first Human Rights Prizes in 1968 in recognition of her work.
In the late 1940s, Democrats in New York and throughout the country courted Roosevelt for political office.
At first I was surprised that anyone should think that I would want to run for office, or that I was fitted to hold office. Then I realized that some people felt that I must have learned something from my husband in all the years that he was in public life! They also knew that I had stressed the fact that women should accept responsibility as citizens. I heard that I was being offered the nomination for governor or for the United States Senate in my own state, and even for Vice President. And some particularly humorous souls wrote in and suggested that I run as the first woman President of the United States! The simple truth is that I have had my fill of public life of the more or less stereotyped kind.
In the 1948 campaign, some touted her as the ideal running mate for President Truman. The North Dakota State Democratic Central Committee passed a resolution in 1947 calling for a Truman-Roosevelt ticket, and when Truman was asked if he would consider, he replied, "Why, of course, of course... What do you expect me to say to that?" Nevertheless, Roosevelt rejected the appeals and insisted she had no interest in elective politics. Her son James Roosevelt later said she refused the opening "because she was afraid of it."
In July 1949, Roosevelt had a bitter public disagreement with Francis Joseph Spellman, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, over the issue of federal funding for parochial schools. Spellman accused her of anti-Catholicism, and the debate became a national controversy.
In 1954, Tammany Hall boss Carmine DeSapio defeated Eleanor's son, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., during the New York Attorney General elections. Eleanor grew increasingly disgusted with DeSapio's political conduct through the rest of the 1950s. Eventually, she would join with her old friends Herbert Lehman and Thomas Finletter to form the New York Committee for Democratic Voters, a group dedicated to enhancing the democratic process by opposing DeSapio's reincarnated Tammany. Their efforts were eventually successful, and DeSapio was removed from power in 1961.
When President Truman backed New York Governor W. Averell Harriman, who was a close associate of DeSapio, for the 1952 Democratic presidential nomination, Roosevelt was disappointed. She supported Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson for president in 1952 and 1956 and urged his renomination in 1960. She resigned from her UN post in 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower became President. Although Roosevelt had reservations about John F. Kennedy for his failure to condemn McCarthyism, she supported him for president against Richard Nixon. Kennedy later reappointed her to the United Nations, where she served again from 1961 to 1962, and to the National Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps.
By the 1950s, Roosevelt's international role as spokesperson for women led her to stop publicly criticizing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), although she never supported it. In 1961, President Kennedy's undersecretary of labor, Esther Peterson proposed a new Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Kennedy appointed Roosevelt to chair the commission, with Peterson as director; she died just before the commission issued its final report. It concluded that female equality was best achieved by recognition of gender differences and needs, and not by an Equal Rights Amendment.
Throughout the 1950s, Roosevelt also embarked on countless national and international speaking engagements; continued to pen her newspaper column; and made appearances on television and radio broadcasts. She averaged one hundred fifty lectures a year throughout the fifties, many of which were devoted to her activism on behalf of the United Nations. In 1961, all volumes of Roosevelt's autobiography, which she had begun writing in 1937, were compiled into The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt ( Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-80476-X).
In the course of her life, Roosevelt received thirty-five honorary degrees, thirteen of which were from universities outside the US.
In April 1960, Roosevelt was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia. In 1962, she was given steroids which activated a dormant case of bone marrow tuberculosis. Roosevelt died of resulting cardiac failure at her Manhattan home on November 7, 1962, at the age of 78.
President John F. Kennedy and former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower attended Roosevelt's funeral at Hyde Park. At the memorial service, Stevenson asked, "What other single human being has touched and transformed the existence of so many?" He further praised her by stating, "She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world." She was buried next to Franklin at the family compound in Hyde Park, New York on November 10, 1962. After her death, the family deeded the family vacation home on Campobello Island to the governments of the U.S. and Canada and in 1964 they created the 2,800 acre Roosevelt Campobello International Park.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Monument, in New York's Riverside Park, was dedicated in 1996. It is said to be the first monument to an American president's wife. The centerpiece is a statue sculpted by Penelope Jencks. The surrounding granite pavement contains inscriptions designed by the architect Michael Middleton Dwyer, including a summary of her achievements, and a quote from her 1958 speech at the United Nations advocating universal human rights.