It’s easy to look at the life of Eleanor Roosevelt and think to ourselves, ‘They don’t make them like that anymore.’ In one sense I agree, and in another I would only add, ‘Well, let’s certainly hope they do.’ We could use another Eleanor or two in the world. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Roosevelt.
As niece to one US President and wife to another, public service was second nature to Eleanor Roosevelt. A tireless advocate for women, minorities, and the working class, she is consistently listed as one of the most admired people of the 20th century. Among other accomplishments, she was the first chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
In 1921, Ms. Roosevelt began serving as a stand-in for her incapacitated husband, President Franklin Roosevelt, making public appearances on his behalf. She also worked 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. (We have so much to thank her for.) The wife of a president who was elected to serve four times, she was the only First Lady many young Americans knew until her husband died in office.
When she entered the Oval Office the day after her husband’s death, Harry Truman, Vice President and soon-to-be president, was meeting with advisors, struggling with the challenges the country faced in the midst of World War II.
He stood instantly and approached her. “Mrs. Roosevelt, what can we do for you?” he asked tenderly. She took his hand and replied, “Oh, no, Mr. Truman. What can we do for you?”
It doesn’t get any classier than that.
“A woman is like a tea bag: you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” – Eleanor Roosevelt