|Airdate||March 17, 2010|
Eleanor Roosevelt is a BrainPOP Social Studies video that launched on March 17, 2010.
When Eleanor Roosevelt became First Lady for the first time in 1933, she decided to use her position in a radical new way: She would use the media to communicate directly with American women.
Two days after her husband was sworn in as President, Eleanor became the first First Lady to hold her own press conference. During her husband’s presidency, she would hold 347 more of these meetings, which she opened only to female reporters.
At the time, three-quarters of all American women spent their days as homemakers. Roosevelt felt it was important for these women, who were often isolated in their homes, to learn about topics that concerned them. So her press conferences tended to focus on topics such as poverty, unemployment, education, and the changing roles of women in society.
In addition, Roosevelt began writing for a magazine, Woman’s Home Companion. In these monthly columns, she wrote about everything from child care to her husband’s economic policies. Readers regularly wrote in with suggestions and ideas, and Roosevelt often responded personally.
Roosevelt also began writing a newspaper column, called “My Day,” which ran for more than 25 years. During her husband’s presidency, Roosevelt wrote about her daily activities as First Lady. She also used the column to expand on some of the topics she brought up in her press conferences.
Finally, Roosevelt took advantage of the emerging technologies of radio and television. She ran her own radio shows and made numerous TV appearances, all of which helped keep her connected to American women.
Here are some quotations from Eleanor Roosevelt!
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.”
“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
“I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.”
“One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes.”
“The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.”
“Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.”
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.”
Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt agreed on a great many things, but there was one area in which they had differing public views during Franklin’s presidency: the advancement of civil rights for African Americans.
Privately, the Roosevelts both hoped to see African Americans, who were routinely discriminated against in the mid-20th century, gain more rights. But while Eleanor was a vocal champion of equality for all Americans, Franklin had a hard time being as supportive.
In order to advance his economic agenda, Franklin relied on the support of politicians who strongly opposed civil rights for African Americans. So, although he did promote certain advancements, Franklin felt he couldn’t support civil rights too openly.
Eleanor, however, had no such challenges; she didn’t care what people thought of her views. So she worked hard to help African Americans receive fair treatment in all areas of life, be it their jobs, their schooling, or their right to vote.
One example of this came in 1939, when a group called the Daughters of the American Revolution wouldn’t let a singer named Marian Anderson (pictured, right) perform in one of their concert halls, simply because she was African American.
When Roosevelt heard about this, she was furious. Though she herself had belonged to the group, Roosevelt immediately gave up her membership and arranged to have Anderson sing instead in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
The resulting concert was an enormous success. On Easter Sunday in 1939, a crowd of more than 75,000 people flocked to the Lincoln Memorial to hear Anderson sing. Her concert was also broadcast over the radio to millions of listeners. Thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson became an important figure against racial prejudice in the United States.
Did You KnowEdit
One afternoon in the late summer of 1924, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt were picnicking with two of Eleanor’s good friends, Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook. The women were sad to note that it would be their last outing of the year.
Franklin suggested that the women build a cottage on the site of their picnic, two miles from the Roosevelts’ home in Hyde Park, NY. So the following year, a stone cottage was built for the property that would become known as Val-Kill.
Val-Kill became a permanent home for Dickerman and Cook, as well as a retreat for Eleanor and a place to entertain guests of the Roosevelt family. Eleanor stayed at Val-Kill with her friends whenever her husband was away.
Then in 1926, Roosevelt had an idea to use the property for another purpose: as a furniture factory. So the three women built a second building, where they established their business, known as Val-Kill Industries. The business lasted for about 10 years, until it was done in by the economic hardships of the Great Depression, as well as strained relations between the three friends.
Afterward, Roosevelt remodeled the factory building as a residence (pictured). It contained about 20 rooms of various sizes—plenty of space for herself, her secretary, the family, and guests.
When Roosevelt left the White House after her husband’s death, she made Val-Kill her permanent home. She enjoyed being there by herself, but she also continued to use the house to entertain family, friends, students, world leaders, and many other visitors.
Today, Val-Kill is part of the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, which is run by the National Park Service. Since 1984, it has been open for public tours as well as special conferences.
- Eleanor Roosevelt credited her father with giving her a sense of compassion for others. Among other things, she fondly remembered Thanksgivings with her dad, who would take her to serve dinner to homeless boys.
- Roosevelt didn’t have to think twice about changing her name when she got married! Her husband, Franklin Roosevelt, was her fifth cousin once removed. They were married on Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17th), 1905, when she was 20 and he was 23.
- In 1927, Roosevelt and two of her friends, Marian Dickerman and Nancy Cook, bought the Todhunter School, a private school in New York City. There, Roosevelt taught social studies and literature until she became First Lady. Today, the Todhunter School is part of the Dalton School.
- Roosevelt received 48 honorary degrees during her lifetime! The first was a Doctor of Humane Letters from Russell Sage College in New York, and the last was a Doctor of Laws from what is now Clark Atlanta University in Georgia.
- Roosevelt was one of the primary authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an important document passed by the United Nations. Today, Human Rights Day is celebrated every December 10th, on the anniversary of its adoption by the UN in 1948.
- In 1961, Roosevelt approached then-President John F. Kennedy to complain that women weren’t being given enough opportunities to work in important government positions. So, Kennedy asked Roosevelt to chair a new group called the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Sadly, Roosevelt died just before the Commission released its final report.
Image: Roosevelt holds up a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.