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General Facts & Figures

When was Eleanor Roosevelt born?
Eleanor Roosevelt was born October 11, 1884 in New York City.

Who were Eleanor's parents? 
Eleanor's parents were Elliott and Anna Hall Roosevelt. Elliott was the younger brother of Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth President of the United States. Anna Hall was descended from the Livingston family. The Livingstons, an old Hudson River family, played an important role in the formation of the new republic: one Livingston administered the oath of office to George Washington, another signed the Declaration of Independence, still another became a Supreme Court justice.

Was Eleanor an only child? 
No. Eleanor had two brothers Elliott Roosevelt (1889-1893) and Gracie Hall Roosevelt (1891-1941), who was known as Hall. A few months after their mother's death in 1892 both boys contracted scarlet fever. Hall recovered, but Elliott did not.

When did Eleanor's parents die? 
Eleanor's mother died of diphtheria following an operation on December 7, 1892, when Eleanor was eight years old. Her father died on August 14, 1894, less than two years later when Eleanor was not quite ten years old.

Where did Eleanor go to school?
After her mother's death, Eleanor went to live with her grandmother, Mrs. Valentine G. Hall, in Tivoli, New York. She was educated by private tutors until the age of 15, when she traveled to England to attend Allenswood, a preparatory school for girls run by a progressive headmistress, Marie Souvestre. Eleanor was very studious but also very popular at Allenswood and many believe that she gained much self-confidence during her time there. She later wrote that Marie Souvestre was an important role model and perhaps one of the most influential people in Eleanor's life.

What sport did Eleanor participate in at Allenswood?
Eleanor played varsity field hockey.

Did Eleanor go to college? 
No, but Allenswood provided a serious collegiate environment with high scholastic standards.

What did Eleanor do after her coming out party? 
After her debut into New York society, Eleanor found herself caught in a whirl of debutante parties, an ordeal she later termed "utter agony." The following year Eleanor turned to other acceptable activities for young socialites, joining the Junior League and teaching calisthenics and dancing to the children at the Rivington Street Settlement House in New York City's Lower East Side. She also became a member of the Consumers League, participating in the investigation of sweatshops in the city.

Could Eleanor dance? 
Eleanor was an excellent dancer. The Eleanor Roosevelt Reel was named in her honor.

What people influenced Eleanor's life? 
In a 1951 Look Magazine article, Eleanor Roosevelt listed seven people who, in her estimation, shaped her life. The first two were her father and mother: her father provided her love and reassurance, and her mother gave her the unattainable goal of perfection. Madame Marie Souvestre, headmistress and a teacher at Allenswood School, gave her a sense of confidence, and her Aunt Pussie (Mrs. W. Forbes Morgan) taught her discipline.

But, she said, it was the personalities of her husband and her mother-in-law that exerted the greatest influence on her development. It was their influence that made her "develop willy-nilly into an individual." Lastly, Louis Howe, her husband's political advisor, pushed her into taking an interest in politics.

Did Eleanor want FDR to be President? 
In her autobiography This I Remember, Eleanor wrote: "From a personal standpoint, I did not want my husband to be president. I realized, however, that it was impossible to keep a man out of public service when that was what he wanted and was undoubtedly well equipped for. It was pure selfishness on my part, and I never mentioned my feelings on the subject to him."

Did Eleanor ever run for President? 
No. President Truman indicated that she would be acceptable to him as a vice-presidential candidate, but Eleanor made it clear that she did not wish to seek elective office.

What was the relationship between Sara Delano Roosevelt, FDR's mother, and Eleanor? 
The relationship between Eleanor and her mother-in-law was a complex, changing one. At the time of her engagement, Eleanor was a shy, insecure girl looking for love and acceptance. Sara Roosevelt dominated her and Franklin's world and when Eleanor entered it, she dominated her as well. It was her husband's illness, Eleanor said, that made her stand on her own two feet in regard to her husband's life, her own life and the rearing of her children. Her mother-in-law was "a very vital person [whose] strongest trait was loyalty to her family," Eleanor wrote in her My Day column on Sara's death.

What role did Eleanor play in FDR's presidency?
According to The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia, Eleanor "exerted considerable influence on the New Deal. As First Lady, she served as both an advocate for, and a critic of, FDR's developing reform program. While she neither drafted legislation nor held elective office, she worked with other reformers outside and inside the administration to shape the contours of the New Deal."

Who was Lorena Hickok? 
Lorena Hickok was a top newspaperwoman who was assigned to cover Eleanor Roosevelt for the Associated Press (AP) during FDR's first campaign in 1932. She developed a deep attachment to Eleanor which compromised her objectivity and she resigned from the AP. It was "Hick" who suggested that the First Lady hold White House press conferences for women reporters only. She then went to work as the chief investigator of relief programs for Harry Hopkins, head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Her major duty was to travel around the country and report on the effectiveness of local relief administrations. She died in Hyde Park, New York in 1968.

What is "My Day"? 
"My Day" was a syndicated column that Eleanor wrote six days a week from December 1935 until her death in 1962. The column was her public diary. She used it as a pedagogical device, a political tool, and a medium for communicating the liberal ethic to her readers.

Following is an excerpt from her column:

First Lady

NEW YORK, OCTOBER 21, 1960 - As we watch the Presidential campaign unroll, I wonder how many have noticed one rather interesting change in the modern type of campaign. This was brought to my attention the other day when a young newspaper reporter said to me: "Do you really think that the decision as to a man's fitness for the office of President should depend, in part at least, on what kind of a President's wife his wife will be?"

I looked at her in surprise for a moment, because it had not dawned on me what changes had come about since Mr. Eisenhower's first campaign.

Apparently we have started on a new trend. I can't remember in my husband's campaign, nor in Mr. Truman's, that such a question could be asked. Some of the children or I would accompany my husband on the various campaign trips, and if we were around at railroad stops he would introduce us to the crowd in a rather casual manner. He often said "My little boy, Jimmy," when Jimmy was as tall as he was!

My husband insisted always that a man stood on his own record. He did not bring his family in to be responsible in getting him votes or in taking the blame for his decisions. I think he sometimes found it amusing to let me do things just so as to find out what the reaction of the public would be. But nothing we did was ever calculated and thought out as part of the campaign in the way we feel that Mr. Nixon plans every appearance with his wife.

There must be times when the whole situation becomes practically unbearable, I would think, for the woman of the family. And I hope that we will return to the old and rather pleasant way of looking upon White House families as people who have a right to their own lives.

The wives, of course, have certain official obligations, but they are certainly not responsible for their husband's policies. And they do not have to feel that sense of obligation at every point to uphold the ideas of the man of the family.

With so many people around a President who say "yes" to everything he says, it is fun sometimes for the family around him to say "no" just for the sake of devilment--but that should be a private family relaxation.

What did Eleanor do after FDR's death?
After Mrs. Roosevelt left the White House in 1945, her life was busier than ever. She continued to be an influential figure in the Democratic Party. President Truman appointed her a member of the first U.S. delegation to the United Nations in 1945 and she served as chairman of the Human Rights commission.

She gave public lectures and speeches, supported organized labor, and worked on behalf of a variety of causes, such as child welfare, displaced persons, minority rights, and women's rights. She continued to write books and her syndicated My Day column.

When did Eleanor Roosevelt die? 
Eleanor died on November 7, 1962, in New York City from aplastic anemia, tuberculosis, and heart failure. She was 78 years old.