Eleanor Roosevelt (5/10)

Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States and married to Franklin D. Roosevelt. She changed the role of the First Lady by her participation in American and international politics. Eleanor was born on October 11, 1884 in New York City. By the age of 10, she was orphaned and sent to school in England which helped her become an intelligent woman. In 1905, Eleanor married Franklin D. Roosevelt, and, together, they had six children. Eleanor always took an active role in Franklin’s political career and changed the role for First Lady. She gave press conferences, spoke out for human rights, supported children’s and women’s issues, worked for the League of Women Voters. After Franklin’s death, Eleanor was appointed, by President Truman, to be the delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She was the chair of the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission and even helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In this document, Eleanor Roosevelt is trying to persuade the American public to support the United Nations. Roosevelt was the United States delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, so she was directly involved the proposals of new covenants for social and economic changes to be made in countries. The American public had been pretty negative around the United States’ involvement in the United Nations, but Roosevelt was trying to persuade them of the positive impacts. Roosevelt stated, “So much had been said lately about the failures of the United Nations that some people in the United States have begun to feel the UN is only a burden to them, a cost in taxes for which they received nothing in return.” Therefore, Roosevelt went on to explain the positive impacts on the United Nations.

First, she began by explain what the United Nations actually was, so that people would actually know. She stated that the United Nations “is an organization of 60 sovereign nations which have agreed to abide by the articles of the UN Charter in an effort to live in a more peaceful world atmosphere among the peoples of the world.” By helping the American public understand what the United Nations was so that they would be more willing to have the United States participate in the organization.

Second, to combat the argument that the United States was participating too much in the United Nations and paying too much. She states, “The best illustration of this is that the United States has just announced that henceforth it will not pay as high a percentage of the UN expenses as it had agreed to pay in the past, and will start the reduced scale in 1952, although American representatives had previously accepted this obligation on the assumption that our Congress, which has the final word in matters of finance, would agree to pay on the old scale for another year.” Roosevelt includes this statement to try and convince the American people that the United States would stop taking on too much responsibility in the United Nations. After World War II, the American people were less willing to participate in international affairs because they did not want to pay for another country anymore.

Third, Roosevelt discusses that the goal of the United Nations is to “increase good will in the world.” To try and persuade the people of the good things that the United Nations was doing for the world, Roosevelt explains all the good things that the United Nations is doing for the world. She stated, “For example, through the work of the World Health Organization we are gradually learning through a great deal more about the needs of our fellow human beings around the world whose populations are not properly fed and not protected against diseases which are now well enough understood to be prevented.” She goes on to say that the United Nations has launched a campaign against malaria and tuberculosis to prevent it from spreading across the world. The goal was to help people improve the health and energy so that people can work to improve their lives. She continued, “Another specialized agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is gradually putting together for us a picture of the world food situation and promoting greater knowledge of agriculture.” Roosevelt believes that the United Nations and these organizations will be able to benefit “underdeveloped nations but also the developed nations which need markets for their goods.”

Therefore, Eleanor Roosevelt was directly involved in politics while she was the First Lady and even after. She directly changed the position of the First Lady, and now every First Lady since then has been expected to be involved in some sort of social or political cause. It is important to realize that just because Eleanor Roosevelt was a woman, she was not expected to be very political; however, Eleanor was actually very intelligent and had many opinions concerning politics, and Franklin often listened to her opinion about things. Furthermore, Eleanor had a huge impact on politics, almost as much as her husband, but because she is a woman, she is not remembered for her impact.

Eleanor Roosevelt edited by Allida M. Black, “UN: Good U.S. Investment,” in Courage in a Dangerous World: The Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt, ed. Allida M. Black (Columbia University Press, 1999), 173-175.

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2 thoughts on “Eleanor Roosevelt (5/10)

  1. It really is interesting that when people think about Eleanor Roosevelt, they think mostly about the social causes she stood for, not for the impact she had in a political sense. She did so much to help minority populations and those who faced any type of discrimination. She was a great champion of human rights, especially with her push to keep the United States involved with the UN. Alongside women like Emma Watson and Malala, I consider Eleanor Roosevelt one of my heroes!

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  2. One of my favorite things about Eleanor Roosevelt is that she was a political woman in a time where women were still shut out of the political sphere. She had profound impact upon her husband’s policies and administration through her efforts and after her husband’s death, she still was actively involved in the political sphere. She also was able to act as a bridge of sorts for other women in her day and because of her, many women were able to experience more political freedom than ever before in American history.

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