Obit of the Day (Historical): Eleanor Roosevelt (1962)
Fifty years ago today, former First Lady and “World’s Most Admired Woman” Eleanor Roosevelt passed away at the age of 78. Here are some fascinating facts about one of the most remarkable people in U.S. history, male or female:
- Her first name was actually Anna.
- Her parents passed away before she was nine years old. She was raised by her grandmother.
- She became engaged to her fifth cousin, once removed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1903.
- They married in 1905. She was escorted down the aisle by her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt. Since she was also a Roosevelt, she never changed her name.
- She did not want her husband to be president.
- She was the first First Lady to schedule and hold press conferences. They were for female journalists.
- Beginning in 1935 and lasting until her death in 1962 she wrote a daily column titled, “My Day.” She wrote six columns a week, except the week of FDR’s death in April 1945 - she only wrote four.
- She was appointed to the U.S. delegation of the United Nations by President Harry Truman. When she first joined the body every delegate rose and applauded her arrival.
- She was encouraged to run for governor and senator from New York. Some even pushed her to run for Vice-President. When Truman was asked about having Mrs. Roosevelt as a running mate he replied, “Why, of course, of course. What do you expect me to say to that?”
- She left the UN in 1953 and remained outside of politics until the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960. He appointed her to the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. She would serve on the Peace Corps Advisory Board and chaired a public hearing on the violence against civil rights workers.
- When she passed away, it was the first time numerous First Ladies attended the funeral of another. In attendance were Bess Truman, Jackie Kennedy, and Lady Bird Johnson (future First Lady). Also in attendance were Presidents Kennedy, Truman, and Eisenhower.
- Eleanor Roosevelt’s great-great-great grandfather administered the oath of office to George Washington at his first inauguration.
- She had six children, five survived to adulthood: Anna Eleanor, Jr., James, Elliott, Franklin Delano, Jr., and John Aspinwell. They had a baby, also Franklin Delano, Jr., who died at the age of seven months.
- Her mother nicknamed her “Granny” because she was “very plain [looking]” and “old fashioned.” Eleanor would later say, “No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.”
- She was the tallest First Lady at 5’ 11”. (Michele Obama is tied with Mrs. Roosevelt.
www.nytimes.org (her 1962 obituary)
Top left - Eleanor Roosevelt, circa 1888, courtesy time.com and copyright HULSTON/GETTY
Top right - Eleanor Roosevelt, 1898 (age 14), courtesy about.com and FDR Library
Center - Official White House portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, 1949, painted by Douglas Glanville Chandor, courtesy www.whitehousehistory.org “Anna Eleanor Roosevelt greatly expanded the role of first lady through her press conferences, news columns, speeches, travels, and activism. She used the White House to support causes ranging from reforming child labor to providing for the poor in Appalachia to combating the effects of the Depression.”
Bottom left - Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt sitting on the steps of their Hyde Park home, 1906, courtesy of history1900s.about.com and FDR Library
Bottom right - Eleanor Roosevelt, circa 1960s, courtesy of www.janicehollybooth.com