The daughter of Elliott Roosevelt, she was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt. She was an active worker in social causes before she married (1905) Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a distant cousin. She continued her interest in social betterment after marriage and while rearing her five children. When Franklin Roosevelt was stricken (1921) with poliomyelitis, she took a more active interest in political issues in order to restore his links with the world of politics. As wife of the governor of New York and then as wife of the President, she played a leading part in women's organizations and was active in encouraging youth movements, in promoting consumer welfare, in working for the civil rights of minorities, and in combating poor housing and unemployment. In 1933 she held the first press conference ever held by a President's wife. Having already written much, she started in 1935 a daily column, "My Day," syndicated in many newspapers. She also for a time conducted a radio program, and she traveled all over the country, lecturing, observing conditions, and furthering causes. In World War II she was (1941-42) assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense. She also visited Great Britain (1942), the SW Pacific (1943), and the Caribbean (1944). From 1945 to 1953 (and again in 1961) she was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations, and in 1946 she was made chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, a subsidiary of the Economic and Social Council. In the 1950s she continued her travels and became a leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. With Herbert H. Lehman and Thomas K. Finletter, she headed a reform movement in New York City to wrest control of Democratic policy from Tammany Hall. Her tireless dedication to the cause of human welfare won her affection and honor throughout the world as well as the respect of many of her former critics. Many of her magazine and newspaper articles have been collected into volumes. Her other writings include The Moral Basis of Democracy (1940) and You Can Learn by Living (1960).
See her This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1949), On My Own (1958), and The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961); biographies by T. K. Hareven (1968), J. R. Kearney (1968), and J. P. Lash (2 vol., 1971-72).
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