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Eleanor Roosevelt

“They set my course in life. An appetite for truth.” – Harry Belafonte speaking of Eleanor Roosevelt and Paul Robeson.

When FDR was elected to the presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt reluctantly became first lady, yet she proved a great innovator in this capacity. Her tenure (1933-1945) was the longest only because her husband’s tenure as president was the longest, but Eleanor Roosevelt became the first activist first lady. With press conferences and her daily column she kept the public up-to-date on White House policies; in particular the New Deal. She persuaded FDR to create the National Youth Administration (NYA), which provided financial aid to students and job training to young men and women. Her concern for disadvantaged black Americans, prompted her to work closely with organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and in 1939 she resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution in protest to their preventing black singer Marian Anderson from performing at Constitution Hall.

After the United States entered World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt channeled her energies into the war effort. She did this first by mustering up civilian volunteerism as assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD), and by visiting U.S. troops abroad.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office in 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt’s role as first lady was over, but her career was not. She became a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, specializing in humanitarian, social, and cultural issues. In 1948, she drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirmed life, liberty, and equality internationally for all people regardless of race, creed or color. Additionally, she helped in the establishment of the state of Israel and attempted negotiations, albeit cautiously, with the Soviet Union (now Russia).
(‘Eleanor Roosevelt’, Women in History- Living Vignettes of Notable Women from U.S. History, World Book Encyclopedia, The Quarrie Corporation, www.arttoday.com, 1943)

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