Why we love Eleanor Roosevelt

love her casual elegance

Eleanor in 1932

I’m a big fan of women’s history – learning about strong, amazing ladies from the past (and present!) is one of my favorite things. And you gotta love it when great gals from today draw inspiration from their predecessors. So I was really enjoying this little article about Hilary Clinton’s Summer road trip plans. I know Eleanor by name (obviously), but I don’t know a lot about her personal story. So I’ve compiled a list of some top reasons why we love Eleanor Roosevelt. Check it out and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Ever.

I know, for me, it can be tough to set firm boundaries in life and defend my stance. This is something I’ve become more comfortable with as I’ve gotten older and a little bit wiser, but it’s still a struggle. I really admire Eleanor’s unwavering determination. I’m sure she had her moments of self-doubt and concern, but she never let on. While her husband was President she handled press conferences solo and set the tone for American political discourse via journalism. Her words were powerful and her presence even more tenacious. (Fun fact: at 5′-11″ she ties Michelle Obama as the tallest First Lady.)

Perhaps this courage came from her childhood hardships. At the young age of eight her mother died and two years later her dad passed away. Eleanor was shuttled away from her home in New York to a boarding school in England, where I’m sure she had to face off with bullies (while navigating a culture shift without the traditional parental support network).

That whole “have it all” thing we worry about now… Eleanor lived it

In 1905 she married Franklin D. Roosevelt and their union created six children. With a bustling home life, she still managed to support her country with her work at the Red Cross. And when FDR had a serious polio attack in 1921, she stepped into the frame to help guide his path to the White House. Never content to sit at home, she was the embodiment of the phrase “gal on the go.” After her time as First Lady, she continued her fight for equality as the Chair of the UN’s Human Rights Commission. Oh yeah… and did I mention she also was a published author during this journey of public service? Yeah. Impressive – just check out her CV.

Making stuff happen. Like a boss ('cuz she is!)

Holding court at the UN, 1947

She recognized how important world travel is to personal development

During her years in England, she befriended the school’s director Marie Souvestre. Marie tutored and guided Eleanor directly during her tenure at the academy. Part of that mentorship included travel. In France and Italy her eyes were opened to new cultures and ways of life. Marie didn’t shy away from showing Eleanor and her peers poverty-stricken areas, which planted the seed for her future humanitarianism. During WWII she returned to Europe to support the troops.

She bucked tradition to follow her own goals

We have to remember context for this – it’s the turn of the century and society had very particular expectations for women. For Eleanor, her family wanted her to make her social debut and live out life quietly and obediently. That definitely wasn’t in the cards! She refused to make let her social standing blind her to certain realities – rather, she used her social standing to help create lasting change. Together with like-minded socialite friends, Eleanor led the Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements. This center helped improve the lives of immigrant workers, giving them a voice at a time when they were invisible to the powers that be.

Share with us why you admire Eleanor Roosevelt in the comments…

Replies for “Why we love Eleanor Roosevelt

  • Barbara Schwartz

    Eleanor Roosevelt has been my hero for years. I’ve always admired her strength of character and her desire to help others. While FDR was in office, she did much of his “leg work” (no pun intended) in terms of traveling around the country and reporting on economic and social hardships of the people she met. I believe she was instrumental in shaping much of FDR’s domestic policy. I even have a caricature of Eleanor by the French artist Sem (Georges Goursat, 1863–1934) hanging in my living room!


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