First Lady: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, in New York City. She was Theodore Roosevelt's niece and a fifth cousin to her husband. Eleanor married Franklin Delano Roosevelt on March 17, 1905.


Franklin Roosevelt had a long-term affair with Eleanor's social secretary, Lucy Mercer. He even considered divorcing Eleanor, but his mother talked him out of it and he agreed not to see Lucy any more. Whether or not he continued his affair is uncertain. What is known is that Lucy was with Franklin the day he died in Warm Springs, Georgia.

Together, the Roosevelts had one daughter and four sons: Anna Eleanor, James, Elliott, Franklin Jr., and John Aspinwall. All four of their sons served in World War II. James became a U.S. representative from 1955 to 1966; Elliott was mayor of Miami Beach in the 1960s; and Franklin Jr. was appointed by John F. Kennedy to be his undersecretary of commerce. John was the only Roosevelt child to become a Republican, backing Eisenhower in 1952.

Eleanor was an important first lady because she used her platform to advance causes that she found significant. She was a huge proponent not only for the New Deal but also for civil rights and the rights of women.

Civil Rights Proponent

As a civil rights activist, Eleanor believed that a quality education and equal opportunities for all were the most important things to fight for. Her desire to help led to a huge outpouring of support from African Americans for her and her husband. However, Franklin Roosevelt realized the importance of keeping the peace with Southern senators and never put the full force of the White House behind her efforts.

In 1939, African American contralto Marian Anderson was scheduled to perform at Constitution Hall, but the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow her to sing because of her race. As a result, Eleanor resigned from the organization. She wrote a column called “My Day,” which she used as a platform to pressure radio stations to broadcast Anderson's performance from the Lincoln Memorial.

After Roosevelt's death, Eleanor became even more involved in civil rights, joining the board of directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and continuing to fight for integration and equal rights.

The United Nations

Eleanor led in the formation of the United Nations after World War II. She was instrumental in drafting the UN “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and was the first chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission. She believed that the declaration was a truly significant document and helped to assure its acceptance by the general assembly.

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