Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, was a prominent figure during World War II. Not content to observe the war from the White House, she did much to improve the morale of her fellow countrymen and the troops overseas.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884, to Elliott and Anna Hall Roosevelt. Both of her parents died by the time she was ten, and she lived with her maternal grandmother until being sent to a boarding school in Great Britain at age fifteen. When she returned home, Eleanor did social work in New York until she married her distant cousin, Franklin Roosevelt.
Eleanor played the role of faithful wife while Franklin pursued his political career, but their relationship changed drastically when she discovered that he had been having an affair with her social secretary. The couple reconciled, but Eleanor decided that she no longer wanted to be simply a housewife and started to pursue outside interests, including the League of Women Voters and the Women's Trade Union League. When Franklin was crippled by polio, she helped keep his political career alive by becoming active in the Democratic Party. When her husband assumed the presidency, Eleanor often acted as a springboard for his programs and proposals.
During World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt often donned a Red Cross uniform and visited wounded servicemen in military hospitals throughout the United States and overseas. During one trip, she traveled a remarkable 25,000 miles in just five weeks. After she returned home, she spent countless hours making hundreds of reassuring phone calls to the concerned parents, wives, and girlfriends of the servicemen she had met. She also championed the cause of desegregation in the military.
Eleanor Roosevelt served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations from 1945 to 1953 and chaired the commission that created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She died in New York City on November 7, 1962.