Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Roosevelt, Eleanor (1884–1962)

Democratic activist, first lady, and United Nations (UN) delegate. Born in New York City, the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, and educated at Allenswood, a girl's school near London, England, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt married the politically ambitious Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a distant cousin who in 1913 became assistant secretary of the navy in Woodrow Wilson's administration. After having six children, during the 1920s Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband was left permanently crippled by polio in 1921, became extremely active in Democratic Party politics and women's, labor, and peace organizations.

In 1929 Franklin Roosevelt became governor of New York State and in 1932 ran successfully for the presidency, an office he held from March 1933 until his death in April 1945. Eleanor Roosevelt was a liberal voice in his administration, although as World War II approached, loyalty and perhaps conviction compelled her to break with many friends and support her husband's increasingly interventionist policies. During the war she advocated liberal plans for the postwar world, including the creation of an international organization to maintain peace.

Franklin Roosevelt's sudden death in April 1945 blocked his widow's original plans to attend the first meeting of the UN, to which Harry S. Truman, his successor, soon appointed her a delegate. She chaired the commission that drafted the UN Declaration on Human Rights adopted in 1948. Alarmed by intensifying Cold War tensions, she urged continuing East-West dialogue. She backed the Marshall Plan for economic aid to Europe but opposed the Truman Doctrine's call for U.S. military aid to Greece and Turkey and a global American anticommunist crusade. Gradually won over to anti-Soviet containment policies, in January 1948 she was one of the founders of Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal organization that endorsed Truman in that year's presidential campaign rather than his more pro-Soviet Democratic rival Henry A. Wallace, her husband's former vice president.

Dwight D. Eisenhower dropped Roosevelt from the UN, but his Democratic successor John F. Kennedy again named her a delegate, in which capacity she worked closely with Adlai Stevenson, Kennedy's ambassador to the UN and an old friend. Roosevelt, sponsored by the American Association for the United Nations, traveled extensively, advocating peace, human rights, and dignity for all and urging greater economic aid to developing countries. She died in New York City on 7 November 1962.

Priscilla Roberts


Further Reading
Cook, Blanche Wiesen. Eleanor Roosevelt. 2 vols. to date. New York: Viking, 1992, 1999.; Glendon, Mary Ann. A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New York: Random House, 2001.; Hoff-Wilson, Joan, and Marjorie Lightman, eds. Without Precedent: The Life and Career of Eleanor Roosevelt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.
 

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