I love Eleanor Roosevelt. I have a photo of her hanging on my office wall, and every time I feel exasperated by certain of my life circumstances, I glance at it and consider everything she went through:
– Growing up with two mentally ill parents who both died, leaving her orphaned at age 12.
– Bouncing around from rich relative to rich relative, never quite fitting in
– Being drafted into the role of figurehead wife: stripped of her role as lady of the house by her over-bearing mother-in-law, replaced as the object of her husband’s affections by her best friend, scorned by her children who disrespected her, the way they’d been taught to by their father and grandmother.
– At 40, having just learned of her husband’s affair, Eleanor was devastated. Her mother-in-law refused to let her out of the marriage in order to preserve FDR’s image. So Eleanor had two choices: live a Stepford wife life and lose all integrity, or use her position as First Lady to fight for social change — something unheard of for women of that era.
Here are some of Eleanor’s accomplishments (courtesy of www.historycentral.com):
– Established National Youth Administration
– Revitalized Ellen Wilson’s slum clearance program with the Alley Dwelling Act of 1934.
– Promptly resigned from the DAR who prohibited African-American singer Marian Anderson from singing at Constitution Hall and arranged for the singer to perform at the Lincoln Memorial
– Wrote a daily newspaper column, “My Day” to express her opinions.
– During the Second World War, she visited army bases all over the world
– President Truman made her a delegate to the fledgling United Nations in 1946. There, she became chairman of the Human Rights Commission.
She also said some of the most inspirational things ever. Here are some of my favorite Eleanorisms:
1. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
2. Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.
3. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
4. I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.
5. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.
6. I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could.
Today, I’m thankful for Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy.