Last updated: August 3, 2019
Topic: ArtBooks
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Eleanor Roosevelt was a woman beyond her time. She was America’s
influencer and women’s voice, through her time serving as First Lady of the
United States, and for the years to follow. As her husband grew into his political
power, she was right there matching his steps with her political consciousness,
and influence. Her transition as a feminist designed a compelling story to the
evolution of the woman’s movement in the twentieth century. Eleanor was
described by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, as “a leader who supported
women’s inclusion in American society as full political and economic woman in
the years before 1963, teachers and students can appreciate the various forms
and strategies supporters of women rights used before the modern feminist
movement captured America’s attention”. She was a leader of the women’s
movement, and became socially aware of all the socially injustice barriers that
were thrown in women’s way. Eleanor Roosevelt was not only a major part of the women’s
movement, and where it stands today, but she also helped shape the way women
are viewed in the workplace, how equality is necessary for all not only men,
and how essential our human rights are.

Many people establish Eleanor Roosevelt with her husband, Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd President of the United States, who led
the United States through the Great Depression. In terms of feminist history,
she did so much more that still effects today’s society, and launched a
movement that was a flame that couldn’t be put out. The National Women’s
History Museum stated
how, “Although initially wary of women’s
suffrage, after its passage in 1920, Roosevelt promoted women’s political
engagement, playing a leadership role in several organizations, including the
League of Women Voters and the Women’s Trade Union League”. She promoted equal
rights for all, and launched herself even deeper into the political world. She
was “the most politically active and influential First Lady in history, using
the position to advance many of her progressive and egalitarian goals” (NWHM). Not
only did she launch a feminist movement of her own, she had a big influence in
her husband’s decisions as well. Eleanor persuaded Franklin to appoint more
women, and have more involved in his cabinet and the New Deal. Paula F.
Pfeffer, the author of Eleanor Roosevelt and the National and World Woman’s
Parties, stated that “Roosevelt was a
Victorian “lady,” and while she was restricted by upper-class notions
of propriety, her Victorian concepts of duty and service paradoxically became
her means of liberation”. Pfeffer is describing how although she promoted a more
domestic role for women, Eleanor also believed it was important for women of
her social standing to have a job outside the home, and used her power to as an
enhance to her stance, and how she is viewed today.

            Eleanor was known for her hard work advocating for
protective legislation for women in the industry. Not only was she busy advocating
for women’s rights, “Roosevelt expanded her other activities to include holding
weekly press conferences for women reporters, constant traveling to act as her
crippled husband’s eyes and ears, writing a daily newspaper column entitled
“My Day,” lecturing, and publishing several books” (Pfeffer 6). Thanks
to her political power, she gained more power than any women of her century.
She had access to high government, and media that ultimately launched her success
and stance in the feminist movement. Eleanor had power that mean before her didn’t
even possess. Pfeffer also made a valid point in saying that “she used that
power to obtain appointments to government and Democratic party posts for women
who came highly recommended or whom she had come to know personally through her
earlier reform activities. Roosevelt maintained that she merely passed along
names that were sent to her, together with information she might have about the
person”. Roosevelt and her peers applied the term “feminist” as derogatorily
towards the members of the Nations Women’s Parties, and recommended only those
activists who behaved in proper “lady-like” fashion (Pfeffer). Eleanor promoted
strong women, and encouraged many to start fighting for their rights.

            Eleanor is even greatly known for her voice in creating a
charter of liberties, which continue to promote creativity and a voice among
women today. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was a document that universally
protected fundamental human rights, and something she had a part of. The United
for Humans Rights, quoted Eleanor when she submitted the declaration to The
United Nations Assembly by saying, “We stand today at
the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in
the life of mankind. This declaration may well become the international Magna
Carta for all men everywhere”. Along with her participation in a charter of
liberties, she also continued her commitment for women’s equal rights by being an
active participant in the U. N’s Subcommittee on the Status of Women. The
Feminist Majority Foundation wrote how “She
told the members that their task was to work “until you feel women have reached
the point where they are on an equal basis with men and are considered human
beings.” Although there is still much work to do, because of Eleanor Roosevelt,
the progress of the women’s movement, and feminist movement continues to be a
powerful force to not be reckoned with. The Feminist Majority Foundation also
commented on how her charter and her work is helping to speed this trend toward
equality for women, and how she told the General Assembly’s Social Committee
that countries in which women do not have equal suffrage were now seen as “out
of step with the times.” As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you’ll be
criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” Not
only did she shape the way women were viewed, but Eleanor Roosevelt was a great
influencer of her time, who advocated for women’s rights, and helped shape the
way the feminist movement is empowered today.