When Franklin Roosevelt was stricken (1921) with poliomyelitis, she took a more active interest in public issues in order to restore his links with the world of politics. As wife of the governor of New York and then as wife of the U.S. president, she played a leading part in women's organizations and was active in encouraging youth movements, in promoting consumer welfare, in working for the civil rights of minorities, and in combating poor housing and unemployment. In 1933 she conducted the first press conference ever held by a U.S. president's wife. An accomplished writer, she initiated (1935) a daily column,
My Day, syndicated in many newspapers; she continued to write it until 1962. She also for a time conducted a radio program, and she traveled around the country, lecturing, observing conditions, and furthering causes. In World War II she was (1941–42) assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense. She also visited Great Britain (1942), the SW Pacific (1943), and the Caribbean (1944).
After the president's death, from 1945 to 1953 (and again in 1961) she was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations, and in 1946 she was made chair of the Commission on Human Rights, a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council. In that capacity, she was a key figure in the creation of the groundbreaking Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). In the 1950s she became a leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. With Herbert H. Lehman and Thomas K. Finletter, she headed a movement in New York City to wrest control of Democratic policy from Tammany Hall. Her dedication to the cause of human welfare won her affection and honor throughout the world as well as the respect of many of her critics. Many of her magazine and newspaper articles have been collected. Her other writings include The Moral Basis of Democracy (1940) and You Can Learn by Living (1960).
See her This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1949), On My Own (1958), and The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961); A. Black et al., ed., The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers (2 vol., 2009–); S. Neal, ed., Eleanor and Harry: The Correspondence of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman (2002); biographies by T. K. Hareven (1968), J. R. Kearney (1968), J. P. Lash (2 vol., 1971–72), and B. W. Cook (3 vol., 1992–2016); M. A. Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2001); H. Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor (2010); M. H. Beasley, Eleanor Roosevelt: Transformative First Lady (2010); S. Quinn, Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady (2016).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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