Eleanor Roosevelt - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Eleanor Roosevelt

There’s not a lot that Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) didn’t do in her thirty-three active years in public service, and for that we love her. She overcame a dark personal life—both her parents passed away before she was nine, and her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, had a longtime affair with her personal secretary—to triumph as one of the most influential female figures of the twentieth century.

Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady, given that FDR was elected president four times before the two-term limit was passed. Together they brought America through the Depression with the New Deal, and then through World War II with the Allies. In between, Roosevelt became an active public figure herself, expanding a role that had been largely relegated to hostessing and picking out china. With the support of her husband, Roosevelt was the first First Lady to give public press conferences and speak at a national party convention. She was a strong advocate for women’s rights and women in the workforce; for example, she permitted only female reporters to attend her press conferences, which forced publications to keep female journalists on staff.

Roosevelt was also a vocal advocate for the civil rights movement. She lobbied for a bill that made lynching a federal crime, and she flew with the Tuskegee Airmen, bringing nationwide attention to their cause of training black combat pilots. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt spoke publicly against anti-Japanese hysteria and privately opposed her husband’s executive order of internment camps. She served as the first chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights. After her husband’s death, she continued to work as a leader in human rights issues. She was so beloved that there was widespread support in the Democratic party for her to run for president, but she quickly shuttered the idea.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”