Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Elleanor Roosevelt was born this day in 1884 and perhaps no other First Lady in the history of our country was as well respected and as well loved as she. She was the niece of the 25th president, Theodore Roosevelt and she and her later husband, Franklin D. were distant cousins. Theodore Roosevelt traveled from the White House as president and "gave her away" at her marriage to FDR. Teddy was the first sitting president to perform that function! She had humble beginnings: Her mother died when she was eight years old and her paternal father died a year and a half after that. She was then raised by her maternal grandmother. She went to Europe to attend school and became fluent in four languages. She was also the first First Lady to travel to Europe alone while a First Lady and the First of these to cross the Atlantic Ocean. She cared for her ailing husband, Franklin with his onslaught of polio and did as much for the White House in the 1930's as Jacqueline Kennedy did in the early 1960's. She was a part of of the United Nations for years and she authored several children's books. In a trip to to the tiny Luxembourg in the 1940s', the people stood in a driving rain to catch a glimpse of her, and greet with loud chantings of "Missus Roosevelt, Missus Roosevelt". She was a champion of freedom and equal rights and once resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution when they denied the use of Constitution Hall ( a concert venue they controlled) in Washington DC to a black opera singer. She became even more famous after FDR's death and became an international ambassador of freedom and the American spirit. President Kennedy appointed her back to the United Nations in 1962 after a ten year absence from the same hallowed halls. I have often toyed with writing a musical or an an operetta about this dear lady and the notion of one was seriously considered at one time by Harold Prince. She wrote a newspaper column for years and it was indeed a very respected journalistic effort! She was never an attractive woman even at eighteen years of age, but the heart and spirit of this dear and brave lady made up for any of that. She was simply amazing! We should all hold her in deep gratitude for all of her amazing contributions that she has made to democracy and the American spirit that we hold on to so dearly!