Tag Archives: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World


Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal...

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish text. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is viewed as the third greatest President of all time (behind George Washington and Abraham Lincoln), but his wife is viewed as the greatest First Lady in American History. Though her husband was in the president and in charge of the United States, Eleanor did not sit silently behind the scenes as majority of First Ladies did; she led her own life to helping others.

Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 11, 1884. Though she was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor had a tough life. Her mother died when she was eight and then her alcoholic father died two years later, so she was raised by her grandmother and later sent to school in England. Her upbringing caused her to be a quiet, shy person . In 1905, she married Franklin D. Roosevelt; President Theodore Roosevelt walked her down the aisle. Eleanor spent the beginning of her marriage taking orders from her mother-in-law, Sarah.

In 1918, Eleanor discovered that Franklin was having an affair. From that moment on, Eleanor became her own person; she stopped taking orders from her mother-in-law and became involved in her own interests. Eleanor was inspired by her uncle on social reform. During World War One, she worked for the American Red Cross and Navy Relief Society. She even had the Wilson Administration’s Interior Secretary conduct an investigation with the intention of improving the facility’s services at the hospital. She was part of the Women’s City Club of New York, speaking to female listeners about politics through the radio. As a member of the Women’s Trade Union League, she educated women about joining unions and even picketed with them. She even persuaded her husband to promote Frances Perkins to the head of the State Industrial Relations – she would become Secretary of Labor and create Social Security. She also worked as a teacher. Though the love between her and Franklin was ruined, they remained each other’s biggest supporters throughout their marriage. When Franklin lost his ability to walk due to polio in 1921, Sarah wanted him to retire from politics. It was Eleanor who convinced him to seek treatment and return to politics.

Eleanor was worried when she became First Lady that she would lose her life and have to spend the next four years hosting social parties for her husband’s supporters. But, Franklin realized that Eleanor was her own person. Eleanor gave press conferences for only female reporters, forcing newspapers to hire females. She also had a magazine column where people could write to her; she was paid $1,000 a month and donated it all to various charities. She also traveled overseas to visit U.S. troops during World War Two – she frequently traveled alone without the secret service, carrying a gun. Besides being an advocate for women, children, laborers, immigrants, and the poor, she also wanted equality. While Franklin could not support equality since he needed the Southern vote, Eleanor could show public support for the black community. She resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution when the organization refused to rent its Constitution Hall for black singer Marian Anderson. Eleanor had Anderson sing at the White House for the King and Queen of England. She also showed support for black pilots by flying in a plane flown by Charles Anderson. When Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps, she criticized her husband and his cabinet. Though she was criticized for supporting all races, these minority groups switched from President Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party to the Democratic Party, where they still remain.

After Franklin died on April 12, 1945, Eleanor believed her days in the public were over. However, President Harry Truman appointed her to serve as a delegate for the United Nations General Assembly. She was the only female of the five delegates. She was on the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission, the main writer of the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights. The document is still the principal guide to assessing a country’s treatment of its people. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy made her a delegate to the United Nations, appointed her to the Commission on the Status of Women, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She died from cancer on November 7, 1962 in Manhattan.

Eleanor Roosevelt spent her early life as a shy, obedient lady. After Franklin’s affair, Eleanor became a different person by taking charge of her life. While previous First Ladies remained behind the scenes, Eleanor connected to the American public through radio and news articles. She supported numerous social causes; advocating equal pay for women, shorter work hours for children, medical benefits for veterans, equal rights for minorities, and world peace for all. She also became a huge part of the early success of the U.N. since she helped get the United States involved in the organization and drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Her humanitarian work in the world is the reason why she is, as President Truman said, “The First Lady of the World.”


Eleanor Roosevelt. biography

First Lady Biography: Eleanor Roosevelt

Champions of Human Rights


Frances Perkins: Secretary of Labor


Frances Perkins, 1880-1965

Frances Perkins, 1880-1965 (Photo credit: Penn State Special Collections Library)

The stock market crash of October 1929 resulted in the Great Depression, a time when  unemployment reached 25%, poverty increased, and deflation occurred. When Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, he created several laws, known as the New Deal, that created employment amongst Americans. These measures included social security, minimum wage, normal work hours, and child labor laws. Though it was Roosevelt who managed to have all of these laws passed, there was a woman behind the scenes who came up with several of the New Deal laws. Her name was Francis Perkins.

Fannie “Frances” Perkins was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 10, 1880. Her parents supported her education; she graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1902 with chemistry and physics degrees and graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in sociology. In 1910, she became head of the New York Consumer’s League and lobbied for better working hours and conditions. On March 25, 1911, she witnessed the deadliest industrial disaster in American history: the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. A total of 146 garment workers died from fire, smoke inhalation, or falling to their deaths. Most of the victims were Jewish and Italian immigrant women – the youngest were 14-year-olds Kate Leone and Sara Rosaria Maltese. As was the common practice at the time, the managers had locked the doors leading to the stairwells and exits to prevent thievery. From that moment on, Perkins spent the rest of her life improving working conditions for the American worker. She quit her job and went to work for the Factory Investigation Commission in New York City as a factory inspector. When she wasn’t working or studying, she volunteered at settlement houses, including the Hull House in Chicago.

On the Factory Investigation Commission, she sat on the committee that was created to understand what happened at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory and how to make sure it would never happen again.She later became executive secretary for the Committee on Safety of the City of New York. In 1913, she married Paul Wilson and had a baby daughter. After two years of marriage, her husband developed what is now known as a bipolar disorder. He was institutionalized, leaving Perkins to raise her daughter by herself. In 1919, she was added to the Industrial Commission of the State of New York by Governor Alfred Smith. In 1929, she was appointed by Governor Franklin Roosevelt to the New York State Commissioner of Labor where she worked to expand factory investigations and to reduce the workweek for women to 48 hours. She also worked on getting a minimum wage set, create unemployment insurance laws, and to put an end to child labor.

When Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, she was invited to become the Secretary of Labor. She became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet. Perkins proposed several ideas that Roosevelt supported, including social security, which provided unemployment benefits, pensions for the elderly, and aid to the poor. She served 12 years and 3 months as a member of the cabinet, the longest officer to have served. After Roosevelt died, President Harry Truman asked her to serve on the U.S. Civil Service Commission, which she did until 1952 when her husband died. She spent the rest of her life teaching at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations until she died on May 14, 1965.

Before Perkins, men, women, and children were working 60-hour weeks in dangerous factories for little pay. After witnessing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Perkins dedicated the rest of her life to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. When she wasn’t creating labor laws, she was raising her daughter by herself because her husband suffered from a mental illness. When Roosevelt became president during the Great Depression, he knew the Secretary of Labor must be someone capable of brining America out of the depression. By appointing Perkins, he showed that she was the best person for the job. Because of Frances Perkins, there is a minimum wage, child labor laws, and social security. She later reflected as to why she went to work in Washington D.C.; “I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and millions of forgotten plain common workingmen.”


Social Security Pioneers

Frances Perkins

The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


Franklin Roosevelt’s Greatest Strength


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, to a wealthy family in up-state New York. After attending Harvard and Columbia Law School, he focused his sights on the White House by following his relative’s, President Theodore Roosevelt, footsteps by first becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy. His journey to the White House halted in 1921 when Roosevelt became ill while vacationing with family in Canada. After several doctor visits over a span of a couple of weeks, it was discovered that Roosevelt had contacted Poliomyelitis and now had polio. At the age of 31, Roosevelt became paralyzed from the waist down. Roosevelt’s mother begged him to retire from politics, but his wife, Eleanor, would not let him because she knew that he would regret it. Though the current times believed people with disabilities were a burden, Roosevelt would use his paralysis to lead his country through troubled times.

Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia...

Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia  (Wikipedia)

In 1924, Roosevelt learned about Warm Springs, Georgia where the springs were rumored to cure paralysis. At the springs, Roosevelt found that his legs would hold him upright and that he could swim for hours so he bought the springs for $200,000 as a place for polio victims to seek therapeutic treatment; he personally led pool exercises. Though it was $42 a week for a polio victim to stay at the springs, no one was ever turned away due to lack of money because Roosevelt would personally cover the bills. Though the springs never did cure paralysis, it became a place for people with disabilities to seek therapeutic treatment. Roosevelt Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center is still in existence and serves 4,000 people each year.

While Roosevelt was in Georgia, he came in contact with the locals where he saw extreme poverty, something he never forgot about when he became president in 1932. In his first term, the New Deal (set of programs and policies designed to promote economy recovery and social reform) took place. Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act (TVA) because the civilians of Tennessee Valley had an average income of $639 per year and 30% of the population had malaria. The TVA developed new fertilizers, taught farms how to replant forest and improve habitats for wildlife, and created dams that provided electricity. Another important part of the New Deal was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC hired a total of 2.5 million young men who planted 3 billion trees and created 800 parks.Each man was paid $30, but $25 of that was sent back home to his family. Separate programs put 200,000 Blacks to work and the Indian Emergency Conservation Work allowed Native Americans to develop roads and schools on reservations. Congress also passed the Social Security Act; it established  federally funded old-age benefits and funding for states to provide assistance to blind individuals and disabled children, and extended existing vocational rehabilitation programs. Roosevelt never forgot about the people he met in Georgia and made it his goal to put America back to work and to give Americans self-esteem.

One of only a few known photographs of Rooseve...

One of only a few known photographs of Roosevelt in a wheelchair (Wikipedia)

Roosevelt was never photographed in his wheelchair because he did not want Americans to view him as “weak” since he lived at a time when Americans believed people with disabilities were an inferior group of people. He only made two public appearances that showed his paralysis. In 1936, while dedicating a new building at Washington’s Howard University (a Black University) he was asked by the university’s president Dr. Mordecai John if the students could see that he was crippled because the students were crippled because of their race. By seeing that the president was crippled, he would inspire the students. Roosevelt agreed and walked, with his leg braces, painfully down the aisle to the platform. The second time happened in July 1944 when Roosevelt went to Pearl Harbor for strategy sessions. On his spare time, he visited military hospitals. In the amputee ward, Roosevelt was pushed in a wheelchair by Secret Service because he wanted to show his useless legs to those who would face the same affliction. As Sam Rosenman, adviser and speechwriter to Roosevelt, noted “I never saw Roosevelt with tears in his eyes… That day as he was wheeled out of the hospital he was close to them.”

Roosevelt continued to return to Warm Springs every year and every year he was reminded about the poor children in Georgia. Rosenman stated, “He (Roosevelt) made it clear in private conversation that he felt strongly that there was no reason why a child born in some county too poor to sustain a good school system should have to start life in competition with children from sections of the country that had fine schools.” Before World War II, less than 5% of young adults attended college because college was reserved to the wealthy. Roosevelt saw his chance to open education to all of America by using the World War II veterans. In his message to congress he requested federal support for college and vocational training for every returning veteran for up to four years. “Lack of money should not prevent any veteran of this war from equipping himself for the most useful employment for which is aptitudes and willingness qualify him…I believe this Nation is morally obligated to provide this training and education and the necessary financial assistant by which they can secure,” said Roosevelt. The G.I.Bill of Rights passed and Roosevelt signed it into law on June 22, 1944. For the first time in American history,colleges and universities accessible to the common man because Roosevelt saw how important it was for everyone to have education in America.


Join March of Dimes (Wikipedia)

President Franklin Roosevelt once considered retiring from the public life to focus on getting better, but instead he proved that people with disabilities can overcome obstacles at a time when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were murdering millions of people deemed inferior due to race, religion, and disabilities. Though he never gave up on his dream of regaining the use of his legs, his paralysis opened his eyes to world filled with poverty, unemployment, poor education, and people who needed inspiration. In 1938, Roosevelt organized the March for Dimes; though it currently focuses on infant mortality, it was once the principle fundraiser for research on polio and provided aid for polio victims. On January 30, 1946, what would have been Roosevelt’s 64th birthday, the dime bearing Roosevelt’s face was released in his honor. On April 12, 1955, 10 years after Roosevelt died, Dr. Jonas Salk announced that that there was a cure for polio…the research was primary funded by Roosevelt’s March of Dimes. As Eleanor said, “Franklin’s illness . . . gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons — infinite patience and never-ending persistence.

Polio victims lay wreaths at Roosevelt’s grave (History.com)

Source: Smith, Jean Edward. FDR. New York: Random House, 2007. 186-636. Print.

Reasons why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor


December 7 will forever be known as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day due to Japan attacking Pearl Harbor in 1941. As every

English: A navy photographer snapped this phot...

A navy photographer snapped this photograph of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, just as the USS Shaw exploded. (80-G-16871) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

student in the United States is taught, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor theUnited States entered World War Two, leading the Allies to victory. Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps would be discovered, atomic bombs would destroy Japan’s cities, and the United States would enter into another war with its former alliance, the Soviet Union. But not every American student can recall why exactly the Japanese attacked a neutral country; it would be mistreatment of Japanese citizens by the United States and Japan’s global ambitions that would lead to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 1879, President Ulysses S. Grant visited Tokyo; he had such an enjoyable experience he vowed to strengthen the United States’ relationship with Japan, but he never had a chance due to losing his re-election. After the 1904 Russo-Japan War, President Theodore Roosevelt would support Russia’s decision not to pay indemnities to Japan, even though Japan won the war. As Japanese immigrants’ numbers began to grow, the United States banned immigration from Japan in the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908. Throughout the 1920’s, the United States ignored its Japanese citizens’ wishes to be equal. In 1932, the United States ignored Japan’s acquisition of Manchuria because it viewed Japan as an evil conqueror while Japan viewed itself as owning a colony, like France, Great Britain, and the United States did. As Adolf Hitler began to spread his dominance across Europe in the 1930’s, Japan was inspired and began to conquer Southeast Asia.

When Japan began invading Southeast Asia, threatening European and American colonies, the United States began placing embargoes on Japan. On July 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt banned certain types of iron, steel, and gasoline to Europe. Since 80% of Japan’s petroleum came from the United States, Japan began setting its sights on the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies. On September 6, Prime Minister Prince Fumimaro Konoye was given one month to negotiate with the United States. Konoye met with Ambassador Joseph Grew to arrange a meeting with President Roosevelt. Though Grew warned Washington how important this meeting was, he was ignored because Washington believed President Roosevelt would be too accompanying to Japan and the public would not approve. On September 25, the United States loaned $100 million to China and two days later, Japan joined the Berlin-Rome axis, forming the Tripartite Pact. On November 3, Secretary of State Cordell Hull warned that “Japan may go all-out in a do-or-die effort” as the United States continued to cut their resources off. On November 20, the United States created the Modus vivendi – it would give Tokyo six months to cool down, withdraw its troops from surrounding countries, and the United States would begin to trade with Japan once again. For some reason, the Modus vivendi was never presented to Tokyo – no one knows whose fault it was or if it would have done any good.

At the end of November, President Roosevelt said “We are likely to be attacked perhaps as soon as next Monday because the Japanese are notorious for attacking without warning. The question is how to maneuver them into firing the first shot without too much danger to ourselves.” Roosevelt and his cabinet knew that Japan was going to attack, but they had no idea when or where – it could be Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, Dutch East Indies, or the Philippines. They also knew if Japan attacked them, then the public would support entry into the war. On November 26, Hull met with Nomura and Kurusu and gave them an ultimatum (Hull Note) demanding that Japan leave China and the Tripartite Pact. By then, the strike force that was heading to Pearl Harbor had already shipped out. On December 1, Japan wanted war with the United States. Since 1940, Japanese Marshal Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had been planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the past year, the Japanese had been participating in mock attacks in Japan’s Kagoshima Bay.

Though the United States knew the Japanese were going to attack, the army assumed the Navy was conducting distant reconnaissance off the islands while the Navy thought the Army was manning Oahu’s early-warning radar. Early morning on December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The attack lasted two hours, killing 2,403 servicemen (1,103 were killed on battleship Arizona, which sank after a bomb exploded) and about 68 civilians were killed. Roosevelt learned at 1:40 (45 minutes after the first wave of attack) of the attack of Pearl Harbor. Great Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill later wrote “To have the United States on our side was to me the greatest joy… To have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. Now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! …Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder.” Roosevelt met his cabinet at 8:30 that night – “This is the most serious meeting of the Cabinet that has taken place since 1861” he said. It was also the same Oval Study where President Lincoln and his cabinet met after the attack of Fort Sumter. The next day Roosevelt met with the joint-session of congress, giving his Infamy Speech “Yesterday, December

English: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt d...

English: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” Within an hour, the Senate and Congress voted and agreed – the United States was at war.

Smith, Jean. FDR. New York: Random House, 2007. 506-538. Print.