Tag Archives: World War Two

Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World

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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.”

Sources:

Eleanor Roosevelt. biography

First Lady Biography: Eleanor Roosevelt

Champions of Human Rights

 

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Reasons why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor

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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.

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