She also sought support for the bill elsewhere, such as the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching. The First Lady also became the first white resident of Washington, D. In , she attended and addressed the annual conventions of both organizations. She worked in tandem with these organizations and also on individual efforts. Within the New Deal programs of the federal government, she made efforts to forge more racial equity. She pushed for those administering the Agricultural Adjustment Act to acknowledge how white landowners regularly discriminated against African-Americans and similarly pressured the Resettlement Administration to do so on behalf of black sharecroppers.
She sought to make certain that African-Americans were paid the same wage within the ranks of administrative workers in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. By seeking to ensure that African-Americans were beneficiaries of New Deal programs, and cultivating prominent political figures within the community, Eleanor Roosevelt — and through her, FDR, were key factors in the historic shift of African-American support from the Republican Party and their legacy from Lincoln to the Democratic Party. The NYA gave out grants to college students who agreed to work part-time, thus giving them some income without having to drop out of school; it also provided job training to those not in school.
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In her book This I Remember , Eleanor Roosevelt acknowledged her role in helping to create the National Youth Administration, which FDR established on June 26, "One of the ideas I agreed to present to Franklin was that of setting up a national youth administration It was one of the occasions on which I was very proud that the right thing was done regardless of political consequences.
The division provided unemployed young people with apprenticeships, vocational training and work projects. She toured several dozen of the sites around the nation, and behind the scenes frequently evaluated the success and failures of the program with its officials, attended its regional conferences with state directors and served as a direct liaison to the President. Eleanor Roosevelt was inspired by the call to social justice and world peace advocated by the American Student Union, which was composed of college student activists.
When they sought her support for the American Youth Act, to mandate federal aid to all American young people who lived in need, she refused, feeling it was expensive and unrealistic. Nonetheless, she took a front-row seat during House Un-American Activities Committee hearings when they grilled ASU leader Joseph Lash she had befriended, and later defended their initial good intentions.
Under the direction of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, a tape-recording was made of the First Lady and the student leader Lash visiting in a hotel room, unknown to them; some suggested it indicated a physical relationship but there is no evidence of this. Once FDR discovered this, he was enraged and ordered all transcripts and tapes destroyed.
While Hoover seemingly followed the order, he continued to use espionage to track the activities of the First Lady through her White House tenure and beyond, believing that she was aligned, unwittingly or not, with subversive organizations that threatened the stability of the U. She had been an avid supporter of the initial effort to bring these professions under eligibility of the Works Progress Administration and successfully lobbied the President to this end; he signed the legislation on June 25, She publicly opposed a Congressional funding decrease to the programs, and the closing of the theater program.
Administered by the Department of Interior, it helped resettle communities where a workforce in a predominant occupation had been devastated by the economic turndown. The urge to provide a viable life and relief to the coal-mining families there led to her unofficially directing what would become the first of the New Deal resettlement projects, located some thirty miles away, in Arthurdale. Witnessing the efforts of the private charity group, the American Friends Service Committee to provide self-help programs there, she discussed the effort with the President and he had it established as a federal project.
Feeling a sense of personal responsibility to help the impoverished coal-mining families as soon as possible, the First Lady used her clout to have Arthurdale functioning as quickly as possible. Within months some fifty prefabricated houses were bought and delivered to the site — only to find they did not fit the foundations. At great expense, an architect was hired to adapt the houses.
Co-operative farming, crafts production, and other small industry were established, though proved less lucrative than hoped. While able to lure General Electric to establish a vacuum cleaner assembly plant there, it did not succeed. More successfully she sought private donations from wealthy Americans to establish a hospital and clinic, including the young tobacco heiress Doris Duke after she made a visit with the First Lady to Arthurdale, as seen in this newsreel:.
Critics in Congress managed to defeat a Public Works Administration allocation for a post office equipment factory.
First in peace
She was unable to convince administrators to include African-Americans in the new community. Although it provided quality housing, it was not until defense industry was established there, during the war-preparedness era that the unemployment problems become alleviated.
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She nevertheless remained committed to the community, particularly the school system that she helped establish through private donations. She further visited other federal homesteads, illustrating her belief in their essential soundness as a method of helping people helping themselves. Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong supporter of labor unions, though she refused to be seen as a foe of industry. Instead, she sought to encourage mediation over striking.
As a working newspaper columnist, Eleanor Roosevelt joined the American Newspaper Guild, the first known First Lady to join a labor union. She would be elected, on a write-in vote, as a delegate to the local Industrial Union Council but with the charge that communist interests dominated the organization, she declined and privately urged the guild to disassociate with the council. Initially, she felt that the task of shaking hands and hosting tea parties as her Social Secretary Edith Helm had urged her to do.
In short order, however, she came to respect the value which the public placed on her as a living symbol, along with the often lifetime impression of being received in the White House. Despite her omnipresence in national life as an overtly political figure, she also hosted the annual Easter Egg Roll, dressed formally to welcome guests at state dinners and receptions, toured visitors through the historic rooms of the old mansion, posed for charitable fundraising campaigns, christened ships and planes, opened bazaars and attended luncheons.
She also often greeted guests herself at the White House north portico entrance door, whether they were there for a social call or business meeting. As First Lady, she also chose forms of entertainment at receptions, dinners and other social events which reflected more fully the spectrum of the diverse American popular culture - such as her famously serving hot dogs to the King and Queen of England, and inviting modern dance choreographer Martha Graham to have her troupe perform in the White House.
As a housekeeper, she once recalled having dusty draperies pointed out to her, but felt that there were more pressing matters competing for her time than refurbishing the house. She did take particular pride in her renovation of one room in the mansion, a third floor sitting room which she outfitted with furniture made by the Val-Kill factory which she had founded and managed. Her interest in the quality of food served in the house was also limited, her husband famously complaining about the blandness of meals served to even him.
While she may be among the few First Ladies who regularly cooked - she ritualistically liked to make a large chafing dish of scrambled eggs on Sundays, it was as a sociable venue for her meetings and conferences on serious matters. As for her personal appearance, she was as comfortable appearing in public wearing a hairnet and riding pants as she was in new and expensive gowns on state occasions.
While she sometimes ordered a dress she liked to be made for her in several different colors to spare her what she considered a waste of valuable time trying on clothing, she was also voted among the best-dressed women at different points during her White House tenure and took pride in this.
She also accepted clothes at reduced rates in trade for permitting the stores to advertise her patronage by printing pictures of her in their items. While she might be said to have exemplified her own unique style with signature items such as her veiled and flowered hats and fur-collar neckpieces, she was following popular looks of her era, rather than seeking to popularize her own fashions for others. Although Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt maintained increasingly separate orbits of activities and friendships as the Roosevelt Administration would proceed, they remained mutually committed to each other as partners with a loving past, and continued to share the same general values in terms of how to best get the nation through the Great Depression and then World War II.
They continually maintained a dialogue on immediate and long-term domestic and international crises. After nearly all of her fact-finding missions across the country, she reported all the important details she knew would either interest him or provide insight into the mood of an individual or demographic she had met with, often providing her own analysis of their remarks or reactions. Despite their largely separate travels, Eleanor Roosevelt did travel both domestically and outside of the nation, with the President, a fact often overlooked.
This included tour of national parks in and and a state visit to Mexico, in She especially relished the western national parks trips where she had the chance to engage with Native Americans still living in some regions without being under the observation of large crowds. Roosevelt would always diminish what she claimed was her influence on the President. It may have been true that she had no greater power to change his mind or sway his intentions than any others in his circle of advisers.
As his wife, however, Eleanor Roosevelt could always gain access to, and make her case to him about matters she believed were of great importance. When, on many occasions, she seemed to visibly irritate him by raising serious issues and others sought to prevent her from upsetting him, she would still compose a memo or note to him that he would give attention and ultimately address. In fact, even when she was reporting to him on an unpleasant reaction to one of his programs or statements or disclosing the disappointing truth of reality, he never took her findings or assessments for granted.
While her focus remained largely on policy-related matters, others found that the First Lady had an excellent instinct for political matters. She famously composed a detailed memo reviewing every potential issue that could arise as a threat to his successful winning a second term and his response to each matter she pointed out required twenty pages. Their family life was also of obvious mutual interests.
Despite the numerous marriages and divorces of her four adult sons and one daughter, the First Lady never permitted her disappointments in their personal lives change her strong commitment to their well-being, making arrangements to see them all, even if it meant extensive travel to do so. When the Roosevelts moved into the White House in , Anna Dall was going through a divorce and came to live there with her two young children. Both of them would later be romantically linked to the First Lady. In the case of Lorena Hickock, there is an extensive archive of personal letters between the two women that does indicate an intense emotional relationship at the least.
For periods during the first two Roosevelt terms, Hickok lived at the White House. Initially, Eleanor Roosevelt opposed FDR running for an unprecedented third presidential term in , but recognized the need for his leadership, as the nation appeared to likely join its allies in the growing global war with Germany and its allies. To calm the growing discontent and call for party unity, the President called on his wife — who was then relaxing at their Hyde Park estate.
Within hours, she managed to get a plane to fly her to Chicago, where she was driven directly to the convention hall. She then addressed the delegates, becoming the first First Lady to do so. Anger about FDR breaking with history by seeking a third term also led to renewed attacks on the First Lady for her activism. Although President Roosevelt began to shift his focus from the economic New Deal measures to getting the United States prepared for probably entry into the growing European war as an ally with the British, Eleanor Roosevelt did not lose sight of efforts she began in the early years of the Administration.
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She remained committed to the principals of the New Deal. Notably, this included her interest in living conditions of Washington, D.
She had first been introduced to the alley-dwellings of the capital city where many impoverished families had made their homes when she had first come to Washington in , and trailed First Lady Ellen Wilson in her efforts to clear the city of the sub-standard housing. Eleanor Roosevelt as First Lady managed to see the effort resumed to some degree, but its completion was abruptly ended with the onset of World War II. Her interest extended to social institutions, which then came under the jurisdiction of the federal government since the U.
Among the places she visited, Mrs.
Roosevelt made inspection tours of a home for indigent elderly residents and a school and child care center. She determined to have the deplorable and embarrassing conditions made public, to prompt necessary federal aid, leading her to become the first First Lady to testify before Congress on February 9, Here is some of her historical testimony:.
Increasingly, the First Lady received letters from around the world seeking her help in finding relatives dislocated by the war. She also participated in publicity for Bundles for Britain and the British War Relief Society, charity organizations that provided clothing in the war-torn nation. She conducted her work both within the federal government, as well as with private organizations like the Emergency Rescue Committee and the U. Committee for the Care of European Children. Forced to help refugees immigrate to the U.
Despite lobbying Congress, she also failed to help push through the Child Refugee Bill that intended to permit 10, more children a year over an existing quota from Germany. Although the job was unsalaried, Eleanor Roosevelt became the first First Lady to assume an official working position during her incumbency, when she went to work as the assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense on September 22, While the director, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia directed efforts to obtain and stockpile fire department and other emergency supplies, in anticipation of potential attacks on the U.
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After a period of just five months, she felt she had no choice but to resign, believing future presidential spouses who might also do so would inevitably suffer the same criticisms. Earlier that day, Japanese air forces bombed the U. During the day, within hours of the attack, the entire nation heard the news that all knew would inevitably mean U. It would not be another full day before the President addressed the American people in his declaration of war before Congress against Japan and its allies. Thus, it was Eleanor Roosevelt who became the first national figure who spoke with the people about what this would mean, in terms of the changes of normal life and particularly for women and young men of enlistment age.