By Sara Karlovitch
Few first ladies, and people in general, have had the impact Eleanor Roosevelt had on the world. She remains the picture of intelligence, elegance and grace. She was a pioneer for not just the rights of women, but the rights of all people.
Though a Roosevelt, Eleanor’s life was anything but easy. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother died when she was eight. Her father would follow only two years later. She was sent to school in England where she developed her academic potential. In 1905 she married Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the eventual 32nd president of the United States.
As first lady, she fought for the rights of all people, no matter race or gender. She stood up to J. Edgar Hoover and those opposed to civil rights. She had her husband’s ear on all important matters, from domestic policy to national security.
Her husband’s death didn’t slow her down. She became the first American ambassador to the United Nations where she helped to pen (and push) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and became one of Israel’s strongest allies. Roosevelt is remembered as not only a great American, but as a great human.
One of Roosevelt’s lesser known accomplishments is her My Day column. My Day was a daily article written by Roosevelt detailing her busy schedule, her opinion on politics and her activism. Spanning 27 years, from 1935 to 1962, Roosevelt gave Americans a peek into her life and encouraged national conversation on every topic from nuclear weapons to segregation.
The best of My Day was put into an anthology by David Emblidge. Emblidge takes the most influential and poignant articles from each year and provides the reader with background information and context. In the process, you not only paint a complete picture of Eleanor Roosevelt but a complete picture of post Great Depression America.
What makes Eleanor Roosevelt so remarkable is her ability to see both sides of an issue, acknowledge them and stick to her convictions. For 27 years, she provided the American public — the wide majority of her readers being housewives — with a strong, consistent voice of reason. During the height of the Civil Rights movement, she praised the non-violent efforts of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. During the Red Scare, she reminded Americans that people who believe differently than us are not to be feared, but those who seek to profit from hysteria and paranoia are.
Roosevelt’s timeless message of understanding those who are different from us carried the country through one of its most turbulent periods. Through My Day, she gave Americans a daily reminder to accept, not fear, our neighbor and to reject the hate rhetoric pushed by those who seek to create discourse.
It’s time for a My Day comeback, for the country to start listening to the immortal words of one woman who changed the world. If My Day was able to get the country through one turbulent, uncertain time, maybe it can get us through another.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of WikiCommons
Sara Karlovitch is a freshman journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.