Although she won much respect as the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt gained a lot of her international esteem as a civil rights activist long before that. Eleanor’s interest in politics did not begin when her husband began his career in politics. Once he was named to the Democratic ticket, as Vice President Eleanor became interested in politics. While Franklin was becoming governor of New York she was campaigning for him unknowing that she was advancing her political career as well. Once Eleanor became first lady it was already done she had made a name for herself politically.
Eleanor’s background in politics goes back to her Uncle Teddy who was once the President of the U.S. Eleanor married a young amiable Harvard student by the name of Franklin Roosevelt. But soon Franklin became bored with Business Law and Eleanor pushed him to go into politics. Aided by a Democratic landslide and his mom’s money he won State Senator from the Hyde Park District. But Eleanor hated Albany and was soon very happy to leave. Franklin liked his newfound success in politics and his career prospered swiftly. He soon became an early backer of Woodrow Wilson as he ran for president, for his efforts he was awarded the job of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the same job that propelled Eleanor’s Uncle Teddy to presidency. Eleanor liked Washington about as much as she liked Albany and spent little time there.
In the years after that Franklin contacted polio and it was now up to Eleanor to keep his name before the public. Aided by Louis Howe she went on a mission to salvage her husband’s career. Louis went to meetings that she spoke at and though it took much criticism he managed to get rid of her nervous giggle. Soon Eleanor gained confidence and accepted offers to write in magazines and appear on radio talk shows. She had joined many groups including the Women’s Trade Union League and was also the chair of the Finance Committee of the Women’s Division of the Democratic State Committee. She was fast becoming a prominent public figure, much to her amazement.
In 1928 at the Democratic National Convention Governor Al Smith asked Eleanor to run the entire national Women’s activities in his national campaign for president. Smith soon requested more as he asked Fra...
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Clearly Eleanor Roosevelt had a well-known political career without the fame her husband gained. When her husband started out in politics she disliked it but the more she was exposed she soon realized her role was to be useful and politics was the key to this. Her husband Franklin saw her as a great asset to his career and she also made a name for herself that lived on after he died.
“Eleanor Roosevelt”, Eleanor Roosevelt Letter, March, 1996, National Archives and Records Administration, 21 November 2000, <http://www.nara.gov/exhalls/originals/eleanor.html>
“Eleanor on Human Rights”, Eleanor Roosevelt Biography, August, 05 1998, National Coordinating Committee for UDHR50, 18 November 2000, <http://www.udhr50.org/history/Biographies/bioer.htm>
Roosevelt, Eleanor, This I Remember, ed., New York, Harper, 1949.
Weinstein, Allen, and Frank Otto Gattell, Freedom and Crisis: An American History, 3rd ed., New York, Random, 1981.