Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin Roosevelt entered the White House during the Great Depression

Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin Roosevelt entered the White House during the Great Depression

Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin Roosevelt entered the White House during the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a severe worldwide recession that started in 1929 and ended in 1939. Because the United States was falling apart, the President and Congress created ideas for an economic recovery known as the New Deal. The New Deal helped America get back on its feet again. However, President Franklin Roosevelt can’t take all the credit for the New Deal. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, played an immense role in the New Deal’s image and success as well.

Both during and after Eleanor Roosevelt’s time in the White House, she fought greatly for basic human rights and better living conditions. These living conditions consisted of people living in “cars, parks, and make-shift shacks called ‘Hooverville’s'” (Legends of America, www.legendsofamerica.com/20th-hoovervilles/.). People would mail Eleanor, desperately seeking help; and she would travel throughout the states helping those who needed it. Eleanor “placed herself more personally and directly in touch with the conditions of people in the United States during the Depression than any member of President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration” (www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/q-and-a/q20.cfm.).

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Unemployment was a major problem in the United States as well. The United States unemployment rate was at an all-time high at 24.9 percent in 1933. Eleanor saw the problem and gave critical input and suggestions for New Deal policies to help reduce the staggering unemployment rates. Two of the several solutions were the Civil Works Administration (CWA), and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The Civil Works Administration created jobs for men and women to assist in the creation of public projects. These projects consisted of the construction of roads, schools, and parks. The Civilian Conservation Corps gave jobs to people that worked on environmental settings such as: “planting trees, building reservoirs, developing parks, and improving agricultural irrigation” (The Growth of Federal Relief. In The Unfinished Nation 2nd ed., Vol. 8, pp. 592-593). Together, these created millions of jobs for the unemployed, lowering the unemployment rates.

Eleanor was many things; “a newspaper columnist for My Day, an author, a diplomat, and a seasoned politician” (League of Women Voters, www.lwv.org/blog/eleanor-roosevelt-first-lady-league-leader-pioneer). Her newspaper column, My Day gave hope to women. Eleanor wrote for the column six days a week writing about “her views on social and political issues, current and historical events, and her private and public life” (www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/Eleanor-my-day/.). Eleanor didn’t stop there, she was also a leader of the League of Women Voters. The League of Women Voters is a “civic organization that was formed to help women take a larger role in public affairs after they won the right to vote” (https://www.lwv.org/about-us).

Eleanor spoke throughout the 1930s on behalf of racial justice. Racism was still an issue that she wanted to put an end to. Eleanor greatly impacted African Americans because she ensured programs did not exclude them. She put continuing pressure on President Franklin Roosevelt and others in the federal government, to ease discrimination against African Americans. This led to Franklin Roosevelt appointing African Americans to “significant second-level positions in his administration creating an informational network of officeholders that became known as ‘The Black Cabinet'” (African Americans and The New Deal. In The Unfinished Nation 2nd ed., Vol. 8, p.606). Eleanor didn’t only influence the establishment of the Black Cabinet, she also started a partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP is an “interracial American organization created to work for the abolition of segregation and discrimination in housing, education, employment, voting, and transportation” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/National-Association-for-the-Advancement-of-Colored-People). The NAACP created to also ensure African Americans their constitutional rights. The NAACP also “sponsored an anti-lynching bill and the creation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission” (“Eleanor Roosevelt: A Role Model for Americans Today.” The Odyssey Online). Eleanor’s work helped push forward the Civil Rights Movement even after her death.

Eleanor greatly impacted the youth in the New Deal as well. She stated that was in fear that “the United States was in danger of losing a whole generation of young people”; many were out of jobs and this was a major problem. So, in solution, Eleanor begged President Roosevelt and his colleagues to keep an open mind towards the youth; to try to listen to their wants, needs, and suggestions. Then, in 1935, The National Youth Administration was created. It “provided work and scholarship assistance to men and women of high school and college age” (New Directions in Relief. In The Unfinished Nation (p. 601). Eleanor Roosevelt contributed significantly to this administration. The New Deal program focused on providing work and education for Americans between the ages of 16 and 25. If it wasn’t for Eleanor pushing President Franklin Roosevelt, the youth organizations never would’ve happened.

Eleanor didn’t only focus on African Americans, the youth, and living conditions, she also “believed strongly that women deserved a place at the table when it came to politics” (www.lwv.org/blog/eleanor-roosevelt-first-lady-league-leader-pioneer.). She worked with and helped lead many women’s groups, including The International Congress of Working Women (ICWW), She-She-She camps, the Women’s Trade Union League, and the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom. The ICWW was formed by women laborers who spoke about their concerns with women labor issues. She-She-She camps were camps designed for unemployed women. Founded in 1903, The Women’s Trade Union League’s purpose was to “assist in the organization of women wage workers into trade unions and to help them secure conditions necessary for healthful and efficient work and to obtain a just reward for such work” (https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/organizations/labor/national-womens-trade-union-league/). The Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF) works to “create an environment of political, economic, social and psychological freedom for all members of the human community, so that true peace can be enjoyed by all” (https://wilpfus.org/story/history). Together, these helped change women’s lives in the United States.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a huge supporter of appointing more women to federal positions. She convinced President Roosevelt to hold press conferences for female reporters during a “time when women were typically barred from White House press conferences” (History.com, A&E Television Networks). Eleanor believed that “women had special qualities that made them peacemakers, conferees, and mothers; but she also believed these qualities made them fine politicians, reformers, advocates, and professionals” (History.com, A&E Television Networks). Eleanor was a feminist who supported unions, the living wage, and birth control.

Although Eleanor was important as both a role model and political influence, she was more important as a political influence on her husband. She gave him ideas, suggestions, and nudged his policies in directions she cared about greatly. Eleanor was President Roosevelt’s eyes and ears. She was by far the most influential wife of any American president. Not only was she the most influential, but Eleanor was also the longest-serving First Lady since President Franklin Roosevelt served four terms. Eleanor looked at Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency as a platform of opportunity to make the country better by his side with her ideas and opinions. Many programs and ideas wouldn’t have happened if it was for Eleanor’s political influence on President Roosevelt. Eleanor went above and beyond; she would often read drafts of FDR’s speeches and was very helpful on scripts related to youth, education, and consumer interests. Eleanor would also regularly leave Franklin a basket of reading to take to bed with him, it consisted of letters and newspaper clippings she thought were important for him to should see. Together, Eleanor and President Franklin Roosevelt were a political team.

Eleanor influenced social and cultural institutions from past to present as well. She was inspiring to women. Eleanor gave them a voice and improved women’s working rights.

She introduced women to a seat at the table revolving politics, which women still have today. Eleanor’s “legacy of her words and work appears in the constitutions of scores of nations and in an evolving body of international law that now protects the rights of men and women across the world” (United for Human Rights, www.humanrights.com/voices-for-human-rights/eleanor-roosevelt.html.). Even decades after her death, she continues to exemplify the “powerful role that women, including League members, have played and continue to play in furthering equality, strengthening our government” (United for Human Rights, www.humanrights.com/voices-for-human-rights/eleanor-roosevelt.html.). Eleanor Roosevelt influenced many First Ladies after leaving office. First Ladies in the present empower women, promote the importance of education, talk about issues that need to be addressed in our country and other countries, just as Eleanor Roosevelt did.

Eleanor Roosevelt is proof that any women can do it all; the sky is the limit. She was wife, mother, teacher, First Lady of New York, First Lady of the country, newspaper columnist, author, world traveler, diplomat, and seasoned politician. Eleanor once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you”; without her encouraging women to take up industrial jobs and stand up for their beliefs, women may have had a “more difficult time proving themselves equal to men and obtaining the right to vote” (Eleanor Roosevelt and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, eleanorwomenssuffrage.weebly.com/.). Eleanor never quit fighting for what’s right, even after Franklin Roosevelt’s death; she was “appointed delegate to the United Nations where she made large contributions as part of the Human Rights Commission in drafting the Universal Declaration for Human Rights” (“Eleanor Roosevelt: A Role Model for Americans Today.” The Odyssey Online.). There are many New Deal programs that still exist today. Eleanor dedicated her life to helping others and doing so, she made America a better country.


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