“You must do the things you think you cannot do,” advised Eleanor Roosevelt
Her childhood was laden with sadness and tragedy: when she was eight years old, her mother died from diphtheria and she lost her brother to the same disease the next year. Her father died in 1894 when she was ten years old, this picture was taken four years later. These devastating childhood losses in three years left her with depression that lasted her entire life. She was raised by her maternal grandmother, Mary Livingston Ludlow.
After a three-year courtship, Eleanor married her father’s fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905 when she was twenty-one years old. Within three years, they were parents to their first two children; they would have four more children before September 1918 when Eleanor found love letters from Franklin’s mistress in her husband’s suitcase. To salvage his political career, they agreed to stay married, but Eleanor focused on her social work and relinquished her role as wife.
With a few years, in 1921, FDR was stricken with polio and Eleanor nursed him and cared for him; without her support, he mightn’t have survived. FDR’s doctor, Dr. William Keen told Eleanor: "You have been a rare wife and have borne your heavy burden most bravely, one of my heroines."
Due to her husband’s paralysis, she became his voice and spoke on his behalf with numerous appearances. She became first lady when FDR was inaugurated on March 4, 1933; she was forty-nine years old and was considered one of the most controversial first ladies to date; many “firsts” followed becoming the “eyes and ears” of her husband’s New Deal.
She believed that “work is almost the best way to pull oneself out of the depths,” and she never gave up.
Her husband died on April 12, 1945; she was sixty-one and he was sixty-three years old. The jolt she must have felt when she learned that his mistress, yes, the one who wrote those love letters she found in his suitcase some twenty-seven years earlier, was with him when he died.
Eleanor Roosevelt died on November 7, 1962, at the age of 78 and between the death of her husband and her own death, she changed lives.
Life Lesson: “As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along.” Care partners – take heed for that is what we must do.
Although these words were spoken by Frida Kahlo, they could very well have come from Eleanor Roosevelt: