Eleanor Roosevelt was born in 1884 into a well-established and wealthy New York family. The daughter of society belle Anna Hall and the charming and affluent Elliott Roosevelt, Eleanor was expected to fit a particular mold, to as she put it, "conform to a conventional pattern." Responding to her mother's disappointment at not having a beautiful and graceful daughter, Eleanor developed "an inordinate desire for affection and praise" in response to her "plain looks and lack of manners." To her father, who never found fault with her looks, Eleanor was completely devoted. When her mother died of diphtheria in 1892, Eleanor looked forward to living with her father from whom she had long been separated because of her parents' marital problems. Elliott's death two years later of acute alcoholism left his daughter with a permanent longing for affection. Eleanor remained shy and deferential, always wanting to please, well into her adult years.
In 1899 her grandmother, with whom Eleanor had been living, sent her to Allenswood, a girls' boarding school in England. It was there that Eleanor, under the tutelage of the progressive Madame Marie Souvestre, began to gain some assertiveness. Souvestre chose Eleanor as her personal traveling companion in Europe and introduced her young pupil to the lifestyle of an independent woman.
Eleanor returned to New York in 1902, apprehensive about making her society debut as a young, fashionable woman of society. Her insecurity about her physical appearance and social graces were only worsened by this experience. Feeling "deeply ashamed" by her lack of suitors, Eleanor remembers being near "nervous collapse" during this socially demanding time.
Three years later she married her fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a suitable match for a woman of her class. But Franklin's overly-protective mother soon began to extend her control over her new daughter-in-law. "I was beginning to be an entirely dependent... [continues]
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