Eleanor Roosevelt, the Leader
Who is Eleanor Roosevelt? I found myself asking this question while researching about possible leaders to analyze for this presentation. I couldn’t recall learning anything about her in history classes that I’ve had other than that she was the wife of the famous president Franklin Roosevelt. As I began to research her I found that she was much more than the wife of a president. I read two biographies about Mrs. Roosevelt, the first of which was titled Eleanor Roosevelt: The woman who pioneered the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was written by David Winner, and published in Great Britain in 1992. The second biography I chose to read was titled Eleanor Roosevelt, A Life of Discovery. This text was written by Russell Freedman and was published in New York in 1993. I chose to analyze Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and leadership because she was a voice for those who weren’t heard, because she devoted her life to helping the less fortunate, and because she was the first wife of a president to have a public life and a career. She used her role as first lady in a positive way to help the country and world become a better place for all humans. This is also one reason that I see her as a great leader. I define a leader as someone with the drive and competency to achieve goals through influencing others. Leadership is persevering to spread one’s beliefs and helping society grow towards a better future, no matter how big or small the contribution. Eleanor Roosevelt was the epitome of my definition of leadership. She had the drive and competency to achieve her goals and was amazing at communicating them to others. She persevered to spread her beliefs and made a huge contribution to the life of all humans. She made this world a better place. In Eleanor’s younger years, she never would have imagined she would have such an impact on the world. Her self-confidence was non-existent. Mrs. Roosevelt recalled that she “’was a solemn child, without beauty and painfully shy’” (qtd. in Freedman, 3). Born to a wealthy New York family, she always felt she was a shame to her mother, which Eleanor considered one of the most beautiful women she’d ever seen. After losing both her parents at a young age and spending the majority of her adolescence under the care of her grandmother, Eleanor was sent to England for schooling at the age of fifteen. This school, Allenswood, was where she became inspired to help others. Her beloved teacher, Mademoiselle Souvestre, taught that “everyone had a responsibility to try and make the world a better place” (Winner, 11). Eleanor developed a very close bond with Mademoiselle Souvestre, who she began to call ‘Sou’. It was not uncommon for Sou to quietly challenge accepted political ideas, something Eleanor would have never done before coming to Allenswood. Eleanor thrived there, where “a critical mind and willingness to help others were encouraged” (Winner 12). At seventeen, it was time for Eleanor to sail back to New York and prepare for her “coming out ball” which was a tradition for all upper class women to participate in following their eighteenth birthday. But the spark had been ignited. Eleanor’s passion and drive for helping others would not be left behind. She realized that her exposure to Sou’s liberal mind “had changed her life” (Freedman, 29). Upon turning eighteen, Eleanor was enrolled in the Junior League, as were all debutantes of the time. This was an organization of wealthy young society women that was created so the young women could do something helpful in their city. This was where Eleanor began to make her mark on the world, choosing to give more than fund-raising parties. She instead volunteered and began teaching in the slums of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Soon after becoming a member of the Junior League Eleanor decided to enroll in the Consumers League, a group committed to “investigating working conditions among young female wage earners” (Freedman, 34)....
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