Resource

Life Story: Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

Activist, Human and Civil Rights Advocate, First Lady, and United Nations Ambassador

The story of an ambitious woman who used her intelligence and privileged family connections to fight for social reform on the largest national and international stages.

Eleanor Roosevelt holding a poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt holding a poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York, November, 1949. United Nations Photo.

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Eleanor Roosevelt, ca. Jan. 16, 1934

Eleanor Roosevelt, ca. Jan. 16, 1934. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

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Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

Karen Schwartz, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), 2015. New-York Historical Society.

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Suggested Activities

  • Lesson Plan: In this lesson designed for kindergarten through second grade, students will learn about global citizens and the rights they protect. They will use Eleanor Roosevelt’s work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an example of global citizenship.
  • Lesson Plan: In this lesson designed for eighth grade, students will learn about Eleanor Roosevelt and develop an appreciation for the study of individuals’ lives.
  • Lesson Plan: In this lesson designed for eighth grade, students will learn about the formation of the United Nations and the writing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights following World War II. Note: This lesson is designed to build off of the lesson introducing students to Eleanor Roosevelt’s life.
  • Both Eleanor and Pauli Murray sought to define what human rights could and should look like in the post-war period. Read both of their life stories and consider how their approaches and philosophies intersected.
  • Dive deeper into Eleanor’s work with the UN. Access the full text of the Declaration of Human Rights and listen to an audio clip of Eleanor reading an excerpt aloud on the United Nations’ website here. Also check out the teacher resource Fundamental Freedoms: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Facing History and Ourselves here.
  • Eleanor interacted with so many of the women featured in WAMS! Connect her life story to those of Mary McLeod Bethune, Pauli Murray, Dorothea Lange, and Ellen Woodward.
  • Eleanor’s life spanned many time periods. Connect this life story to resources in Modernizing America: 1889—1920 to explore her life during the Progressive Era. Also connect her to the Jazz Age, Great Depression, and World War II sections of this unit.
  • Eleanor was a longtime opponent of the ERA, although she was often careful not to make her feelings known publicly. Read more about the ERA and consider why she might have taken this stance by reviewing the ERA broadside and ERA pamphlet.
  • Eleanor refused to allow the title of first lady to limit her activism and political power. Compare her life story with that of an earlier first lady who also defined the role, Dolley Madison. How did each woman affect change and exercise their roles as unofficial politicians?
  • Eleanor started her activist career as a volunteer in a settlement house. Learn more about the settlement house movement by reading Jane Addams’s life story.

Themes

ACTIVISM AND SOCIAL CHANGE; POWER AND POLITICS; AMERICA IN THE WORLD

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