October 11, 1884

Eleanor Roosevelt is born in New York City.



FDR Library

Eleanor as a child
1892

Eleanor's mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, dies of diphtheria. Elliott Roosevelt, Eleanor's father, is confined to a mental asylum.

On August 13, 1894, he will die of alcoholism.


1899

Eleanor enrolls at Allenswood School in England. Three years later, Eleanor will leave Allenswood and make her society debut at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.



National Archives

Eleanor's uncle Theodore
1901

President McKinley is assassinated six months after his second inauguration; Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, Eleanor's uncle, assumes the presidency.



National Archives

Eleanor at her wedding
1903

Eleanor enrolls in the Junior League of New York where she teaches calisthenics and dancing to immigrants. She joins the Consumers' League and investigates working conditions in the garment districts.

Eleanor becomes engaged to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her fifth cousin once removed. One year later, on March 17, 1905, she will marry him in New York.


1906

Eleanor gives birth to her first child, Anna. One year later, on December 23, 1907, she will give birth to her second child, James.



National Archives

Eleanor with her children
March 18, 1909

Eleanor gives birth to her third child, Franklin, Jr. He dies of influenza soon after. One year later, on September 23, 1910, Eleanor will give birth to her fourth child, Elliott.


1912

Eleanor attends her first Democratic Party Convention.



National Archives

FDR as Assistant Secretary
1913

FDR becomes Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Eleanor hires Lucy Mercer as her social secretary.


July 28, 1914

World War I breaks out in Europe.


August 17, 1914

Eleanor gives birth to her fifth child, Franklin Jr. Two years later, on March 17, 1916, she will give birth to her sixth and final child, John.


6 April 1917

The United States enters World War I.




1918

Eleanor learns of the affair between her husband and Lucy Mercer.

The Treaty of Versailles is ratified; The House of Representatives passes the amendment to grant women suffrage.


1919

Eleanor volunteers at St. Elizabeth Hospital to visit World War I veterans; She volunteers at the International Congress of Working Women in Washington.

Congress passes the Eighteenth Amendment declaring Prohibition.



FDR Library

Nineteenth Amendment passes, giving women the right to vote.
1920

Eleanor travels with Franklin on his campaign trail for the vice presidency; She becomes friends with Louis Howe; She joins the League of Women Voters.

Congress passes the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote.


1921

Franklin becomes paralyzed from polio.


1922

Eleanor becomes a member of the Women's Trade Union League; She joins the Women's Division of the Democratic State Committee and meets Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook.


1924

Congress passes Immigration Acts designed to stem the flow of Southern and Eastern European immigrants into the United States; The Kellogg-Briand Pact (Pact of Paris) which "outlaws war" passes Congress with overwhelming support.



FDR Library

Eleanor and her group of friends
1925

Franklin builds Val-Kill Estate for Eleanor in Hyde Park; Eleanor founds the Val-Kill furniture factory along with Dickerman and Cook.

One year later, Eleanor, Dickerman and Cook will purchase Todhunter School, a girls seminary in New York, where Eleanor will teach history and government.


1927

Eleanor meets Mary McLeod Bethune, president of Bethune-Cookman college.


1928

The Democratic National Committee appoints Eleanor director of Bureau of Women's Activities; FDR is elected as governor of New York.

President Herbert Hoover declares that the United States is nearer than ever to a "final triumph over poverty."


October 24, 1929

The New York Stock Exchange crashes.



National Archives

Dust Bowl devastates the Plains
1931

The Dust Bowl devastates the Midwest. For the next nine years, over a million acres of land will be devastated by dust storms.


1932

Veterans march to the White House as the "Bonus Army"; Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected president of the United States.


1933

President Franklin D. Roosevelt implements the New Deal. The plan will create a number of programs to bolster the economy.



FDR Library

On March 4, 1933 FDR gave his first inaugural address
March 6, 1933

Eleanor becomes the first wife of a president to hold all-female press conferences; She assists with the Arthurdale homestead project for coal miners in West Virginia.


1934

Eleanor assists with the formation of the National Youth Administration; She coordinates meetings between FDR and NAACP leader Walter White to discuss anti-lynching legislation.

Five years later, in 1939, Eleanor will defy segregation laws when she sits between whites and blacks at the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in Birmingham, Alabama; She arranges for Marian Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday.


1935

Eleanor coordinates a meeting with FDR, James Farley, head of the Democratic National Committee, and Molly Dewson, head of the Women's Division of the DNC, to discuss the role of women in political elections; She begins publishing the syndicated column, "My Day."


1936

FDR runs for and wins re-election.



FDR Library

WWII breaks out in Europe.
1939

Hitler invades Poland and war breaks out in Europe.


July 17, 1940

Eleanor makes an impromptu speech at the Democratic National Convention which helps FDR to win an unprecedented third term in office.


December 7, 1941

Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and the U.S. enters the war in Europe.


1943

Eleanor tours the South Pacific to boost the soldiers' morale.

The Detroit Race Riot occurs as a result of mounting tensions between black and white residents of the city.


1945

Eleanor influences the Army Nurse Corps to open its membership to black women; She joins the NAACP board of directors.


April 12, 1945

Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies while convalescing in Warm Springs, Georgia.


September 2, 1945

Japan surrenders to the Allies, World War II ends.



FDR Library

Eleanor becomes head of United Nation's Human Rights Commission.
1946

Eleanor is elected as head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission; She begins to draft the Declaration of Human Rights; She initiates the creation of Americans for Democratic Action, a group which focuses on domestic social reform and resistance against Russia and the developing Cold War.



FDR Library

Eleanor holds up the Universal Declaration on Human Rights
1948

Eleanor speaks on "The Struggles for the Rights of Man" at the Sorbonne during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in Paris; She threatens her resignation from the UN if Truman does not recognize the newly formed state of Israel; She joins her daughter, Anna, for a radio discussion program on ABC.


December 10, 1948

The Human Rights Declaration is passed by the United Nations.


1951

Eleanor joins her son, Elliott, for a television and radio show on NBC.


1952

Eleanor resigns from the United Nations; She campaigns for Adlai Stevenson for the presidency.

One year later, the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee will be abolished and its members will integrate into the existing Democratic party structure.


17 May 1954

The Brown v. Board of Education decision outlaws segregation in public schools.


1957

Eleanor visits the Soviet Union as a representative of the New York Post and meets Nikita Khrushchev.

The Civil Rights Act is passed by Congress.


1958

Eleanor speaks at a civil rights workshop at Highlander Folk School in Tennessee despite threats from the Ku Klux Klan.



FDR Library

Eleanor endorses JFK
1960

Eleanor supports John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.



FDR Library

JFK re-appoints Eleanor to the UN
1961

Kennedy re-appoints Eleanor to the United Nations and appoints her as chair of the President's Commission on the Status of Women.


1962

Eleanor spearheads an ad hoc Commission of Inquiry into the Administration of Justice in the Freedom Struggle; She monitors and reports on the efforts and progress of the fight for civil rights in the United States.


November 7, 1962

Eleanor dies at the age of 78 of tuberculosis.


My American Experience

My American Experience photos

Share Your Story

How has a First Lady inspired you or someone you know? Who was president when you were young, and what were your impressions of the First Lady? What First Lady has most influenced the world around you, and how? Share your stories with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.



  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH