Famous Person: Eleanor Roosevelt

Grade Level: 4-6

Author: Belinda Olsen


Background Information
Time Allotment

Background Information:

Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 11, 1884. Her parents were Elliott Roosevelt and Anna Hall Roosevelt, descendants of prominent Dutch ancestry. She was a niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. Eleanor's parents both died when she was very young, her mother when she was eight and her father when she was ten. She then lived with her grandmother, a strict disciplinarian, until she was fifteen. At this time she was sent to a boarding school in Europe. Eleanor was a bit of a backwards girl, she was quite serious and full of fears and overly solemn for her young age. However, her schooling in Europe was like a new beginning for her. Here her personality began to show itself, she was "shocked" into thinking. Eleanor discovered the courage to voice her thoughts and opinions, traits that would be essential to her future accomplishments.

On March 17, 1905 Eleanor was married to Franklin Roosevelt, her fifth cousin once removed. This came following three years of courtship. Over the next ten years the Roosevelts had six children: one girl, and five boys, one of whom they lost in infancy to the flu.

Throughout the Roosevelts married life, Franklin was very involved in politics. He was in the New York Senate, a member of the Navy Department and President of the United States for four terms. Eleanor was also very influential in politics. She became involved in the League of Women Voters in 1920, and the Women's Trade Union League. In the League of Women Voters she played an important role in drafting bills and making policies.

In the summer of 1921 Franklin was stricken with poliomyelitis (polio). He was paralyzed from the waist down and would never walk without the aid of crutches or people again. Eleanor then began to work politically in his behalf. She joined the women's division of the New York State Democratic Party in 1924 and helped set up local Democratic clubs for women. She became a popular speaker and lecturer, overcoming her fear of public speaking. Along with her work in politics she also taught classes in literature, drama, and American history.

Eleanor was very important to the political success of her husband. Due to his illness, he used Eleanor many times as his "eyes and ears." He would send her on tours and inspections and then have her report back to him about the conditions. She became known as a first lady who cared about people and their problems. Franklin became President of the United States in 1932, during the Great Depression, and Eleanor continued to assist him and became very influential in his administration. She visited all over the country reporting on the people. She became a powerful advocate for the weak and disadvantaged in America. She was very outspoken in her quest for racial equality and in one famous incident resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939 when the black singer Marian Anderson was denied the use of their facilities.

She was also instrumental in the creation of the National Youth Administration in 1934 which helped high school and college students stay in school. During World War II she visited American soldiers around the world, and promoted desegregation of the armed forces. She also acted as a good will ambassador and visited areas such as England, Australia, and the South Pacific Islands during 1943.

Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945 but Eleanor tried not to let this slow her down. If anything, she stayed busier in hopes of dealing with her loneliness. Harry Truman, the next president, had Eleanor serve as an American delegate at the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, she served for another seven years after this. She chaired the commission that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was passed on December 10, 1948.

Throughout the remainder of her life, Eleanor was involved in politics and bettering people's lives. She gave lectures, broadcasts, and wrote several articles, always fighting for the underdog. She died on November 7, 1962 after a severe stroke. Eleanor Roosevelt was a compassionate, loving, and motivated woman who spent her life serving the people of the world. She lived her life by this philosophy, do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do and damned if you don't. Life was meant to be lived and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

References: -
Freedman, Russell. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery. New York:
Clarion Books, 1993.-
Mcknown, Robin. Eleanor Roosevelt's World. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1964.-
Blassingame, Wyatt. Eleanor Roosevelt. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1967.

1. Students will be able to discuss the contributions made to society by Eleanor Roosevelt.
2. Students will be able to describe the personal qualities of Eleanor Roosevelt.
3. Students will be able to describe the time period and events that occurred during Eleanor Roosevelt's life.
4. Students will be able to identify the personal qualities and the contributions for which they would like to be remembered.
5. Students will be able to identify several duties of a first lady.

Time Allotment: Approximately six class periods.


1. Think-Pair-Share: Individually have students brainstorm answers to the question, "What are the responsibilities of a first lady?" In pairs have students share their ideas. As a class have students contribute to a class list.

2. Mini-Lecture: With the class, discuss several of the students ideas about what the responsibilities of a first lady are. Talk with the students about one particular First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Using the given background information, tell the story of Eleanor Roosevelt's life and contributions.

3. Time Line: As a class, create a time line of Eleanor Roosevelt's life. Be sure to include important events from her personal life as well as from her political career. The time line should be displayed throughout the entire unit on Eleanor Roosevelt. While working on this project, the teacher and students will research and discuss the world events that were happening at this time. Some of these events should be included on the time line. See appendix A.

4. Jigsaw: Divide the students into four groups. Assign each student within the group to do research on one of the organizations that Eleanor Roosevelt was vital to creating. Use organizations like: League of Women Voters, Women's Trade Union League, New York State Democratic Party, and National Youth Administration. Information on these organizations can be found in Eleanor Roosevelt: A life of Discovery by Russell Freedam. Members sharing the same topic from each group will do the research together. They will share all information and become experts on their material. All students will then go back to their original groups and share their findings with the other group members.

5. Guest Speaker: Teacher and students will revisit the class list created in procedure one. The teacher will be responsible for finding someone in the community who would be willing to become an expert on the responsibilities of a first lady, or the teacher may be the expert. This person will come into the classroom and discuss with the students responsibilities of a first lady. Prepare with the students before the guest arrives so that they have questions ready to ask.

6. Venn Diagram: After learning about the responsibilities of a first lady, use this activity to compare and contrast responsibilities that Eleanor Roosevelt had with those of the current first lady. Draw a Venn diagram on the board and have the students draw a diagram at their desk. Brainstorm together and put their ideas in the diagram. Some ideas to use may be: similarities-both strong willed, both worked for the disadvantaged, both instrumental in getting their husbands elected; differences-came from different backgrounds, had different professions before becoming a first lady.

7. Letter: Have each student write a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt describing how one of her accomplishments has affected their lives. For example; women have the right to vote, public places are not segregated, and there are funds available to students for college.


1. Students contributions to Think-Pair-Share and the group list of responsibilities will be assessed informally through observation.

2. The students time line will be checked to see that it contains accurate information relating to Eleanor Roosevelt's life.

3. The jigsaw activity will be assessed informally by the teacher. The teacher will move from group to group and monitor that each student is participating and contributing.

4. Each student will be responsible for creating a question to ask the guest speaker, they will also be responsible for reporting back what the answer to their question was.

5. Each student's Venn diagram will be assessed.

6. Letters that the students write to Eleanor Roosevelt will be assessed to see that they contain information learned during the unit.

Appendix A:

Eleanor Roosevelt's Time line

*1884-Born in New York City, October 11
*1892-Anna Hall Roosevelt, mother, dies
*1894-Elliott Roosevelt, father, dies
*1899-1902-Attends school in Europe
*1905-Marries Franklin Roosevelt
*1912-Attends her first Democratic Party convention
*1920-Joins the League of Women's Voters
*1933-Becomes the 1st first lady to hold press conferences
*1934- Helps to initiate the National Youth Administration
*1943-Travels to the South Pacific to boost troop morale
*1948-Chaired the commission that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
*1962-Dies after a severe stroke