Eleanor Roosevelt: Early Years

From Orphan to Reformer to Wife

Eleanor Roosevelt with Franklin Roosevelt Junior, 1914
Eleanor Roosevelt with Franklin Roosevelt Junior, 1914. Fotosearch/Getty Images

 Dates: (October 11, 1884 - November 7, 1962

A profile of her earlier years

Orphaned at ten, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt grew up without any real family identity or sense of acceptance. Her mother had been cold to her; her father, though more loving and closer to young Eleanor, often disappointed her. His behavior, including drinking heavily, led to his being banished from the family home well before his death.

A radical school in France led to her involvement in social service including work at the Henry Street Settlement House.

Eleanor married her distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt onMarch 17, 1905. They lived in New York while Franklin studied law at Columbia University. Children Anna, James and Franklin were born in 1906, 1907 and 1909. Franklin, jr., died a few months after his birth; this plus increasing interference from Eleanor's mother-in-law Sara Delano Roosevelt added to Eleanor's sense of inadequacy.

From 1910 to the opening of World War I, Eleanor assisted Franklin with his political career, and bearing children Elliott (1910), Franklin jr. (1914) and John (1916). Sara ruled the household and the children, telling the children, "Your mother only bore you." As World War I opened, Eleanor became active in activities supporting the war effort, achieving a bit of independence.

In 1918, Eleanor discovered the love letters of her husband and Lucy Mercer, and it was only with the effort of Sara in creating a compromise between Franklin and Eleanor that she was persuaded to stay in the marriage.

But it was never again the hope of Eleanor's life as it had been.

Eleanor Roosevelt on this site

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