Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Eleanor Roosevelt

Another by my favorite biographers, Russell Freedman, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery is
a Newberry Honor Book from 1994.
"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
Eleanor Roosevelt
I'm deeply inspired by the biography of dear Eleanor. Surprised you may be, but I find the circumstances that she overcame in her life were truly remarkable. A daughter, teacher, mother, writer, wife, First Lady, reporter and humanitarian, Eleanor Roosevelt had an intriguing life. Regardless of your political affiliation, she is a part of American history.
I feel both sympathy and admiration for her. In the book it tells of her childhood and how her mother said to her, "You have no looks, so see to it that you have manners." Only a handful of words, but could it have completely defined this woman's self worth and personality. Would she have been as humble yet strong? Would she have had as much perseverance or courage? Combine her fears in childhood with the death of both her parents before the age of 10, it's truly amazing what she was able to accomplish in her lifetime. I'd like to hope that her parents would have been proud.

She once wrote, "About the only value the story of my life may have is to show that one can, even without any particular gifts, overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable if one is willing to face the fact that they must be overcome; that, in spite of timidity and fear, in spite of a lack of special talents, one can find a way to live widely and full."

To me, that doesn't sound like a woman with a "lack of special talents." It's not surprising that she had a heart for the underprivileged. Although she came from a family of wealth, she was poor in the matters of love and acceptance.

As she grew up and was married, she definitely continued to have heartache and disappointments. She had a disapproving mother-in-law who tried to keep the two apart at first and later became controlling over all aspects of their lives. Moreover, her husband had an extra-marital affair with her own personal secretary and became crippled. She had a deep sense of duty but not enough free spiritedness. She often conformed to the needs and desires of others and never really asserted her own needs. I'm not sure she would have even known what they were.
She showcased a strong exterior but had a "little girl" inside who was still desperately seeking the approval of a mother who never gave it. The closest "mother-like" figure in her life was her teacher Marie Souvestre who helped bring this young girl out of her shell and give her some sense of self worth. However, the acceptance and strength of her teacher didn't seem to be enough to fill a void which remained deep within her soul.

Eleanor Roosevelt's story is one of importance in American History. It's the story of an orphan who despite her unhappiness in childhood, grew to become a beloved role model and leader for women in America and around the world. She worked hard to overcome her fears and gave back to the underprivileged.

1 comment:

Jeff Kahl said...

I think Eleanor Roosevelt is a great role model for little girls AND boys. She is proof that intelligence and character matter much more than "looks," "personality," and all the superficial things that the world values. You are awesome, honey!