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Confronting Fear 

Roosevelt was an early champion of racial and sexual equality, and her activities to promote equality were numerous and widespread. After her husband became paralyzed from the waist down she traveled across the country, helping to keep his political career alive. While he was president she worked with many groups attempting to improve the position of women, blacks, and the poor. She became the first president’s wife to hold a press conference, eventually holding more than 300 as First Lady, and encouraged newspapers to hire women by restricting her press conferences to female reporters. While First Lady she began a daily newspaper column, “My Day” which she continued until her death. She also wrote several books, including her autobiography, “You Learn By Living” (1960).

Following her husband’s death, she became a delegate to the United Nations, where she continued to work for civil and human rights throughout the world, becoming the world’s most famous human rights advocate. She used her influence in 1948 to help convince President Truman to aid the newly created country of Israel.

Roosevelt was born in New York City into privileged circumstances; her uncle was President Theodore Roosevelt. Her mother died when she was eight years old, her father died two years later, and she was then raised by her maternal grandmother. A very shy teenager, she received encouragement from her headmistress at the boarding school she attended in England. She was 21 when she married her distant cousin, Franklin Roosevelt. They had six children, one of whom died of influenza as an infant. She offered her husband a divorce when she discovered that he was having an affair with her private secretary; he refused, but the discovery may have encouraged her to develop a separate career.

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