Many people agree that the most influential U.S. woman during the 1930s and later was Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady from 1933 to 1945.
Because her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was crippled by polio, she often toured the country as his representative and reported on the problems she saw, influencing his policies.
She quickly became known as a champion of the poor and oppressed, and she spoke out strongly for the civil rights of African Americans.
Eleanor Roosevelt also did much to promote women. Beginning in 1933, she held her own press conferences and invited only women reporters.
As a result, many newspapers had to hire female journalists. Together with Mary Dewson, a top Democratic Party campaigner, Eleanor Roosevelt successfully urged the appointment of women to important government jobs.
She also encouraged women to discuss political issues through her own newspaper column, “My Day.”
During World War II Eleanor Roosevelt argued for women’s participation in the war effort and equal treatment of African American soldiers.
After her husband’s death and the end of the war, she continued to serve her country. She was the only female U.S. delegate to the new United Nations and was one of the main voices in creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
When this declaration was passed by the UN General Assembly in 1948, she was given a standing ovation.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a tireless traveler on behalf of her husband Franklin, who was confined to a wheel chair by polio. Her support for women’s and African American rights earned her admirers and more than a few critics.