Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Eleanor Roosevelt


Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884-November 7, 1962) involved herself in important social reforms in West Virginia during the Great Depression. She became interested in social issues and politics while studying in England at the turn of the century.

She was born in New York City. In 1905, Eleanor’s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, walked her down the aisle to marry her distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt returned to social activism and politics during World War I, after discovering that her husband was having an affair with her social secretary. She became a staunch women’s activist, a skilled public speaker, and a writer for national publications.

While she was first lady, Mrs. Roosevelt visited the poverty-stricken multitudes across the country during the Great Depression and specifically sought relief for women and children. In 1933, she convinced her husband to use Congressionally approved federal funds to establish the first national subsistence homestead community in Arthurdale, Preston County. She oversaw much of the project and visited Arthurdale several times. The federal government eventually established 99 subsistence homestead communities nationwide, including two more in West Virginia, at Dailey (Tygart Valley) and Red House. Red House was renamed Eleanor in her honor.

After her husband’s death, Mrs. Roosevelt served as U.S. representative to the United Nations from 1945 to 1953 and 1961 to 1962. She also chaired the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the National Commission on the Status of Women. She died in New York City.

Written by Amanda Griffith