While Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday was October 11, this famous First Lady is worthy of celebrating any day. Introduce your students to the woman President Harry S. Truman called “First Lady of the World” by having a listen to Eleanor Roosevelt (5-#91, Complete-#120) during her birthday month!
Born October 11, 1884, in New York City, as Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt preferred being called by her middle name. Suffering from shyness and quite serious as a child, she was nicknamed “Granny” by her mother.
The niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor did not have a pleasant childhood, having lost both parents and her brother by the age of just ten years old. Her maternal grandmother raised her until the age of 15. Then, Eleanor went to Allenswood Academy in England. She completed her education and two years later returned to New York. There she met her father’s fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Married in 1905, she and Franklin had six children over the course of the next dozen years. Her husband’s political career began in 1910, upon his election as Senator of New York, and continued through much of the next decades. Elected President in 1932, he served through his death in 1945.
Following her husband’s death, she continued in her public life, first as a delegate to the United Nations, appointed by President Truman, and then on the Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps and as chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, under President Kennedy. She died on November 7, 1962 and is buried alongside her husband in the Rose Garden of their estate at Hyde Park, now a national historic site.
Walk, listen, and learn, and then add in a literary link or two to engage your class. A number of kid-friendly biographies can supplement your study of Eleanor Roosevelt. Among them are a few picture books!
Eleanor (AD810L), written and illustrated by two-time Caldecott winner Barbara Cooney, details Eleanor’s childhood world in beautiful images. This book truly captures the spirit of this remarkable woman.
Or, read the equally entrancing Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride (AD750L), inspired by an actual event from April of 1933. Written by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick, this book tells the story of an evening adventure taken by Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart, equally courageous women and good friends! After capturing your students’ interest, you may want to further explore these two women heroes and several others!
. . . and More!
Beyond books, activities abound to extend the lesson! You could follow up with a primary source activity. Have your students analyze a letter Eleanor Roosevelt wrote addressing social equality. Then, have them practice their letter-writing skills by responding to the First Lady.
Check out a teacher-created lesson plan or learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt’s life as First Lady, a diplomat, and activist through a video and supporting lesson plan. Find out how much your students have learned with a quick online quiz.
Wrap things up with a video created in 2009 to celebrate what would have been Eleanor Roosevelt’s 125th birthday. Titled Eleanor Roosevelt: Her Star Still Shines, this eleven-minute presentation includes photographs from throughout her life as well as inspiring quotes that will surely prompt further discussion!
Or, take a field trip . . . virtually! Have your students make an online visit to the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady. Encourage them to learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt and her world, and then explore the cottage at Val-Kill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt.
Learn about other timely topics and be on the lookout for more ideas in future posts.