A WOMAN’S WOMAN
Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
It was 1948. The monstrous Second World War of the 20th century had ended three years earlier, in 1945. In that war 89 million people had been killed, men women and children had been gassed and burned in ovens. In Europe, whole cities had been bombed into oblivion. In Japan atomic bombs had seared the earth and everyone on it.
So, in 1945, the United Nations was envisaged as an international organization formed to maintain world peace, world security, and be a harmonizing influence around the globe in the years to come. Its Charter was drawn up in San Francisco on April 25, 1945, 30 years after Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers had landed on Gallipoli to fight for world peace at the beginning of the First World War, the War to End all Wars.
And, in 1945 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in America. His wife Eleanor Roosevelt was asked by President Truman to serve as a United States Delegate to this newly created United Nations. From there she chaired the Human Rights Commission, bringing her whole life’s global experience into the drafting of theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948. It remains to this day a document of GLOBAL SIGNIFICANCE.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s life began in New York city in 1884. She had lost both parents by age 10 and she lived with her grandmother having private tutors until she was 15 when she spent 3 years in England. She married Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her 5th cousin in 1905 and gave birth to 6 children in 10 years, at which time, in 1917, America entered into the First World War, the War to End all Wars, and she became active in the American Red Cross and volunteered in Navy hospitals.
When Franklin Roosevelt was struck with polio in 1921, Eleanor became increasingly active in politics with the League of Women Voters and the Women’s Trade Union League as well as the Women’s Division of the New York State Democratic Committee.
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President in 1933, according to her biography, Eleanor Roosevelt informed the nation that ‘they should not expect their new First Lady to be a symbol of elegance, but rather “plain ordinary Mrs. Roosevelt.”’
However, this woman’s woman was the first First Lady to hold her own press conference where she allowed only female reporters to attend. All other press conferences at that time barred women from attending. When the Daughters of the American Revolution barred African American singer Marian Anderson from performing in their auditorium, Eleanor resigned and helped to arrange the concert for Marian Anderson before 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial.
What really endeared her to the American public was her daily syndicated column entitled “My Day” which she began in 1935 and continued right up to her death in 1962. After Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 and America entered the War, Eleanor served as Assistant Director of Civilian Defense, visiting England and the war zones in the South Pacific. The monstrous Second World War catapulted her into becoming the “First Lady of the World”.
While all of her life experiences contributed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, there was more to come. After leaving her position at the Human Rights Commission she volunteered for the American Association for the United Nations, and was an American representative to the World Federation of the U.N. Associations, later becoming the Chair of the Associations’ Board of Directors. President Kennedy reappointed her to the United States Delegation to the U.N. in 1961 and also appointed her to the National Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps and chair of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.
In her later years she returned to her Val-Kill residence in Hyde Park, New York. She died there in 1962 and was buried with her husband in the Rose Garden of their estate in Hyde Park.
The UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS contains 30 articles. Some of the most relevant in the GLOBAL world of 2018 are:
All human beings are born free and equal in DIGNITY and rights… They are endowed with REASON and CONSCIENCE and should act towards one another in a SPIRIT OF KINSHIP… Everyone is entitled to all the RIGHTS and freedoms set forth in this DECLARATION… The right to life, liberty and security of person.. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State...
No one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment… Everyone has the right to education… Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages… Elementary education shall be compulsory… Everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts… Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion… All persons have duties to the community in which the free and full development of their personality is possible…
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression… Everyone has the right to social security and cultural rights for their DIGNITY and the freedevelopment of their personality… Everyone has the right to take part in the government of their country , directly or through freely chosen representative.. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in their country… Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. ..
Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work… Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for themselves and their family an existence worthy of human DIGNITY, and supplemented by social protection… Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay…
Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution… Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the RIGHTS and freedoms set forth in this DECLARATION can be fully realized…
In the year 2018, this Declaration is 70 years old. Americans may be proud that the framing of this Declaration was led by the American WOMAN’S WOMAN, Eleanor Roosevelt and may it serve as an inspiration to the blue wave of newly elected congressional representatives in the country of its birth and may it remind them always that she was considered to be the “First Lady of the World”.