Location: The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Artist: Neil Estern
Born in New York City, Eleanor married rising politician Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905 and became fully immersed in public service. By the time they arrived in the White House in 1933 as President and First Lady, she was already deeply involved in human rights and social justice issues. Continuing her work on behalf of all people, she advocated equal rights for women, African-Americans and Depression-era workers, bringing inspiration and attention to their causes. Courageously outspoken, she publicly supported Marian Anderson when in 1939 the black singer was denied the use of Washington’s Constitution Hall because of her race. Roosevelt saw to it that Anderson performed instead on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, creating an enduring and inspiring image of personal courage and human rights.
In 1946, Roosevelt was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations by President Harry Truman, who had succeeded to the White House after the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945. As head of the Human Rights Commission, she was instrumental in formulating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she submitted to the United Nations General Assembly with these words:
“We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind. This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta for all men everywhere.”
Called “First Lady of the World” by President Truman for her lifelong humanitarian achievements, Roosevelt worked to the end of her life to gain acceptance and implementation of the rights set forth in the Declaration. The legacy of her words and her work appears in the constitutions of scores of nations and in an evolving body of international law that now protects the rights of men and women across the world.
The monument, honouring humanitarian and First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), is the first public statue of a president’s wife in the nation and only the second public statue of an American woman in New York City. It was dedicated in 1996, by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, a great admirer of Mrs. Roosevelt, who gave a memorable keynote speech.
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" - Eleanor Roosevelt
Created by American artist Penelope Jencks, the eight-foot statue is constructed of bronze and stone and is located inside Riverside Park. It depicts Mrs. Roosevelt in heroic scale half-seated against a boulder, and features a summary of her achievements, as well as a quotation from her 1958 speech at the United Nations advocating universal human rights. Today, a Riverside Park Fun Grassroots Volunteer works to keep the area surrounding the monument clean and attractive.
Eleanor Roosevelt is the first First Lady to be recognised in sculpture in a presidential memorial. She was heavily involved in the UN Commission on Human Rights board and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This sculpture of Roosevelt was created by sculptor Neil Estern. His sculptures captured both the strengths and the infirmities of his subjects. It is located in Room Four of the FDR Memorial and in the background is a United Nations seal. Roosevelt was one of the first delegates from the United States to the UN.