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American Experience: Eleanor Roosevelt (03:43)


Eleanor Roosevelt was a polarizing figure in American history and one of the most powerful politicians of the 20th Century. Her life was filled with conflict, struggle, and loss. Eleanor had a close relationship with her father.

Eleanor's Childhood (03:55)

Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11th, 1884 to a wealthy and powerful family. She had a fractious relationship with her mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt and a close relationship with her father Elliot, the younger brother of Theodore Roosevelt.

Eleanor's Family (05:11)

After the death of her mother, Eleanor went to live with her Grandmother in Tivoli, NY. Her uncles, who were dangerous, also lived there. Two years after her mother's death, Eleanor's father succumbed to complications from alcoholism.

Boarding School (04:03)

Eleanor attended Allenswood Academy. The school provided her with a progressive education and surrounded her with friends. Madam Souvestre became Eleanor's mentor.

Return to New York (02:34)

Eleanor found childhood visits from Theodore Roosevelt terrifying. She volunteered at the University Settlement House to help young immigrants and joined the New York Consumers League; she helped expose harsh working conditions for women and children.

Debut into Society (05:06)

As the president's niece, Eleanor's coming out was important. Hear about her courtship with her distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Eleanor helped F.D.R. see certain realities of life.

Married Life (05:13)

Eleanor's early married life was dominated by her mother-in-law, Sarah. The Roosevelt's third child, Franklin Jr. died. Eleanor used odd tactics in raising the children; Franklin revealed deficiencies as a father.

Political Ambitions (03:01)

Franklin. began his political career in the New York State Senate; he had ambitions to become president. Eleanor bore two sons after the couple moved to Washington, D.C. Franklin. hired social secretary Lucy Mercer.

Franklin's Betrayal (04:02)

See footage of Eleanor and her children at Campobello in Maine. Franklin stayed behind and developed a relationship with Mercer; Eleanor found a cache of letters between the two. Eleanor attended her grandmother's funeral in Tivoli.

Another Family Tragedy (03:48)

In 1920, Eleanor and Franklin moved back to New York. Eleanor pursued many new interests. While the family was vacationing at Campobello, Franklin was struck down by polio. Eleanor supported his desires to continue his political career.

Separate Lives (03:38)

Eleanor suffered an emotional breakdown in front of her family while reading to her children. She and Franklin began to live in separately. Eleanor helped Franklin in his political maneuvering with the help of Loius Howe.

Social Reforms (05:02)

Eleanor was a force in organizing women and pushing the Democratic Party to allow access and autonomy for female politicians; she helped Nancy Cook and Marian Dickerman pursue politics. In 1925, Franklin built Eleanor a small home called Val-kill on the family's estate.

Bureau of Women's Activities (03:59)

In 1928, Eleanor was the director of the Bureau of Women's Activity for the Democratic Party. That year, Franklin won the race for Governor of New York. Eleanor became one of Franklin's main observers and inspectors; she was becoming a better, more confident politician.

Running for President (04:38)

Franklin decided to run for U.S. President and Eleanor entered a deep depression; hear her words on becoming First Lady. In 1933, Franklin won the Presidency and asked Eleanor to cease teaching and other political activities.

Eleanor and Hick (04:50)

Eleanor developed a close friendship with Lorena Hickok; family and friends speak about the relationship. Eleanor and Hickok went on a fact finding mission to the Caribbean. Hickok helped Eleanor define her role and public image as First Lady.

Iconic First Lady (04:01)

At Hickok's urging, Eleanor became a vociferous voice for equality and inclusion in Franklin's government. She was a fount of activity and industriousness in pursuit of political goals.

Arthurdale Housing Project (02:33)

In 1933, Eleanor championed the construction of Arthurdale in Scott's Run. She visited the project frequently and tried to bring business into the area. By the early 1940s, congress lost interest and federal funding ceased.

F.D.R. Re-elected (04:02)

During Franklin's campaign for a second term, Republicans attacked Eleanor's activism and involvement in politics. Franklin won the race with a landslide victory. Eleanor speaka about her relationship with Franklin and their sharing of opinions.

Refusing Marian Anderson (04:12)

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow African-American singer Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall; Eleanor renounced her membership in protest. She used her political power to organize a concert for Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial.

Unprecedented Third Term (04:47)

In 1940, Eleanor attended the Democratic National Convention to bring the party together in the nomination of Franklin and his running mate Henry Wallace. Trude Lash and Mary Bain speak about the speech that Eleanor gave to the convention.

Election Day (03:30)

Eleanor was elated by victory at the Democratic National Convention, but the election and prospect of remaining in the White House filled her with dread. Eleanor Roosevelt II speaks about the troubled lives of the Roosevelt children. Eleanor blamed herself for not being a better mother.

Going to War (06:28)

The attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent engagement of America in the war changed the political partnership of Eleanor and Franklin. Eleanor maintained a close relationship with Hickok, but the intensity diminished. Eleanor turned to Joseph Lash for support and counsel; the press and political opponents misconstrued their relationship.

Racial Tensions (04:12)

Eleanor's support of racial equality enraged much of the American populace. Vernon Jarrett speaks about racial violence and tension. After the 1943 Detroit riots, southern newspapers blamed Eleanor for racial tensions.

Pacific Campaign (03:05)

Eleanor visited the troops in the Pacific to support the war effort. Hear Admiral Halsey's words about her visit to the troops.

F.D.R.'s Declining Health (04:47)

After winning re-election, Franklin appeared to be in failing health, yet Eleanor seemed oblivious to his decline. Some of the Roosevelt children speak about their parents during this time. On April 12th, 1945, Eleanor was called home from fundraising; Franklin had died of a brain hemorrhage.

Mourning Her Husband (04:02)

Eleanor traveled to Warm Springs, Georgia, where Franklin had died. There she learned that Franklin spent his last moments with Lucy Mercer. As the state funeral took place and the country mourned, Eleanor was barely seen in public. She moved out of the White House and back to Val-Kill.

End of the War (03:52)

Harry Truman asked Eleanor to be a delegate to the United Nations convention; Eleanor speaks about being the only woman. She was assigned to the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee and proved she was a seasoned and gifted politician. Eleanor was asked to chair the committee to draft a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (04:16)

Eleanor worked for over a year drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration was finally adopted by the U.N.; Eleanor was regarded as the driving force behind it.

Eleanor Retires (02:38)

After a Dwight Eisenhower is elected President, Eleanor resigned her post and began traveling extensively. During this time, Eleanor began a close relationship with her physician David Gurewitsch.

Roosevelt Children (04:05)

Eleanor's children felt they were neglected by their mother. Eleanor denounced Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witch-hunt and served on the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Eleanor's Candidate (03:44)

Eleanor desired a Democrat back in the White House and supported Adlai Stevenson during two campaigns. See Eleanor speak at the 1956 Democratic National Convention. Eleanor campaigned non-stop, but ultimately could not win the election for Stevenson.

Sparking Controversy (03:07)

Eleanor's unwavering support for equality and civil rights led to conservative newspapers dropping her weekly column and protestors picketing her speaking engagements. Hear about Eleanor's defiance of the Ku Klux Klan in rural Tennessee. Eleanor braved the Klan's wrath to lead a class on non-violent civil disobedience.

Most of Admired Woman of Her Time (02:02)

Eleanor continued promoting issues she considered important in the 1950s. She used her notoriety to appear in many places. See Eleanor Roosevelt honored by Frank Sinatra.

Last Years of Eleanor's Life (05:42)

In the last years of her life, Eleanor spent much of her time entertaining at her home in Val-Kill. She made a trip to the Taj Mahal—the trip her father promised her as a child. Eleanor was diagnosed with bone marrow tuberculosis and died on November 7, 1962.

Credits: Eleanor Roosevelt (01:27)

Credits: Eleanor Roosevelt

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Eleanor Roosevelt

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



She was the nation's conscience, a tireless advocate for the disadvantaged, a woman who influenced American social policies for decades and pushed through the first international charter on human rights. Eleanor Roosevelt survived a painful childhood and a difficult marriage to become one of the most admired women in America. Going beyond her public achievements, this intimate two-and-a-half-hour biography explores the secretive and surprising private life of a controversial American figure.

Length: 141 minutes

Item#: BVL131245

Copyright date: ©2000

Closed Captioned

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Not available to Home Video, Dealer and Publisher customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.