Student Spotlight: Miranda’s Paper on Franklin Delano Roosevelt

9th Grade History

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in the Hudson Valley town of Hyde Park, New York. He was the first and only child born to businessman James Roosevelt I (1828–1900) and his young wife Sara Ann Delano Roosevelt (1854–1941).

Both of his parents were from wealthy, high class families, the Roosevelts being one of the oldest families in New York. Franklin was originally going to be named Warren, but was changed to Franklin, after his great uncle, because of the recent death of his cousin Warren Delano.

Franklin’s mother Sara was very possessive of him and was the main influence in Franklin’s life, from childhood to until she died at age 87. Once Sara stated “My son Franklin is a Delano, not a Roosevelt at all.” While most people say that his father, James Roosevelt I, was rarely around, there are some people that say he was around Franklin a lot more than was normal for the time period.

Franklin and his parents went to Europe very year from when Franklin was age seven to age fifteen. From his frequent trips to Europe Franklin learned to speak both German and French. During his teen years Franklin also learned to ride, sail, shoot and row. He played polo, lawn tennis and golf, all of which he was very proficient in.

Franklin went to Groton School, an Episcopal boarding school in Massachusetts. It was mostly wealthy students much like Roosevelt himself. While going the Groton School, Franklin was heavenly influenced by his headmaster Endicott Peabody. Peabody encouraged helping the less fortunate and doing public service often.

Like everyone else in his graduating class, Roosevelt went to Harvard College. He lived in what is now part of Adams House, which was in the wealthy area of the college. Franklin was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and the Fly Club. He was also the editor-in-chief of Harvard’s daily paper The Harvard Crimson. He graduated in 1903 with an A.B. in history. In 1929 Franklin also received an honorary LL.D from Harvard in 1929. Roosevelt went to Columbia Law School in 1904, but dropped out 1907 after passing the New York State Bar exam.

On a train to Tivoli, New York in 1902, Roosevelt met his future wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962). Eleanor was Franklin’s fifth cousin and the niece of former president Theodore “T.R.” Roosevelt, Jr. A year later the two were engaged to be married. Roosevelt was twenty-two and Eleanor nineteen.

On March 17, 1905, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt married. The resistance of Franklin’s mother, who believed that her son was too young, almost ended the engagement, but the two decided to marry anyway. Theodore Roosevelt stood in for his brother, Elliot, in the wedding as both of Eleanor’s parents died by the time she was ten.

The newly-wed couple moved into Springwood, Franklin’s family estate, where his mother was a frequent house guest. Franklin and Eleanor had six children: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (May 3, 1906), James Roosevelt II (December 23, 1907), Franklin Roosevelt (March 18, 1909), Elliott Roosevelt (September 23, 1910), Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. (August 17, 1914), and finally John Aspinwall Roosevelt II (March 13, 1916).

Starting early in their marriage, Franklin started having affairs. The first being Eleanor’s social secretary Lucy Mercer in 1914. The relationship ended in 1918 when Eleanor found secret notes and confronted Franklin. He said that he would stop seeing her but later broke his promise in 1941 many years later. This affair was not publicly noted until the 1960s.

Franklin’s son Elliott stated that he had 20-year affair with his private secretary Marguerite “Missy” LeHand. Another one of his sons, James, stated that Princess Märtha of Sweden may have also been a mistress. This probably happened when she lived in the White House during World War II. The Princess was sometimes called “the president’s girlfriend”.

While Eleanor knew about all these affairs, they were never officially divorced. This is mostly because Franklin’s mother said that if he divorced Eleanor she “would not give him another dollar,” because it would lower their social status. Even though they were still legally married, their marriage was more of a political partnership than intimate relationship. Eleanor moved to Hyde Park at Valkill and rarely visited. She did not even move back to Franklin when he told her he was dying.

In August 1921 Roosevelt contracted polio while on vacation at Campobello Island, in New Brunswick, Canada. The polio resulted in Franklin becoming permanently paralyzed from the waist down.  He was very self-conscious of his disability and refused to accept that he would never regain his health. He tried many forms of therapy but never improved.

In 1926 he purchased a resort at Warm Springs, Georgia and founded a hydrotherapy center for polio patients called Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. It is still running but is now called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, or March of Dimes.

Because he believed that nobody would vote for him, Franklin convinced people that he was getting better. While in private he used a wheelchair, in public he wore iron braced on his hips and legs. Roosevelt taught himself to “walk” by swiveling his torso while supporting with a cane. There are only two pictures of him in a wheelchair that are known of.

In 1944 Franklin Roosevelt was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. A year later, on April 12, Franklin had a stroke sitting for a portrait painting by Elizabeth Shoumatoff.  His mistress, the recently widowed Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, had convinced him to sit for the painting. Before it was finished he said, “I have a terrific pain in the back of my head,” then collapsed in his chair. He died that night.

His death was a big shock to America who did not know of his failing health. His wife Eleanor was shocked to find out that Anna their daughter had arranged Franklin’s meetings with Lucy, his former mistress.  Franklin was buried in the Rose Garden of the Springwood estate. Even after all their marriage troubles, when Eleanor died eighteen years later, she was buried next to him.

Miranda Elise–Miranda is 14 years old, is one of three sisters and has been homeschooled since the third grade.  She is an avid photographer, loves to cook, and hopes to work in the restaurant business someday.  In addition to learning at home, Miranda also takes courses through a local co-op once a week.  She is looking forward to graduating in 2017, and is considering culinary school.

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