Eleanor Roosevelt Had A Tragic Childhood

(Eleanor Roosevelt in school portrait. Date, 1898, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

 

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (known as Eleanor), one of the most inspiring women in the history of the United States, had an unbelievably bleak childhood. Her parents, Elliott and Anna Roosevelt, were loving toward their children, but suffered from a troubled marriage. In particular, Eleanor’s father, Elliott, was an alcoholic and a drug addict. He was also thought to have fallen ill with a sickness that caused nervousness and anxiety. His condition grew so severe that, during a family trip in France, Elliott was committed into the care of a medical asylum from 1890-1891. The next year, his older brother, Theodore Roosevelt, transferred Elliott to the Keeley Center in Iowa to receive help for alcoholism.

All this unhealthy family disruption was soon followed by tragedy. Eleanor’s mother, Anna Roosevelt, died a sudden and unexpected death brought on by diphtheria in 1892, only a year after her husband was interned with the Keeley Center. Anna was only twenty-nine at the time, and Eleanor was just nine. The very next year, in 1893, Eleanor Roosevelt’s younger brother, Elliott Jr., also died too early a death. A year later, in 1894, Eleanor’s troubled father also died. In a two-year period of time, Eleanor was left an orphan before she had even reached the age of ten.

After the death of Anna Hall Roosevelt, young Eleanor and her siblings were taken in by Mary Hall, their grandmother on their mother’s side. Under the guardianship of her grandmother, and support from uncle Theodore, Eleanor Roosevelt continued her education and regained a sense of normalcy.

Written by C. Keith Hansley.

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