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Women's History of New York: Manhattan Tour
Item 16 of 23

Located in New York City's Riverside Park, the first memorial dedicated to a First Lady, the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial stands tall surrounded by the park's floral scenery. The statue made its debut on October 5, 1996 in honor of Eleanor's contribution to the people while she severed as the first lady of the United States. Penelope Jencks, artist of the statue, portrays Eleanor leaning against a boulder observing with her hand under her chin, surrounded by plants upon a foot stone designed by Michael Middelton Dwyer.

  • Front view of the Eleanor Roosevelt Statue
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Statue surrounded by Spring Easter Lilies
  • Eleanor Roosevelt school photo in 1898
  • Eleanor Roosevelt pictured with husband and President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City, New York on October 11, 1884, to Elliot Roosevelt and Anna Hall. Born into wealth, Eleanor was held to a high standard by her mother who was known for being a beautiful and prosperous woman of New York. Her father, on the other hand, respected her and saw that she had potential to be a woman who could impact others. At a young age, Eleanor’s parents passed away. Her mother died in 1892, and her father passed away two years later.   Eleanor was the niece of the late president Theodore Roosevelt, which helped strengthen her views and understanding of United States politics. 
Growing up in a politically active household, Eleanor began spending time with her distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt. They began a secret romantic relationship in 1902 and were engaged by 1903, even though there were many objections to the relationship. They married in March of 1905 and began a family. The couple had six children, one of whom died as an infant. Eleanor and Franklin formed political voices that would later help Franklin win the presidential election of 1933. 
Eleanor, in spite of many misogynistic beliefs in politics, began to change the role of the First Lady. She became politically involved fighting for human and women’s rights. Eleanor was known for her contribution in helping the needy, women, and children in the United States. She changed the way men and women viewed the First Lady and women in politics by giving women a voice. While serving as the First Lady, she was respected and appreciated by many even after her husband’s passing on April 12, 1945. 
After Franklin's passing, Eleanor had no intentions of advocating for issues anymore, and planned to live a life further away from politics until President Harry Truman appointed her as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She served as a delegate for the assembly for 8 years, then became chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission where she helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor later served under John F. Kennedy as the United States delegation to the United Nations in 1961, which later led her to the Peace Corps.
Eleanor passed away in 1962 of health problems, but her spirit was influential in United States Politics and Human Rights. She advocated for multiple issues that many politicians ignored, which caused her to be both praised and criticized by many. She was outspoken and broken gender barriers in a world created by men that expected women to stick to the domestic lifestyle. Overall, the people of New York greatly appreciated the humanitarian that Eleanor was, and they honored her with a memorial located in New York City's Riverside Park. The statue resembles an elegant Eleanor leaning against a rock, thinking, with her hand holding her chin. Underneath her, she is caressed by plants which lie within a footstone that is engraved “Eleanor Roosevelt.” The sculpture of Eleanor was created by artist Penelope Jencks and the stone foot was created by architect Bruce Kelly and David Varnell. The footstone contains quotes both from Eleanor and Adlai Stevenson. Funding for the statue was provided by the City of New York, New York, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund. The statue is used to give gratitude to Eleanor Roosevelt's contributions to politics and human rights advocacy. 

Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial. NYC Parks. . Accessed December 09, 2018.

First Lady Biography: Eleanor Roosevelt. National First Ladies Library. . Accessed December 08, 2018.

Eleanor Roosevelt Biography. Biography. . Accessed December 08, 2018.