The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

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The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
Questions and Answers about Eleanor Roosevelt

Question: Why did ER live with her grandmother?


[picture: ER and her brothers Elliott, Jr., and Gracie Hall] Eleanor Roosevelt was born October 11,1884, eleven months after Elliott and Anna married. Although he adored his daughter, the responsibilities of fatherhood overwhelmed Elliott. His battles with depression and drink became more frequent and threatened the family's happiness. In 1889, after the birth of Elliott, Jr., Elliott went south in hopes of finding a cure but, when he returned, he was no better. The family then went abroad, sightseeing and traveling to health resorts. ER cherished this time with her father and for a time he controlled his drinking. After the birth of Hall, Anna and Elliott's third and last child, in Paris in 1891, Elliott again relapsed and entered a French sanitarium. Angry, sad, and humiliated, Anna took the children and went back to New York. Elliott's brother, Theodore, then intervened, insisting that Elliott spend two full years on his own and not return to his family until he was fully rehabilitated. Elliott went to live alone in Abingdon, Virginia, where he managed land holdings belonging to the family of his brother-in-law, Douglas Robinson. ER, now seven, could not understand why her father had to be away and why her mother was so unhappy. When ER was eight, her mother died of diphtheria after an operation. In her will, Anna requested that her children be brought up by her mother, Mary Livingston Ludlow Hall. ER and her brothers went to live at their grandmother Hall's Manhattan brownstone and, in summers, at her country home in Tivoli, on the Hudson River. Elliott visited ER and promised someday to make a home for them again. They wrote loving letters to each other and her father sent her gifts. ER adored him, calling him "the one great love of my life as a child." But he returned to drinking and died in 1894 after a drunken fall. ER was not yet ten. Her brother Ellie had died of diphtheria the year before and ER and her brother Hall were orphans. ER continued to live with her strict and somber grandmother Hall and her four, sometimes unruly, grown children (who still lived at home) until she left to attend Allenswood Academy in 1899.


Cook, Blanche Wiesen.  Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One, 1884-1933.  New York: Viking Press, 1992,  77-82.

Lash, Joseph P. Eleanor and Franklin. New York: Signet Press, 1971, 73-78.