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

The George Washington University

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Eleanor Roosevelt was an author, political activist, columnist teacher, diplomat, and first lady. She was also a worker and a union member. While born to a life of wealth and privilege, as a syndicated newspaper columnist she was a member of The Newspaper Guild for over twenty-five years and rarely if ever missed a deadline. She was a champion of workers around the world.

The men and women of the labor movement valued her support and her friendship. They worked with her as she guided the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to completion as a delegate to the United Nations in 1948. But this was not the beginning or the end of their work together. From her first meeting with the Women’s Trade Union League in 1919 until her death in 1962 she was, to quote the AFL-CIO, “One of us.”

Eleanor Roosevelt led by example. Her working relationships with union leaders, union members and especially union women, offer lessons today for those who seek social justice and human rights in the workplace at home and abroad. Working in partnership, they overcame barriers of class, race, and gender. And ER believed that what she did on a national and international level, everyone could and should do on a local level for “Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home.”

  • Her words inspire and guide us.
  • Her actions provide examples.
  • Her union partnership offers a model for today.

The pages that follow provide background information to be used in current labor education programs. The materials under Teaching Aides are one-page handouts and can be downloaded and incorporated into existing workshops or courses on workers' rights, human rights, labor history, and union women’s leadership. The documents and photographs presented here reveal only a small sample of the variety of material available to labor educators, teachers, students and scholars interested in Eleanor Roosevelt, the labor movement, and social justice.

After her death in 1962, the AFL-CIO honored Eleanor Roosevelt's courage and commitment to labor and social justice, saying:

Throughout the crowded years of her lifetime, Eleanor Roosevelt was the tireless champion of working men and women…Wherever there were battles to be fought …for minimum wage or social security…on behalf of sharecroppers or migratory workers…against the unspeakable evils of discrimination, segregation or child labor…for union shop or against spurious ‘right-to-work-laws’…she was an ardent advocate of the ideals of the United Nations…the architect of its Human Rights program…But more than that: she was one of us…

AFL-CIO 1963*

* AFL-CIO Pamphlet, 1963, George Meany Memorial Archives, Silver Spring, MD.