Monday, March 12, 2007

Girl Nerds in History: Eleanor Roosevelt

Who's the only woman to be the wife and sixth cousin of one U.S. president and the niece of another? No, this isn't the set-up for a Jeff Foxworthy joke. It's just a nutshell description of America's favorite First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Wife of Franklin "I can't walk but I can still swing" Roosevelt and niece of Teddy "Look at my shiny teeth and jaunty hat" Roosevelt, Eleanor made a name for herself after her husband's death in 1945 as a fervent advocate for America's downtrodden and vocal supporter of the civil rights movement, helping bring issues of inequality and prejudice to light in an era when most women simply kept quiet. She also was active in international issues, chairing the first United Nations Human Rights Commission.

That would be enough of a legacy for most tall women, but Eleanor took it to the next level by becoming a fictional character after her death, thanks to son Elliott's foray into mystery writing. In the 1980s and 1990s, he wrote a series of best-selling novels in which his mother solved gruesome crimes in the White House. With titles such as "Murder in the West Wing," "The White House Pantry Murder" and "New Deal for Death," you've got to believe that Elliott had a pretty thick FBI file somewhere.

But enough about the crazy son. Instead, let's give a big old nerd salute to Eleanor -- beloved first lady, humanitarian and kick-ass crime fighter.

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