Eleanor Roosevelt's Social Activism


Analyze Eleanor Roosevelt’s role as a social reformer

Draw comparisons with Eleanor Roosevelt and contemporary social reformers

Brainstorm methods in which students can emulate Eleanor Roosevelt in social reform in every day life

Materials Needed:

Computer/Internet Access

Note: Since this lesson is a module, it is assumed that students have already learned a basic background about Eleanor Roosevelt. This lesson is intended as a ‘drop-in’ for teachers at other times during the school year.


As homework, students will read ER’s article on Good Citizenship.


Class discussion: What does it mean to be a good citizen? How did ER define good citizenship?  What characteristics should a good citizen have?

List on the board social issues that they have studied during the school year.

Q & A: How did the government respond to these issues (if at all) What (or who) made them respond?

Teacher will explain that we will examine how Eleanor Roosevelt tirelessly pushed for social reform on an almost daily basis with her My Day column.

Students will break into pairs and select 3 My Day columns to read. The teacher will direct students by guiding them towards columns appropriate to a specific content area.  All of ER’s columns can be found at erpapers.columbian.gwu.edu. These articles are all divided by year, so it is incumbent upon the teacher to assign students according to their current unit.

Pairs will then put these 3 columns into historical context by researching the happenings of society at the time the columns were written. Ideally, this can be accomplished through historical databases such as American Decades (SIRS), American History ABC-Clio, Annals of American History, NBC Archives, and EBSCO.

Students will then take their findings and compare to the issues of their current unit of study (i.e. Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Movement, War on Poverty). Students should devise a similar means to deal with this unit and write their own column as a homework assignment. Within the column, support for the methodology chosen must be included.

Prepared with funding from Teaching American History Grant