Saint Francis of Assisi
Rachel Carson
  Dorothy Day
  Mohandas Gandhi
  Jiddu Krishnamurti
  Dalai Lama
  Martin Luther King
  Nelson Mandela
  Anita Roddick
  Eleanor Roosevelt
  Albert Schweitzer
  Mother Teresa
  Desmund Tutu
Chair in Ethical Management
HEC Montreal


Will people ever be wise enough to refuse to follow bad leaders or to take away the freedom of other people?

For more than fifty years, a major ethical character has influenced the American political landscape: Eleanor Roosevelt.

In the US, her moral example still stands as a touchstone for millions of people, regardless of professional, political, religious or ethnic backgrounds.

Outside the American culture, a large number of people consider Eleanor to be an exceptional historical figure, who along with her husband, was passionately committed to a series of “great causes” in the 1930’s and throughout World WarII. She was further known for her commitment to what were then considered marginal causes, such as the rights of women and minorities.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1886-1962) was indeed a remarkable woman – a “leader” who was able to garner attention for her causes and mobilize individuals and their energy around large scale efforts. This while always maintaining her modest conduct and continuing to nurture a growing comprehension of herself, of others, and of the world at large.

Although her pivotal role in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is seen by many as the apex of her achievements, she accomplished much more in her lifetime. And whether it was defending women’s rights, contributing to the development of the New Deal, struggling against segregation, writing daily columns or promoting World peace, she carried out all of her efforts with the same unfailing energy.

Despite her extensive and diverse accomplishments, Eleanor Roosevelt experienced many difficulties – marked by grief and sadness - during her early years. Her childhood was a harsh one, and as a youngster did not appear to be particularly talented. Bearing deeply personal burdens and lacking “natural gifts”, how did she become such a respected and beloved leader? Was it because she listened and learned from others? Because she was never indifferent to the events around her? Because she was interested in every human being?

Far from being a mere historical figure, belonging to othe distant past, Eleanor Roosevelt teaches us by the example of her life, what an integral leader can be. That from one epiphany to another, someone can deepen one’s relationship with oneself and with others. That with tenacity, energy and commitment to positive change, one can modify one’s vision of time and spirituality.

Through the use of a previously unpublished analytical grid, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Leadergraphy will examine and underline the progressive stages of development that allowed her to transcend the times in which she lived, her individual condition and her culture. Further, her example will help to reveal how an integral leader’s strength differs from that of other leaders who tend to fence their own growth, or who address only one part of the developmental equation.



• Learned fluent French in England
• Created a furniture workshop
• Created the first TV talk-shows
• Convinced her husband to run for Presidency
• Traveled around the world
• Had the biggest file in the FBI red list
• Wrote her memoirs several times, along with thousands of columns in national newspapers
• Supported minority causes
• Was known for her intense, beautiful gaze
• Fought diseases
• Met top Soviet executives during the Cold War
• Led the adoption of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights

But, she:

• Was a very bad cook
• Was a poor speaker
• Was seen as too tall and had horse teeth.
• Dressed with an odd fashion sense
• Was often stubborn
• Wasn’t a good business manager
• Often upset her husband
• Was afraid of water
• Didn’t always choose the right friends
• Caused problems within her family
• Had some prejudices


1884 Born in New York
1895 Her father dies a year after her mother
1899-1902 Internship in England (Allenswood). Mme Souvestre, head-mistress of the school, becomes the “mentor of her life”
1905 Marries Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 4 years older than her.
1906-1916 ER has six children, Anna, James, Franklin Jr. I, Elliott, Franklin Jr. II, John. Franklin Jr. I dies at an early age.
1918 “The Lucy Mercer Affair”: ER discovers her personal secretary has had an affair with her husband.
1921 Franklin Roosevelt is paralyzed by polio.
1928 FDR elected Governor of New York – family moves to Albany
1932 FDR elected President of the United States
  ER Meets Lorena Hicock
1936 ER starts her column “My Day”. She will write it daily for 25 years
1940 Makes the acquaintance of Joseph Lash
1945 FDR dies
1946-1952 Appointed US Delegate to the United Nations
1947 Presides over the Commission of Human Rights at the UN. Makes the Acquaintance of
Dr David Gurevitch
December 10th
Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris
1950 Starts her TV and radio shows on the NBC network
1952 Supports Adlai Stevenson against Eisenhower
1960 Supports JFK for Presidency
1961 Nominated anew as US Delegate to the UN
1962 Dies at the age of 78.

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Key Websites on Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val Kill (ERVK). Based in ER’s cottage, this charitable organization has a very interesting website partly dedicated to the memory of ER.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s official biography on the White House Website. Link with the FDR Library with the most comprehensive data on the Roosevelts.

Audio archives : speech of ER at the Sorbonne University (Paris) for the adoption of the Universal declaration of Human Rights (September 1948).

Video archives : PBS television network website, ER’s TV Show “Prospects on Mankind”, dealing with the creation of the Peace Corps (guest, John F. Kennedy, 1960).
In addition to the video, interesting files on ER’s column “My Day”, and ER’s personal file at the FBI.

Sitio Web Mujer Actual : Biografia de Eleanor Roosevelt (Español)

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Key Documents on Eleanor Roosevelt :

    Cook, Blanche Wiesen : Eleanor Roosevelt - A Biography. Vicking Press 1992.

    Roosevelt, Eleanor : Autobiography - Da Capo Press 1992.

    Roosevelt, E. "My Day : the Best of Eleanor Roosevelt's Acclaimed Newspaper Columns, 1936-1962" - Da Capo Press 2001.

Researcher in charge :

Damien H. Fiere
Contact :

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