Eleanor Roosevelt was an American politician, diplomat, and activist. She was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, holding the post from March 1933 to April 1945. Her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, served four terms in office where they both were challenged by the depth of the Great Depression and the start of World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt changed the role of the First Lady through her active participation in American politics. Her wisdom, kindness, trials and tribulations, serve to show the power of human dignity, and the ability of an extraordinary woman to captivate America. J. William T. Youngs' biography, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Personal and Public Life, touches on all aspects of Eleanor's life starting from her childhood, and finishing with her impact on American lives today. Youngs writes, "and yet both the suffering and the achievements of her early years made possible the person whom many regard as the greatest American woman of the twentieth century" (13).
The prologue of the book was fascinating. For a reader who was not familiar with the public's perception of Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II, it painted a picture of her being worshiped almost as a hero. Youngs' description of her tending to wounded American troops is amazing. This reader had preconceived ideas about the roots of Eleanor, assuming that she came from a life of leisure and privilege. However, it was remarkable to learn about the trials she faced as a result of the deaths of both of her parents and her brother. The following chapters expand more on her trials and give details of Eleanor's life prior to becoming First Lady. Youngs does well informing the reader all about Eleanor and her upbringings during her adolescence, putting together piece by piece the "uniquely energetic woman" (3) known today. Eleanor's character was composed through many admirable occurrences. These include her time at Allenswood School and its feminist influence on her, her work with the Women's Trade Union League, and her public appearances on behalf of her husband after his onset of polio.