"I was an exceptionally timid child, afraid of the dark, afraid of mice, afraid of practically everything. Painfully, step by step, I learned to stare down each of my fears...only then was I really free."
- Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn By Living, 1960
Like FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt was born into wealth and privilege. Yet her family life could not have been more different than his.
Eleanor's father, Elliott, was Theodore Roosevelt's younger brother. Attractive and charming, he was also aimless and an alcoholic. Her mother, Anna Hall, was a great beauty from a distinguished New York family.
Eleanor was born in New York City on October 11, 1884. A timid and fearful child, she struggled with loneliness and rejection. Her mother was aloof and critical of her appearance. Her father, whom she adored, returned her love. But he was unreliable and, increasingly, mentally unstable.
In 1892, Eleanor's mother died of diphtheria. She and her two brothers went to live with their maternal grandmother, Mary Livingston Ludlow Hall. Months later, ER's brother Elliott died of scarlet fever. The following year, her father died of alcoholism. Orphaned at age nine, Eleanor was left to battle her fears alone.