Celebrating Eleanor Roosevelt on International Women's Day

Today, March 8, 2016 is International Women's Day, the 107th celebration of the contributions of women across the world since its first observance in New York in 1909. 

The United Nations' theme for this year's Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” which, through the promotion and attainment of  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), seeks to close the gender gap by 2030. 

Many, many women and men have sought to close this gap, and today, we seek to honor one woman in particular: diplomat, activist, and the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt, for her incredible contributions to "equal justice, equal opportunity and equal dignity without discrimination." 

Eleanor Roosevelt was a champion of human rights at home and abroad. She held the first women-only press conference at the White House in 1933. Her 6-day a week syndicated column, My Day, encouraged women to "become more conscious of themselves as women and of their ability to function as a group. At the same time they must try to wipe from men's consciousness the need to consider them as a group or as women in their everyday activities, especially as workers in industry or the professions." And in 1939, when black singer, Marian Andersen was denied the right to perform at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the Revolution, Eleanor resigned from the group and helped arrange a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. 

Roosevelt was also instrumental in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and along with others, helped draft the document and usher it into adoption in 1948. 

1n 1958, on the tenth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt was asked the meaning of human rights. She replied:

“Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: The neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

Read more about Eleanor Roosevelt and her contributions to human rights here