Official White House Portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt
- She was very shy. Though she did a lot of public speaking as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt was a shy child. Even as a teenager, she worried that she would not attract a husband. Despite her worries, Eleanor became the first wife of a U.S. president to hold press conferences, speak at a national party convention, and write her own newspaper column. As she looked back on her life, Eleanor hoped others would see that “in spite of timidity and fear, in spite of a lack of special talents, one can find a way to live widely and fully.”
- First wife of a president to drive a car by herself. As First Lady, Eleanor insisted on driving her own car, and wanted to go for drives without the Secret Service. President Franklin Roosevelt’s concern for her safety caused Eleanor to make some compromises. She sometimes traveled with a private bodyguard, and she also learned how to shoot a small gun. She admitted to the readers of her newspaper column that she was not an expert, but “if the necessity arose, I do know how to use a pistol.”
- Loved to fly in airplanes and wanted flying lessons. Eleanor was the first president’s wife to ride in an airplane, and she told her friend Amelia Earhart that she hoped FDR would let her take flying lessons. FDR said no to the lessons, but that didn’t stop Eleanor from traveling by plane. Most Americans thought flying was dangerous in the 1930s, so Eleanor’s frequent plane rides helped airlines change some people’s minds.
- Helped African Americans serve as pilots in World War II. In 1941, Eleanor traveled to the Tuskegee Institute, which provided education and job skills for African Americans. The Institute had an aviation program so students could learn to fly. Many hoped to be included in the air force in World War II, but the public doubted if blacks could really be good pilots. When Eleanor visited the program, she asked to fly with one of the Tuskegee pilots. He flew her over Alabama for an hour. After the flight, the pilot and Eleanor had their picture taken in the plane. The photo of the smiling First Lady sitting next to a black pilot made people think that African Americans might be competent airmen. With a little help from Eleanor, President Roosevelt decided to use Tuskegee pilots in combat.
Interesting Facts about George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver, 1910
As a young slave in Diamond Grove, Missouri,
- George Washington Carver knew very little about his parents. His mother’s name was Mary, but she and George were kidnapped when George was young and he never saw her again. His father died before George’s birth. After the Civil War ended, their former owners, Moses and Susan Carver, raised George and his
- Young George got sick often as a child, so he did mostly household chores with Susan. The Carvers treated George like their own child, giving him free time to explore the woods on the family farm. They also taught him to read and George spent a lot of time with his spelling book.
- George wanted to learn the names of plants, trees, animals, and flowers. Since he couldn’t find the answers in his spelling book, George sought other opportunities to go to school. His determination helped him walk eight miles to the Lincoln school for black children. Unfortunately, George soon discovered that the teacher didn’t know much more than he did.
- George went to Kansas to finish his education, but he learned more about racial hatred there than anything else. At Ft. Scott, he saw a black man lynched and burned. Though he left Ft. Scott, he stayed in Kansas to finish high school.
- To pay for his education, George worked a variety of jobs, including helping a black family with their laundry business.
- Although he was accepted into Highland College in Kansas, when he arrived he was turned away because of the color of his skin. Eventually he graduated from Iowa State Agricultural College.
- After graduation, George got an offer from Booker T. Washington to teach agriculture at Tuskegee Institute. He took the job because “It has always been the one ideal of my life to be the greatest good to the greatest number of ‘my people’ as possible.”
- While at Tuskegee, George came up with new ways to help poor black farmers. For example, many farmers were only planting cotton, a crop that used up a lot of nutrients in the soil. George suggested that farmers plant crops like peanuts, which would nourish the soil. He said they should plant peanuts one year, and then plant cotton the next year.
- After farmers started taking George’s advice, they had way too many peanuts. George had a solution, though—he found more than 300 uses for peanuts, including peanut milk and peanut soap!