Research effects of father absence



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This child, an only child, was born into a wealthy family in upstate New York in the late 1800s. Her father was an alcoholic who was disowned by his relatives. When the child was 8, her mother died, and she was sent to live with relatives. Then, when she was 10, her father, who she had rarely seen anyway, also died.

When she was 15, her relatives sent her off to a boarding school in London, where she proved to be an outstanding student. The headmistress there befriended her, and helped her to expand her experience and outlook beyond the privileged bigotry of the narrow and provincial society into which she had been born.

When she was 18, she returned to the United States, and became a social worker. She got married and had six children, although one son died in infancy. Her marriage was not a happy one, however. She did not get along well with her mother-in-law, and her husband repeatedly cheated on her. Then, when she was in her 30s, her husband became ill with a disease from which he never fully recovered, and which further burdened their lives.

Although the marriage endured, once her children were nearly grown, she decided that she had to pursue her own life and interests. She built herself her own residence not far away from her husband's home, and with her friends, started a furniture factory to provide work for unemployed workers. This business was successful and soon expanded to pewter work and weaving. Then, she and a friend purchased and operated a private girls' school, where she taught history.

When her husband's work took him to Washington, D.C., she became an activist for educational and civil rights programs. She worked with the National Consumers League, the Red Cross, the League of Women Voters, the Women's Trade Union League, the American Student Union, and the American Youth Congress. She also wrote books and numerous magazine articles and columns.

In 1941, she was appointed by the president as the assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense, where she helped organize volunteer and community efforts during World War II. After the war, the president appointed her to be a delegate to the first United Nations General Assembly, where she worked with world leaders on humanitarian, social, and cultural issues. This work continued for more than two decades, through a brief semi-retirement, to yet another official appointment to the United Nations during the Kennedy administration. Her greatest accomplishment in the U.N. was, perhaps, the passage of its Human Rights Doctrine. She also chaired the 1961-62 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and participated in dozens of others causes ranging from fair labor practices, to activism for Jewish refugees, to black civil rights.

At the time of her death, she was considered to be one of the most admired women in the world. This humanitarian, diplomat, social reformer, and author, one of the most important women of the 20th century, was

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a girl from a "fatherless home."

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* The term "fatherless" is used in this series as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.

"...Just add Dad, the magic ingredient. It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..." Mike Peterson



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