At a young age, both her parents as well as her only sibling died through tragic causes related to alcohol, seizures and infections. Left an orphan, Eleanor Roosevelt attended Allenwood Academy at age 15 in London. It was there that she met and became deeply influenced by the feminist headmistress, Marie Souvestre.
Marie Souvestre was one of the most important intellectual influences of Eleanor Roosevelt’s life. As an orphan, Eleanor looked up to Marie Souvestre as not only a mentor, but a mother figure. Souvestre quickly took her on as her protégém and Eleanor credited her with forming both her character and her intellectual outlook.
While at Allenwood Academy, Eleanor thrived on Souvestre’s intellectual method, which stressed rigorous analysis and independent thinking. Eleanor watched her mentor fight for lost political and social causes. Most importantly, Souvestre taught Eleanor the pleasures of independent travel. This would end up giving the First Lady a great deal of confidence which would influence her love of travel from thereon out.
While little is known about Souvestre, it’s fair to say that much of Eleanor’s character seemed to be molded by her – a character which would ultimately lead Eleanor to see 4 terms as the United States’ First Lady.
While her political duties are important (and impressive), what many don’t know about is her literary influence. An avid letter writer, Eleanor eventually published ‘You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life‘ to expresses her philosophy of life, relating the experiences which have enabled her to cope with personal and public responsibilities. These lessons have been in circulation for 50 years and will continue for the rest of humanity’s existence. It’s a book you should keep in your pocket and look to for advice and guidance on any situation or problem. It’s safe to say, these are the only worthwhile rules of life to live by.
1. “It’s your life-but only if you make it so.”
2. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
3. “Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying any attention to you. It’s your attention to yourself that is so stultifying. But you have to disregard yourself as completely as possible. If you fail the first time then you’ll just have to try harder the second time. After all, there’s no real reason why you should fail. Just stop thinking about yourself.”
4. “What counts, in the long run, is not what you read; it is what you sift through your own mind; it is the ideas and impressions that are aroused in you by your reading. It is the ideas stirred in your own mind, the ideas which are a reflection of your own thinking, which make you an interesting person”
5. “Never be bored, and you will never be boring.”
6. “If you can develop this ability to see what you look at, to understand its meaning, to readjust your knowledge to this new information, you can continue to learn and to grow as long as you live and you’ll have a wonderful time doing it.”
7. “It is a brave thing to have courage to be an individual; it is also, perhaps, a lonely thing. But it is better than not being an individual, which is to be nobody at all.”
8. “Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”
9. “Meeting smaller emergencies and learning to deal with them had given me the confidence to deal with this larger emergency. So, little by little, I found out how to do things. After each catastrophe you don’t worry so much the next time, and each time you emerge stronger from your victory.”
10. “Get ahead of whom? There is no one I want to shove past. I just want to get ahead of myself, make myself as big as I can, but not measure myself by someone else.”
11. “It is, however, the better part of wisdom to regard the mistake as experience which will help guide you in the future, a part, though a painful part, of your education.”
**“Anxiety,” Kierkegaard said, “is the dizziness of freedom.”