“One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. ... All you need to do is to be curious, receptive, eager for experience. And there's one strange thing: when you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.”—Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life (1960)
Born on this day 130 years ago in New York City, Eleanor Roosevelt—partly by education, partly by acting as the indispensable partner to her polio-stricken husband—proved receptive to as extraordinary a range of experience as perhaps any First Lady has ever encountered. In the process, she forever redefined the role and limits of America’s First Ladies. Ken Burns’ great documentary series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History detailed just how wide-ranging her influence came to be (including becoming the first First Lady to address a political convention, in 1940).
A post on the Web site of the National Archives gives just a hint of her interests by examining, from its holdings, the contents of her wallet: “a license from the state of New York to carry a pistol, an expired card to the Newspaper Guild’s Press Club in New York City, a Diner’s Club Credit Card, a health insurance card, a Bell System Credit Card with instructions on how to make a collect call, a St. Christopher card for the patron saint of travel, and an air travel card"—all indications of an astonishingly active life, maintained all the way to its end, at age 78.