15 Favorite Quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt

from the public domain

Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.‘” -Eleanor Roosevelt


Who Is Eleanor Roosevelt?

Best known as the wife of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt served the longest term as First Lady of the United States during her husband’s four terms in office, 1933 – 1945. But there was much more to Eleanor than being a wife in the public eye. She was a woman who helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, worked as a delegate at the United Nations, and served on the Kennedy Administration. She was a woman like no other.

I have long admired her and read a biography years ago–I think my admiration for her started when I attended an elementary school named for her. I love her vision, her adventurousness, her values and fearlessness.

About a month ago, I began reading her memoir, YOU LEARN BY LIVING: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life. Though a bit slow at the start, it’s been a book I’ve read with pen in hand, to underline and make notes. Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom is fresh and crisp, as if she were sitting beside me as I read, letting the years of her influence and learning seep through the decades which separate us.

15 Favorite Quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt

  • We are the sum total of all the choices we have made. You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt


On Books

  • I remember when my husband always had money to buy a new and fascinating first edition of a book, but he would frequently answer a protest of mine by saying he could not possibly afford to buy any new shirts.
  • The ownership of books is a token of moving up the social as well as the cultural ladder. Intellectual attainments and a developing culture are the road to better and richer living.


On Freedom

  • “Anxiety,” Kierkegaard said, “is the dizziness of freedom.” This freedom of which men speak, for which they fight, seems to some people a perilous thing. It has to be earned at a bitter cost and then–it has to be lived with. …Freedom comes with responsibility.
  • But words, even when they seem to fail to communicate, are better than bombs. So we keep on trying.


On People

  • No relationship in this world ever remains warm and close unless a real effort is made on both sides to keep it so.
  • I cannot overemphasize how essential it is that we show respect for the customs of people from foreign countries, and particularly people from different cultures and environments.
  • I think one of the basic things to recognize is that the only valuable development is the development of an individual. If you try to change that individual so that he loses his personality, you have done something that has destroyed the most important thing about a human being, his essential difference from anybody else. Any one of us who tries to make someone over and force him into an image of what we think he should be, rather than encourage him to develop along his own lines, is doing a dangerous thing.

On Success

  • To leave the world richer–that is the ultimate success.

    photo from the public domain, Wikimedia Commons
    Eleanor Roosevelt, 1932, age 50
  • I am inclined to think that being a success is tied up very closely with being one’s own kind of individual.
  • Your ambition should be to get as much life out of living as you possibly can, as much enjoyment, as much interest, as much experience, as much understanding.
  • The knowledge of how little you can do alone teaches you humility.
  • Every time you meet a crisis and live through it, you make it simpler for the next time. If you draw back and say, “I am afraid to do that,”… you will become timid and negative as a person.

On Happiness

  • Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively. After a short time, a very short time, there would be little that one really enjoyed. For what keeps our interest in life and makes us look forward to tomorrow is giving pleasure to other people.
  • It is in being with people I am fond of and feeling that in some small way I can make life happier or more interesting for them, or help them to achieve their objective. To me that is much more important than anything else in my life. To be mature you have to realize what you value most.


Do you have a favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt? Please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

4 thoughts on “15 Favorite Quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt

  1. I love all these! What a remarkable woman. I don’t know if she really said it, but I’ve always loved this quote (maybe because I’ve felt it to be true for me on occasion): “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” It’s a little old fashioned these days, I suppose, but it really can be applied to men or women.

  2. What an inspiring post of an inspiring woman ! My favorite quote is “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” I’m fortunate to be able to live near FDR’s birthplace and presidential library (Springwood in Hyde Park, NY), and within a short distance from there – Eleanor’s private retreat, Val-Kill. Walking the grounds and visiting their graves gives a serenity, and a space for meditating on their enormous contributions to the American soul.Come and visit it – it’s a national gift.

    1. I love that quote–isn’t it the truth? 🙂 Thank you for the recommendation, also, to visit Hyde Park and Val-Kill. It sounds wonderful. Thank you, Barbara!

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