LABOR. Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945 and political ambassador on behalf of liberalism until her death in 1962, firmly supported the philosophy and goals of the organized labor movement. Conscious of the troublesome and often wretched conditions of working-class life and desirous of refashioning the political system with the onset of the Great Depression,* ER insisted that labor could help build a strong, prosperous, and democratic America. She did not believe, as many on her left did, that conflict between labor and management was inevitable, and she often spoke out against the heavy-handed tactics of such union leaders as the long-serving head of the United Mine Workers (UMW), John L. Lewis. But ER did believe that in a modern capitalist society, unions had a fundamental role to play in achieving a more just political order and that unions protected individuals from both the vagaries of the marketplace and the power of big business. In 1941 in a magazine published by the American Federation of Labor, she declared, “The ideals of the organized labor movement are high ideals. They mean that we are not selfish in our desires, that we stand for the good of the group as a whole, and that is something which we in the United States are learning every day must be the attitude of every citizen” (The American Federationist, March 1941).
ER began to develop a deep interest in the labor movement after the end of World War I. In 1922 she established what proved to be a long and sustaining friendship with Rose Schneiderman,* a Jewish immigrant and a socialist who educated ER and her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt,* on working-class issues. That same year, at Schneiderman’s urging, she joined the Women’s Trade Union League* (WTUL) and quickly proved to be one of the organization’s most active and intelligent campaigners, as well as a crucial source of financial support. While a member