Even today, as I research the lives of people long gone from this world, their stories become a part of me and influence my daily perspective. While working on a book on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt - a process that took six years - I was particularly touched by Eleanor's life story.
Ironically, she was liberated by what could have otherwise been the catastrophic discovery of love letters from her husband to a young, beautiful and intelligent woman. After Eleanor offered Franklin a divorce, he pledged never to see that woman again. Though they remained married, these events transformed their relationship, and she became determined to no longer define herself solely in terms of her husband's needs.
As World War II unfolded, Eleanor was in a position to influence events at home while her husband focused on issues abroad. It was Eleanor who insisted that women should be allowed to work in factories, fighting a belief that productivity would be negatively impacted. Well, when she got her way, productivity shot way up. Today, it is The Women's Union that researches a wide range of options for women, learning which jobs offer a sustainable wage and directing women to training for those jobs - regardless of existing gender biases in many of those fields.