In the 20th century, women who married great leaders went beyond their traditional supportive role and emerged as leaders by themselves.

by Thierry Valle*

*A paper presented at the seminar “Remembering Shimu’s Fight: Conscience and the Tai Ji Men Case,” Pasadena, California, April 5, 2024.

An article already published in Bitter Winter on April 8th, 2024.

Eleanor Roosevelt (left, credits) and Madam Yu Mei-Jung (right).
Eleanor Roosevelt (left, credits) and Madam Yu Mei-Jung (right).

Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, became an emblematic figure of female leadership in the 20th century. Her extraordinary career perfectly illustrates the transition from the traditional role of a leader’s wife to that of a woman leader in her own right.

Born into an aristocratic New York family in 1884, Eleanor Roosevelt first assumed the classic role of wife of a leader when she married Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1905. As First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, she actively supported her husband in his presidential duties, including numerous trips across the country to meet Americans and understand their concerns.

But Eleanor Roosevelt was not content to be the wife of a president. She quickly emerged as a leader in her own right, a forceful advocate for her own ideas and causes. Her commitment to civil rights, gender equality, and social justice made her a leader and an inspiration to millions.

During the Great Depression and World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt used her privileged position to promote progressive and humanitarian reforms. In particular, she played a key role in the creation of the New Deal, which was designed to pull the United States out of economic crisis. She also worked to include African Americans in government programs and opposed segregation.

After her husband’s death in 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt continued her political and social activism as an American delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She chaired the commission that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted in 1948. This foundational text, which proclaims the equal rights and dignity of all human beings, remains one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s most important legacies.

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Credits.
Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Credits.

By using her privileged position to champion progressive and humanitarian causes, she paved the way for generations of women leaders.

Her unwavering commitment to social justice and equality made her an inspirational figure who continues to influence feminist and human rights movements around the world.

By brilliantly combining her duties as First Lady with her personal commitment to social progress, she demonstrated that women can be key players in transforming society.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s example perfectly illustrates the transition from woman to leader, showing that women can transcend their traditional supporting roles to become leaders in their own right.

Eleonor Roosevelt’s life story can be compared to that of Madam Yu Mei-Jung, who was not only the supportive wife of Tai Ji Men’s Shifu Dr. Hong, but also a leader by herself.

She served as Vice President of the Federation of World Peace and Love and Chair of the Advisory Board of the Association of World Citizens, both organizations dedicated to promoting world peace and human rights.

Madam Yu’s compassion, warmth and courage have touched and changed the lives of countless individuals around the world.

Dr. Hong and Madam Yu at the United Nations.
Dr. Hong and Madam Yu at the United Nations.

She spent her life helping to establish Tai Ji Men academies around the world. Together with Dr. Hong, they provided Tai Ji Men students and their families with a nurturing environment to improve their physical, mental, and spiritual health and build a solid foundation for their future.

Madam Yu was recognized for her extraordinary spiritual achievements, driven by a heart full of compassion and determination. Her elegant presence was celebrated around the world.

Madam Yu, who worked throughout her life to improve the world and ensure justice for Tai Ji Men, will be remembered by all who knew her as one of those leaders who helped humanity move toward a more peaceful and harmonious world.