Inspiring Women: Remembering Eleanor Roosevelt (and a reminder the relevance of older women)

We live in an age dominated by the search and maintenance of physical beauty – no matter what age we are. Women in particular are placed under often intense scrutiny for how we look – are we too old? Too thin? Too fat? Too sexy?

Women and girls are often most celebrated for scantily clad efforts in multiple bikini shots on reality TV or social media in an effort to become rich and famous overnight. In a world where beauty and looks alone seem to influence the world the most, older women who have made more meaningful contributions to society increasingly pale into insignificance.

This is not to say that younger women can’t and don’t contribute to meaningful conversations and movements to empower each and every one of us. But women of all ages are missing out on the wisdom and insights of these truly influential figures in recent history, many of whom struggled with similar battles before us and have a lot to offer to help us navigate this increasingly superficial social landscape.

Why do women have a ‘sell by date’?

One of the most toxic and misguided messages of today’s commercial and cosmetic-driven culture is that women ‘lose value’ as they age. Menopausal women are led to believe and think that they are invisible, insignificant, and ready for the scrap heap – which of course is nonsense! These wonderful women – who successfully contribute to all areas of life, balancing careers, family, household and more – are reduced to the amount of years they’ve spent on earth. I don’t know about you, but it’s insulting at best and destructive at worst.

Is this what we want not only for ourselves, but for our daughters, who are growing up with an increasingly warped view of what matters and an impression of the ageing process as something to be avoided rather than embraced, and celebrated?

Valuing and celebrating menopausal women

When we focus on looks alone, at any age, we really miss out on everything that person has to offer. But this is especially true when it comes to those of us who are in our menopausal years.

Each and every day we are utilising vast amounts of life experience and resilience, which comes to the fore in a moment or moments of crisis. And perhaps less dramatically (but equally as important), we just keep the wheels of life turning in all our little worlds. How amazing is this? Isn’t this something to be shouted about and emphasised? Instead, we’re reduced to anti-ageing creams and incontinence pads at this age.

With friends, or on your own, sit for a minute and consider all the wonderful things you do and know now that you didn’t twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. Sit and really appreciate that growth and wisdom that only you have to offer. Isn’t it amazing? When you really look at all you have to offer, beyond the physical – tight skin, big bouncy hair and the ‘perfect body’ (whatever that is), many of those things we are told we should feel are important pale into insignificance.

Remembering Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt was a highly intelligent woman, bilingual, a trailblazer of the times with a strong conviction for social and moral justice and human rights. She fully understood the power of the press and social media – even in the 1930 and 40’s. As first lady she held 348 all-women press conferences. She wrote a daily newspaper column, held a weekly radio show and a monthly magazine article. She was the first chair of UN Commission for Human Rights in 1946 at the age of 62. At the time of her death aged 78 she was considered one of the most influential people of her time.

What angers and amuses me in equal measure is that Eleanor was often described as ‘plain’ in a physical sense (as if it were relevant!). This just goes to show that even then, as we do now, we try to reduce women to their looks alone without a focus on what we do and say and how we influence the world around us. Is society scared of the power of women? Belittling us through focusing on our appearance alone seems to indicate this.

Never without a voice, never insignificant and never invisible – she is absolutely still relevant today – perhaps even moreso when you consider that many of the challenges she campaigned for and against still loom large. Eleanor is a wonderful example of how women can change and shape the world. I hope that we can share and celebrate her and her achievements with women of all ages – but especially younger generations, who I fear might lose the essence and influence of great women like Eleanor and forget how powerful they can be, too. When women of all ages join forces and learn from one another we can more easily bring about positive change.

Eleanor Roosevelt is perhaps best remembered and known today for her inspirational quotes and most of us have heard a few. These are a great way to begin to understand Eleanor, her mission, her fiery wit and strong views on women and their place in this world. I highly recommend reading and reflecting on these with some with your friends, sisters and daughters! 

“Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this.?
Eleanor Roosevelt