Sara Delano


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1. James Roosevelt

Sara Delano 1

  • Born: 21 Sep 1854
  • Marriage (1): James Roosevelt on 7 Oct 1880
  • Died: 7 Sep 1941 at age 86

bullet  General Notes:

Sara Ann Delano Roosevelt (September 21, 1854 – September 7, 1941) was the wife of James Roosevelt, Sr. and the mother of President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her only child.

Born to wealthy Protestants of Huguenot descent, she had great influence on her son from his earliest years. She lived to see her only child elected President of the United States three times, although her domineering manner grated on her daughter-in-law, Eleanor Roosevelt who, at 6', was only 2 inches taller than Sara.

Mrs. Sara Delano Roosevelt died suddenly on September 7, 1941, only 230 days after her son's third inauguration as President and only 2 weeks before her 87th birthday.

Sara Delano was also known as a slender 5'10" (178 cm) intelligent debutante beauty who survived her only husband, James Roosevelt, by 40 years and 272 days.

She is best known as the mother of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was born on January 30, 1882, at Hyde Park, in the Hudson River valley in upstate New York. Her husband James Roosevelt (1828–1900), was a wealthy landowner and vice-president of the Delaware and Hudson Railway. The Roosevelt family (see Roosevelt family tree) had lived in New York for more than 200 years: Claes van Rosenvelt, originally from Haarlem in the Netherlands, arrived in New York (then called Nieuw Amsterdam) in about 1650. In 1788, Isaac Roosevelt was a member of the state convention in Poughkeepsie which voted to ratify the United States Constitution - a matter of great pride to his great-great-grandson Franklin. The fact the Roosevelts were Democrats, however, set them apart, to some extent, from most other members of the Hudson Valley aristocracy. The Roosevelts believed in public service, and were wealthy enough to be able to spend time and money on philanthropy.

In the 18th century the Roosevelt family had divided into two branches, the "Hyde Park Roosevelts", who by the late 19th century were Democrats, and the "Oyster Bay Roosevelts", who were Republicans. President Theodore Roosevelt, an Oyster Bay Republican, was Franklin's fifth cousin. Despite their political differences, the two branches remained friendly: James Roosevelt met his wife at a Roosevelt family gathering at Oyster Bay, and Franklin was to marry Theodore's niece.

Sara was of French Protestant (Huguenot) descent, her ancestor Philippe de la Noye having arrived in Massachusetts in 1621. Her mother was a Lyman, another very old American Yankee family. Franklin was her only child, and she was an extremely possessive mother. Since James was an elderly and remote father (he was 54 when Franklin was born), Sara was the dominant influence in Franklin's early years. He later told friends he was afraid of her all his life. He was home schooled under her supervision. She made sure Franklin grew up in an atmosphere of privilege. He learned to ride, shoot, row and to play polo and lawn tennis. Frequent trips to Europe made him conversant in German and French.

Sara is also famous as the mother-in-law of Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin became engaged to his distant cousin Eleanor, despite the fierce resistance of Sara Delano Roosevelt, who was terrified of losing control of Franklin. They were married in March 1905, and moved into a house bought for them by Sara, who became a frequent houseguest, much to Eleanor's mortification.

In September 1918, Eleanor found compromising letters in Franklin's luggage that revealed his affair with Lucy Mercer. Eleanor was both mortified and angry, and confronted him with the letters, presenting Franklin with an ultimatum: Stop seeing Lucy or get a divorce. Sara soon learned of the crisis and decisively intervened. She argued a divorce would ruin Roosevelt's political career, and pointed out Eleanor would have to raise five children on her own if she were to divorce him. Since Sara was financially supporting the Franklin Roosevelts, this was a strong incentive to preserve the marriage.

Eventually a deal was struck. The facade of the marriage was preserved, but intimacy ceased. Sara would pay for a separate home at Hyde Park for Eleanor, and she would also fund Eleanor's philanthropic interests. When Franklin became President—as Sara was always convinced he would—Eleanor would be able to use her position to support her causes. Eleanor accepted these terms, and in time, Franklin and Eleanor developed a new relationship as friends and political colleagues, while living separate lives. Franklin continued to see various women, including Lucy Mercer and his secretary Missy LeHand.


Sara married James Roosevelt, son of Isaac Roosevelt and Mary Rebecca Aspinwall, on 7 Oct 1880. (James Roosevelt was born on 16 Jul 1828 in Hyde Park, New York and died on 8 Dec 1900.)



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