A grand woman was behind a grand document: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). As the chair of the UN Human Rights Commission, Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force in creating the Declaration, which now enters its 50th anniversary year.
Searching for a meaningful image of that Grand Lady of Human Rights & Liberty, I found this one, showing Roosevelt in what looks like a cheerful conversation with another trailblazer: Edith Sampson, in 1952. What a telling image to honour this year’s UN Human Rights celebration theme: Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All.
Sampson was the first African-American to be appointed as a delegate to the United Nations, the first African American member of NATO, and the first black woman to be elected as a judge in the US.
Choosing a meaningful quote among the many wise words Roosevelt has left behind wasn’t difficult, either. “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.” Relevant words then, and more relevant than ever today.
The world struggles and dignity, freedom and justice seem far off in many areas. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Both Roosevelt and Sampson were exceptionally prominent women in a time when men dominated politics, justice, and international relations, and racial segregation was still embedded in law. But Roosevelt and Sampson didn’t take the status quo for granted and demonstrated that change is possible. Always, everywhere, and it is in our hands.
Find out more about these exceptional changemakers: Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) and other women who shaped the Universal Human Rights Declaration, and Edith Sampson (1901-1979), a child from a black working-class family who worked her way up to holding key public roles impacting national and international affairs.