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Astrology at Work: Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve always been an advocate of Saturn. My feeling is that, in general, Saturn transits give us the lessons in life that we most need. On the one hand they often make clear our shortcomings and misjudgments, on the other they can reward our hard work and sound planning. However, there are instances in which Saturn transits are just plain bad in ways that have nothing to do with our past behavior.


Just a couple of month short of Eleanor Roosevelt’s seventh birthday, Saturn made its first square aspect to it natal place (the first step in this Saturn cycle). During that summer Eleanor’s father Roosevelt went on an alcoholic binge. Both the Roosevelts and Eleanor’s mother’s family belonged to the upper crust of East Coast society so his drinking and odd behavior were doubly distressing. Eleanor’s mother took her children and left her husband to work out his problems on his own.


The resulting separation from her father hurt Eleanor greatly. Her relationship with her mother was strained, but she loved her father without reservation. A few months later, when her mother refused to take her husband back and ordered him to stay away for at least a year, Eleanor was distraught. Then Saturn moved to conjunct her Midheaven (an important passage in the second Saturn cycle). Two months later Eleanor’s mother died.


The situation for Eleanor and her brother was uncertain. They still had their father but his drinking and reckless behavior made him an unreliable parent at best. Then, less than a year after the death of her mother, Saturn made a conjunction with Eleanor’s natal Sun. The Sun is typically seen as a symbol of the father. Just a month after this aspect was complete, Eleanor’s father died after a fall.


Here we have three Saturn transits and three horrible events. To add to the misery, Neptune crossed Eleanor’s Descendant right after the death of her father. She and her brother were placed in the care of her grandmother who was a stern and unsympathetic woman. In her home the overwhelmed little girl found little or no comfort.


It might seem that Saturn was unusually cruel to Eleanor Roosevelt, but these rough transits did serve a purpose. Much later in her life, when she was the wife of a powerful politician named Franklin D. Roosevelt, the shy, intellectual Eleanor became a vocal advocate for oppressed and unfortunate people all over American and around the world. To the surprise of many, this woman who came from a pampered and privilege background understood what it meant to suffer and to feel overwhelmed by adversities you can’t control.


Eleanor’s next Saturn transit was somewhat kinder. After five years living with her grandmother, Saturn crossed her Ascendant and then opposed its natal place.  Around this time Eleanor was sent to a boarding school. There she found an environment fit to nurture her intelligence and teachers who appreciated and encouraged her. This experience gave the young Eleanor the confidence and the training that would allow her to turn her previous suffering into triumphant compassion.

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