If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1941


What would you say to a girl who wants to know whether or not to marry just before her young man goes off to training camp? Should such couples marry, or postpone marriage?

This question is difficult to answer because it depends so much on the individuals involved. If there has been a long period of preparation and two people are sure of themselves, and what they want in the future, then I think it is better to get married so that even in separation they will have that sense of proximity which comes from belonging to each other. There is great comfort in that when one is alone in a crowd. If young people are still uncertain or have only recently met, they certainly should not marry but should wait until the young man returns and they both have an opportunity to make sure that they are destined to live their lives together, and that they are willing to make the necessary effort and sacrifice which goes on in everyday life if any marriage is to be successful.


Do you ever lose your temper?

Occasionally, but not in the way one usually thinks of as losing one's temper. I become cold and silent, and I regret to say that my children recognize this and say, "Look out, ma's mad."


Were you personally—that is, waiving any consideration of the country's need, and so forth—sorry that the President decided he must run for a third term?

Certainly. I think anyone who has seen a man serve in any capacity as exacting as that of the presidency of the United States would regret to see him undertake four years more in a period such as we are now facing.


Except in the matter of anesthetics, do you think the world any better place than it was when you were young?

Yes, I do think the world is a better place than it was when I was young. There are more people in it who are conscious of the inequalities and injustices of our social setup and who are making an effort to bring these questions out in the open so that the public may become conscious of them and some better solutions be found. Education reaches more people, and there are more enjoyments possible in consequence. Besides anesthetics, many other discoveries and inventions make life easier and pleasanter for human beings.


Why did you recently congratulate a group of workmen for going out on strike?

I never congratulated any workmen for going out on strike. A strike is always something to be deplored and shows not only a regrettable misunderstanding between employer and employee but a regrettable lack of responsibility in any community. Public opinion, if it took the trouble to find out the causes of any strike, could probably soon see that it was equitably settled.

What you are probably thinking of is that I spoke to some fifteen hundred women on strike for twenty-four weeks. I was told they were striking for sixteen dollars a week minimum wage and for better conditions in the factory where they worked. I heard that it was not unusual for a worker to return to her machine after being injured because of lack of safety guards, and to find the safety guards were still not installed.

I congratulated those women on their endurance and loyalty to one another and hoped they would win better working conditions in the future. No one could ever feel that when men or women reach the point of having to strike, there is any cause for congratulation.


Do you think religion should be made a more dominant part of American life? How?

Yes, I think religion should be made a dominant part of American life, but there is only one way in which I think it can be made more dominant and that is by bringing it out of the church and into the lives led by religious people.

I read a sermon not long ago preached by an Episcopalian clergyman which might have been preached by any Christian, because he said that the most revolutionary doctrine in the world was the way of life preached by Christ Himself. Almost any other religion, if you lived up to the ideals of the founders, would lead you to what might be termed a revolutionary way of living. No political revolutions would be necessary if religion became a vital part of everyday life.


Of all the books you have ever read, which would you most like to have written?

The Book of Ruth.


Do you believe that women really have the power, in their own homes, to sway the political opinions of their husbands and to influence their voting?

I think that a man and a woman who are both anxious to find out the truth in a political situation may, through study and argument, influence each other. I do not think it is wise to try to influence anyone's point of view except by example and reason, and the ultimate decision must always remain with the individual. This holds good in the family circle as well as in ordinary relationships.


How many children do you think make up the ideal size family?

As many as a mother and father really want.


Is there any dish that you are so fond of that you cannot resist second helpings?

No, I cannot think of any.


Do you think that it is wise to teach children that all men are created equal?

It is wise, I think, to teach children that intrinsically every human being has the same value before his Maker, but that the moment a child enters the world he is conditioned by his surroundings and that, therefore, there is inequality of opportunity and of development. Therefore, we as individuals should always try to recognize the actual worth of a human being as such and, where opportunities have not been present, make allowances and work toward a world where every individual may have the chance to develop his abilities to the greatest possible extent.


Do you ever resent the publicity attendant upon all you do?

No, when it is the type of publicity which has to do with the public part of my life; but when I try to lead a more or less private life, or do the things which touch only the personal side of my life, I resent it very much.


What are we going to do with these insufferably superior intellectual refugees who are infesting our country? Do you know that most of them think that Hitler is such a genius that he is sure to dominate the world?

I am glad to say that I have met no "insufferably superior intellectual refugees," nor have I met any who think that Hitler is going to dominate the world. Those who think that are not genuine refugees. They are simply people who have come here either under orders from Hitler, or because of some individual interests which made them feel that residence in the United States would be more comfortable even though they admired and respected Hitler's methods. A genuine refugee who is also an intellectual I have found, on the whole, to be a humble person. No truly intellectual person is anything else, because no matter how much he knows, he also knows how much there is that he does not know.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1941

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

Ladies' Home Journal, vol. 58, June 1941

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014-2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
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1951 F Street, NW
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