If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1941


Did Alexander (The Man Who Came to Dinner) Woollcott stay longer at the White House than the time for which he was invited?

Mr. Alexander Woollcott is never invited by me for a definite time. It happened on his last visit that we knew there would be a definite limit because he was acting in The Man Who Came to Dinner, and that there was a schedule covering several weeks ahead which had to be adhered to. On former occasions I have always urged Mr. Woollcott to stay longer, but found that he was needed and wanted in other places.


How do you feel about feeding the occupied countries?

Like everybody else, I contemplate with horror the starvation of human beings, but I realize that war is anachronism in a civilized world, and that when we engage in war in any part of the world we cease to be civilized. Therefore, the question arises whether the only thing really to be considered is not the simple fact of how war can most quickly be brought to the desired termination.

None of us has any desire to see the war end in a victory for Hitlerism; therefore, in every action we take we must bear that in mind. Whether you approve of the past actions of the British government in building up an empire, or the past actions of our own country in doing the same thing, is not the question before us at the moment. The question before us is whether we can possibly live and co-operate with other peoples in a world which is Hitler dominated and organized. We seem to be deciding that we can better co-operate with a larger group of free peoples, and we recognize that the British Empire is made up of a continually increasing number of free peoples.

The question, therefore, of how I feel about feeding the occupied countries really resolves itself into whether I want my country to hold a club over the head of the one nation which is today actively fighting against Hitlerism and a Hitler-dominated world. As long as England feels a blockade is necessary as a war measure, our nation, to break that blockade, would have to threaten England in order to feed people in occupied territories, because only with the consent of the British to lift the blockade of Europe can this be accomplished.

I hardly know whether we have a right to hold a club over the head of any nation, because the starvation of these people is the result of war. It is not their fault and they are innocent victims of a breakdown in civilization, but the sooner we bring about a world where war is impossible, the sooner will starvation because of war be impossible.

A Hitler-dominated world seems to me to mean continuous threats of war and practically a slave status. Therefore I believe we have to leave the decision of feeding people in occupied countries to the people who are fighting for their existence and whose victory will mean freedom for a great group of independent nations with which we can co-operate for a better future world.


What is your favorite joke about yourself? Humorous drawing?

I have no favorite joke on myself, but there are a great many and I enjoy them all.

The humorous drawing which amused me most is the cartoon drawn last summer, I think, of me sitting up in bed with a typewriter on my knees, a picture of my husband hanging on the wall above. I am looking very thoughtful and saying, "But it would make such a nice scoop if you'd only tell me, Franklin." (The third-term question was at the time being asked, and I never had an answer to it until after the nomination by the convention.)


Have you ever been tempted to interfere in the training of your grandchildren?



Do you do your Christmas shopping early?

Yes. I begin as soon as possible after Christmas to prepare for the next Christmas.


If you had to earn your living as a nurse, a stenographer or a schoolteacher, which would you prefer?

I should prefer to be a schoolteacher because in certain ways that is what I would be best qualified to do.


Would you rather have an exciting job at thirty dollars a week, or a routine one at fifty dollars?

I should take the exciting job at thirty dollars a week, but I would feel quite sure that if it was really an exciting job it would be worth fifty dollars very shortly to my employer.


Do you think that home life today is any less wholesome than that of your generation?

No. A good home life depends largely on the individual family, and that has probably been true in every generation. There is just as wholesome home life today in certain homes as there ever was, and doubtless there were homes in the days gone by which were poor homes, just as there are today.


Do you believe that complete racial equality will ever be achieved? If so, how?

I do not know quite what you mean by complete racial equality. If you mean respect for the individual and equality as a citizen and in all social contacts; regardless of what race or creed you may belong to, I certainly expect it can be achieved, as we achieve a more perfect democracy and live up to our religious beliefs. The same God created all human beings and He certainly never intended that we should have less respect for any one of His creatures than for another. If we believe in religious teaching and in a real democracy, we shall give equal respect to human beings, and equal opportunity to live freely and participate in community life to every human being.


Do you expect at any time in the future to run for political office, or allow yourself to be prevailed upon to do so?

I most certainly do not.


What do you think of the proposed political and economic union of English-speaking peoples?

I think the union of all free democracies, whether English-speaking or not, is much to be desired in the future. Without it, I see no prospect for eliminating war.


What are six of your favorite contemporary authors? What one of their books is your favorite?

I have many more than six favorite contemporary authors, but among them are: Willa Cather—Death Comes for the Archbishop; Elizabeth Goudge—The City of Bells; David Grayson—Adventures in Understanding; Countee Cullen—The Black Christ; Harold Laski—Where Do We Go From Here?; Archibald MacLeish—The American Cause.


Bette Davis' pet economy is using the same bobby pins several years. What is yours?

Saving string.


From your own observations, what do you consider the most successful of your husband's social reforms?

Housing, which is fundamental to any reform program. In rural areas, the farm security program and rural electrification are important.


Apart from actual poverty, do you think couples should refrain from having children because they cannot give them "advantages"?

Certainly not. I do feel that the most important thing for children is to have a home which can provide them with the necessities for healthful living, with love and an example of ethical living.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1941

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

Ladies' Home Journal, vol. 58, July 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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