If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1942


Do you think a marriage should take place between two people who are well matched in every respect except that the woman has had a better education than the man and knows more about cultural things than he does?

I see no reason why a marriage should not be entirely happy, even if the woman has had opportunities for education in certain fields which the man may lack: "Education" is a curious term. Real education is possible of achievement with comparatively few cultural advantages.

If a woman has real appreciation of the worth of her man as an individual, she will make whatever advantages she has serve his purposes. She will never make him feel in any way inferior, because she will know that fundamentally real education is knowledge that is not acquired from books alone, or from a background which has been richer in opportunity for certain kinds of culture, but depends on the ability to think clearly and to understand men and events.


Do you think Harry Bridges should be deported?

I do not know enough about the case to have an opinion. The courts will decide after full investigation. I think Mr. Bridges has a right to justice as administered by the courts, and none of us have a right to try him out of court.


Suppose we make the sacrifices which will be necessary to defeat Hitler, will we be any better off than we were when we defeated the Kaiser?

No, we shall not be better off if we have learned nothing from history. If, however, we have learned that you have an obligation to establish a peace as well as to fight a war, and that you cannot turn back from any task until your work is done, then we shall certainly succeed in doing better than we did in 1919.


What is your favorite quotation?

The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians:

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. "Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; "Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. "Charity never faileth… "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

A lecturer on astrology said that in Washington many men in public life consulted their horoscopes and that the President had one on his desk and was much guided by it. Is this true?

I doubt if the President ever thinks much about the horoscopes which he reads when they are sent him. He has had several sent him and we have all read them with interest, but forgotten them promptly as they have been consigned to a convenient file.


Do you believe it is pampering children for the average mother to take them to and from school by car?

No. I think if children can walk to school without danger, it is probably good for them; but if there is a good reason for taking them by car, I see no reason why it should not be done. It is a matter of common sense, and children are the first to recognize valid reasons, however, to walk.


I am a girl of eighteen. Do you think my mother is right when she refuses to tell me anything concerning sex relations of married people? She says there is plenty of time to learn when I am married.

No, I think your mother is wrong. If you want to know, you have a right to know and it is a safeguard for you. If your mother does not feel that she is able to tell you herself, she should ask her doctor, or some old friend whom she trusts, to do so.


Who is the most interesting and unforgettable person you've ever met?

This question would have to be answered differently for different periods of my life. For the early years, my father would be without question the answer. In my adolescence, Mlle. Souvestre, whose school I attended outside of London, would be the most interesting and unforgettable person. Then for a few years there is no one who particularly stands out. My uncle, Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, was interesting and unforgettable, but I do not know that he would be an answer for my whole adult life, because there were other members of my family and many friends and acquaintances who were interesting and who made a lasting impression on me. Since we have reached the years of maturity, I would say my own husband is the most interesting and unforgettable person, but I would be unable to pick out any one person who would cover all the periods of a lifetime.


Is it right to teach our children the Adam and Eve story when we know it is not the truth?

You teach your children mythology; why should it worry you to teach them the story of Adam and Eve?


Men frequently claim that women show little loyalty between themselves, have practically no sense of sex solidarity. What do you think about this?

I do not think you can talk about sex solidarity in women any more than you can in men. Both men and women will stand up for each other at times, and both men and women are sometimes disloyal to each other, but I do not think women are apt to be any more disloyal to other women than men are to other men. It is the person and not the sex which counts.


For the past few months articles have been printed in the different magazines about the girls who are following the Army camps. To me this is a very serious thing, and yet many of these articles tell of how places are provided for these girls, where they may go to receive treatment preventing the getting of a disease. Why don't they lock these girls up instead of teaching ways of prevention? I am an Army wife.

Dear lady, it would do very little good to lock up the girls who may be hanging around an Army camp. Their parents should have done a better job of bringing them up, and possibly all of us mothers should have done a better job of bringing up our boys and preparing them for an unnatural life, with temptations and strains which they have never had before. Locking people up does not get you very far, for other people come forward. Perhaps the only thing the authorities can do to safeguard both young men and women is to see that there is supervision and treatment which will prevent any increase in social disease.


I have read that many high-school students listen to the radio two hours or more a day, and some as much as six hours a day. I think most radio programs are a shocking waste of time, but don't know how to keep my daughter, who is a radio fan, from doing what her friends do.

You have made a statement, and have not asked a question. However, I gather that what you want to know is whether it is wise for young people to spend a great deal of time listening to the radio.

It depends almost entirely on what they listen to and, like everything else, it is a question of moderation. There are certain things that most of us have to do which require concentration, and which will not permit distraction by the radio, and it is better to shut off the radio when working on them. There are many times when the radio will not only give you a good program, but will furnish you with a feeling of companionship, which is sometimes sorely needed. I should preach moderation and common sense in the use of the radio, but not be too definite about the number of hours or minutes that young people may spend listening to the radio.


What was the most amusing occurrence in the White House since your advent there?

I cannot think of any except, perhaps, when five hundred people were expected at a reception, and only four came, and we found later that the invitations had never been issued. It was not only amusing, but it gave me some unexpected extra time, which is always welcome.


My husband wants our son to play football, and I don't. Do you think that "bodily-contact sports," as he calls them, are necessary to the development of a boy's character?

I do not know that "bodily-contact sports" are necessary to the development of a boy's character, but I do know if a boy wants to play football, and for any reason you keep him from it, you will probably find that his character—or his temper, at least—will not improve. He will probably align himself with his father and you will be left on the outside, so I advise you not to be too vocal about your feelings.


My neighborhood is full of Townsendites. I believe they are fighting for a beautiful ideal, but there seems to me something economically unsound about their preachments. What do you think about the Townsend Plan?

I think the Townsend Plan is somewhat visionary. I never believe in trying to move from one level to a level which is so much above that the transition is not gradual. We are just beginning to have old-age pensions, and to recognize our responsibility to all old people. There is no reason why anyone who has worked hard, even if they haven't been able to save enough to support themselves in old age, should be insecure. I believe in a very much modified Townsend Plan which will give to every young American the knowledge that old people will have something to exist on at that time of life, and that through an insurance system this can be guaranteed.


Generally speaking, do you think women are less truthful than men?

No. Women are quite as truthful as men, sometimes even more so.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1942

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Ladies' Home Journal, volume 59, January 1942

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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