If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1942


Will you please state, once for all, the proper pronunciation of your family name?

It is a little difficult to explain the pronunciation of my name without being able to say it. However, if you think of the flower, rose, and continue as I am spelling it here—Rose-e-velt—you will have it right. The emphasis should be on the first syllable, and the e in the middle pronounced as "uh," a separate syllable but slurred.


Is it true that English owners of land leased to the United States for bases in exchange for fifty destroyers are in some cases charging the United States Government more in annual rent than previous sales price of the land?

To answer this question I had to consult the State Department. They say they have never heard of any case of this kind, that all values have been gone over by proper people in the Government, and they think stories of this nature are pure fiction.


Do you think it right to draft boys and not draft money?

I think drafting boys and drafting money have very little connection. They should be considered as separate things. Any citizen of proper age has an obligation to defend his country, and this has to be recognized in a democracy. When we consider the question of whether we should draft money, I think we have to consider the various ways in which that can be done. We, in this country, are doing it in a number of ways. Taxation is the first and obvious one.

I think the real answer is that in a period of emergency everybody should be required to serve the country in every way that is possible. There is no way, however, of balancing the service rendered by money and the service rendered by people. No amount of money can pay for human life.


I have a five-year-old son, and I know now that I don't love my husband and never did. We have talked it over and he wants a divorce. I don't because of Johnny, who needs a home, I think. Which of us is right?

It seems to me that if your husband wants a divorce life would be pretty unbearable for all of you unless you granted his wish. A marriage without love is intolerable, and a home without love is a poor place for a child to grow up. Every child needs a home and security, but it is impossible to have any security or any real home when love does not exist between the father and the mother.


Why doesn't the Government train girls to fly? I am sure they could be used to ferry bombers, even if there is no need for them in actual fighting.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration did give courses to girls, which were terminated in March, 1941; because of the national emergency they are concentrating on the training of young men.

To ferry bombers, or to be employed for ferrying purposes, required an ability to fly all kinds of planes. This is true in England at the present time. This would require a great deal of training, and few women have had that amount of training. It will take some time for them to acquire it, but I think there is no reason why they should not be given the opportunity, however.


Do you think that girls should let the bars down and speak to soldiers and sailors they have not been properly introduced to?

It all depends on the girl. If a girl is able to behave herself and is a good judge of people, I think there is no danger in speaking to any soldier or sailor who she thinks needs a gesture of friendship or courtesy which she is able to extend.


At the end of this war, do you really believe a new League of Nations can be reconstructed which will help to eradicate militaristic materialism and intolerance born of national boundaries?

I do not know whether a new League of Nations should be created, but I do know that we must have machinery through which we can attempt to build a world where situations like the present do not recur. I am quite sure we are capable of doing this if we approach the problem in a realistic manner and recognize that policing is part of all orderly government.


You said once that of all books, you had rather have been the author of the Book of Ruth. Will you please say why?

I think I would like to have written the Book of Ruth because it is such a charming story and so beautifully written.


May I ask just how you cope with insolence in voice, manner or questions of the envious or jealous women you meet in public life? There are times when it is almost impossible to be calm without meekness being interpreted as weakness.

I am not conscious of meeting any envious or jealous women in the work which I do. I am fully aware of the fact that almost everyone with whom I come in contact has equal capacities and, in some cases, far greater ability than I have. I am always most grateful for criticism and suggestions.


Lately I had a hot argument with a lady who said that you may have at one time given the money you made from lectures and writing to worth-while causes, but now you keep it all for yourself. Is this true?

No, this is not true. I keep a certain amount of money which I earn by writing and lecturing for certain personal expenses, such as traveling, for instance. The rest of this money I give to organizations, and in some cases to individuals who need help. The wife of the President, as well as the President himself, receives many requests for contributions and assistance.

All that I make on the radio, after I deduct a certain percentage for my income tax, goes direct to charitable organizations.

I think this story has arisen from the fact that I used to assign the whole of my radio money to charity without having it paid to me. Congressman Hamilton Fish publicly questioned my right to do this, and said that it could be done only when a single benefit performance was given, and not when one earned a regular sum every week, as I did. Since that time I have accepted this money, reported these earnings in my income-tax return, made the necessary deductions and given the rest to charity.


In answering the question on how to solve anti-Semitism, you mentioned the avoiding of "aggressiveness." Do you mean that a Jewish individual should not belong to Jewish organizations, such as the American Jewish Congress, which I have recently joined to combat anti-Semitic movements?

No, I certainly think it is right and proper that Jewish people should join together in their own organizations and should work to combat anti-Semitic movements.

I think, however, that it is unnecessary to separate on racial or religious lines. As far as is possible, I should like to see people work together. By "aggressive" I mean that at times you will meet people who push a particular interest of their own rather more aggressively than do other elements in the community. This is not always peculiar to one particular religious or racial group. I think all of us should watch ourselves for the habit of pushing our own interests until other people are wearied or annoyed by our apparent neglect of their interests.


Why are not strikers on defense work treated—for the duration only, of course—the same as a soldier who deserts?

Because they are not in the employment of the Government and because they haven't taken the same oath. They are civilians who are preserving for themselves and for the men in our military services the rights of civilians. Many soldiers will be returning one day to the enjoyment of these rights, and they will be glad to find them still in existence.


Do you approve of junior-high-school girls or high-school girls wearing cosmetics to look grown-up?

No, I do not approve of using cosmetics to appear grown-up. I should think it would be simpler to wait until leaving high school before trying to enhance your good looks.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1942

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 59, February 1942

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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