If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1942

 

How does the Government think expectant mothers, whose husbands are drafted, can support themselves and their babies?

Of course, the Government is not supposed to take this responsibility. A man should present to his draft board the true situation in which he finds himself, and the draft board should consider whether the man is needed at home and should remain, or whether the responsibility can be carried by somebody else.

If a man does not present the full facts of the situation or the woman discovers that she is pregnant after he has gone into the service, the man should at once go to his superior officer and state his case. I am sure an investigation will be made and, where necessary, the man discharged.

 

Negro soldiers guard the railroad bridge in our Maine town. Recently I invited one of the soldiers to dine with us and our whole family (white) is being criticized. Should I have done this?

I see no reason why you should not have invited a Negro soldier to dine with you if you wished to do so. I imagine there are some white people whom you would not like to have in your home, and there might be Negroes whom you would not like to have there either. Just because a person is black, there is no reason why you should not be kind to him if he is a nice person.

After all, we have got to face the fact that we have allies today in India and in China, and that our attitude toward the other races of the world must become one of co-operation rather than one of domination, if we are going to lay a basis for a better world in the future. I believe, of course, that the emphasis in our relationship with the Negroes should be to see that they get their full rights as citizens, but the personal equation is one which every person has to decide for himself. We are free to act as our own conscience and our own inclination dictate. We live in a free country where we are not forced to do anything about our personal relationships which we do not feel like doing.

 

I'm as tall as you and I'd like to know what you do when you meet short people.

I never really think about what I do when I meet short people. Perhaps I bend over a little bit. As a matter of fact, I try to remember to stand as straight as I can most of the time, because I think otherwise all tall people are apt to grow round-shouldered. But I never notice whether people I am talking to are short or tall. I think, probably, to be unconscious of one's height is the best way to make other people unconscious of it too.

 

I hear so much criticism of the Red Cross that I wonder if their finances are audited.

The books of the American Red Cross are audited, by an act of Congress, by the War Department, and a continuous audit goes on. Every year an annual report of the audit is made by the Secretary of War to the Congress of the United States. The fact that the Red Cross books are audited by a Government department and a report made to the Congress seems proof enough that the criticism is unjustified and without foundation in fact.

I, too, have had several letters criticizing the Red Cross, and have had several of them very carefully investigated. In every instance, the person making the accusation could produce no evidence and admitted that he or she was simply repeating something which someone else had told someone else. In one instance, a woman who wrote to me that sweaters were being sold admitted that she was repeating something which had been told to her in 1917 by a man whose name she forgot!

 

Why should not purchase of War Savings Bonds be made as compulsory as paying income taxes?

It seems to me that it would be impossible to make the buying of War Savings Bonds, in the amounts that we would like people to buy them, compulsory.

There are two real objectives in buying these bonds. One is to prevent inflation by a real sacrifice which will cut out the buying of goods. The other is to build up a backlog with which to buy civilian goods when the war is over, and the turnover to civilian production must be met.

If, however, each individual has taken out of his income, or out of his pay, so much every week or every month as a matter of course, each individual will feel, perhaps, that his responsibility ends there. Whereas, the only real way to make these sales of value is to make every person, every time he starts to buy anything, stop and think whether he actually is buying a necessity, as otherwise that money could go into War Savings Stamps or Bonds. If people throughout the nation are made to realize that this is a personal responsibility, that they live in a democracy, that they have a personal obligation which cannot be shoved off on the Government, but which obliges them to buy of their own free will, then, I think, we shall achieve better results in the amount of bonds and stamps sold, and also in the way of building up citizenship.

 

Did Mr. Roosevelt remove the Japanese stamps from his collection?

I have never asked him. I doubt very much if he would remove them, and it would seem to me a very foolish gesture.

 

Don't you think it would improve morale to try Kimmel and Short now and determine whether they are entitled to a pension out of our taxes?

I can hardly see how the trial of Admiral Kimmel and General Short would improve anyone's morale. Their pensions are given them for their years of service. They have been retired at a time when they undoubtedly would give anything in the world for a chance to redeem themselves. They were proved by investigation to have been careless, but it was certainly not willful, and trials would not bring back the boys who were killed. I doubt if anything could make them suffer more than they have already suffered.

 

Why don't the boys overseas receive mail sent to them?

The reason the boys overseas have not been getting much mail is that we have a bottleneck in shipping. It has been difficult to keep enough ships at sea in the face of the sinkings. The actual necessities—food, ammunition, guns, and so on—must go ahead of the mail. An effort is being made now to establish a little better and more regular mail service, but it will always have to be subordinated to the other needs. Added to this, some mail for boys in foreign service has been lost on ships that have been sunk.

 

Do you think a girl of seventeen is too young to go to dances?

No. I should think a girl of seventeen quite old enough to go to dances for young people of her own age.

 

What do you think of women actually fighting, as they are reported to be doing in Russia?

When the time comes that women are needed in the fighting line, they will be found in the fighting line. They are evidently needed in Russia and they are doing what it is necessary for them to do. In the pioneer days of our own country, many a woman fought side by side with her husband; and if the need comes again, women will meet that need.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1942

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 59, July 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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