If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1942


If a married man has had insurance policies for years before being drafted, is he still expected to pay premiums while in the Army? Can his wife stay on in the house they were buying even though payments cannot be made on the mortgage?

The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act provides that any policy up to a face value of $5000 may be protected during the period of military service and for one year thereafter on application to the Veterans Administration and to the insurer. There are certain qualifications as to the eligibility of the policy: If more than 50 per cent of its cash surrender value is pledged to a loan, it is not eligible for protection, and any policy that has a war clause is not eligible; also, it must have been taken out before the period of military service began. There is a bill—S-4270*—which gives all the details.

In answer to the second half of your question: if the mortgage was executed prior to October 17, 1940, the date of the passage of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, and foreclosure proceedings are commenced, then the court may stay those proceedings for the period of military service and for ninety days thereafter, if, in its opinion, the ability of the mortgagor to make payments is materially impaired by reason of his service. The man has no absolute right to keep a house and not make payments, except that the court may stay any foreclosures during the period of service and three months thereafter; and if such action is taken, the wife, of course, may live there. Section 302, Article III, of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act* gives full information.

*Your U.S. senator or representative will send you a copy of this bill if you will write to him.


Why, in these times, is the President playing politics in New York and elsewhere?

I do not think the President is playing politics. He is taking an interest as a citizen of his own state in the people who he thinks will best serve the state; and the President, having served the country as a whole, cannot help being interested also in the people who are going to serve the other states of the nation, either locally or in the Congress. It would be difficult indeed to be a good citizen and not take that interest.

I wonder if people who criticize an interest in politics at the present time forget that they themselves should take as much—or more—interest as the President does, because on the people whom they elect to office will depend greatly not only the conduct of the war, but the conditions under which they as civilians in cities and states will live during this crisis. This is no time for anybody, from the Chief Executive down, to abdicate an interest in politics unless they also decide that living in a democracy does not mean the participation by individual citizens in their form of government.


Why aren't married nurses allowed to serve with the Army or Navy? Many of these nurses are childless and their husbands are in the service.

I think it has always been the policy of the Army and Navy not to have married nurses: first, because if their husbands are in the services they are apt to want, quite naturally, to go where their husbands are, if possible; secondly, because it adds to the strain of being a nurse to know that they have family obligations which they may not be able to fulfill. At the present time it would seem to be entirely unnecessary for married nurses to try to serve in the Army and Navy, since they can serve in the public-health services of their communities and in public and private hospitals for civilians, where they are much needed.


Why do they bring all the heroes home so President Roosevelt can pin medals on them? Why don't they stay over there and fight and receive their medals after the war is won?

Has it ever occurred to you that when a person has been under great strain he has to be taken away from it? Men who have done exceptionally brave things and who have been in exceptionally dangerous or difficult situations conduct themselves well, but after a time they need to come home; they deserve recognition from their commander in chief for the work which they have done.


Negro women all over the country are forming Eleanor Roosevelt clubs and demanding high wages and short hours. What will the average working woman do when servants demand almost as much wages as she makes?

The average working woman does not as a rule have servants. I did not know that Negro women were forming Eleanor Roosevelt clubs. I would regret it exceedingly, because I think, instead of forming clubs of that kind, they should enter a union and make their household work a profession. They should then receive adequate wages and live up to the same standards as other people engaged in domestic work.

Domestic work in the past, particularly in the case of Negro women, has been in certain parts of the country a very low-paid occupation, and the standards of work have very often been low. The two should change together. No one should be asked to work in other people's homes for the three to five dollars a week which in some places has been the prevailing wage. No person engaging domestic workers should have to put up with the kind of work which some people, both white and colored, do. For this work people should be trained and then, very often, one hour's work would be worth five or six by an unskilled worker.

I do think that a union of domestic workers must have flexible rules, since every household has its own particular needs. Certain standards undoubtedly could be set up, however, and I think employers probably need education as much as the employees in many cases. I have worked on committees for many years, which have been concerned not only with the wages and hours of domestic employees, but also with the standards of work in the homes. I think the consensus in most of these groups has been that education is needed by the employer as well as by the employee.


I have heard much unfriendly criticism of the President's giving the Hopkins family free residence in the White House. Just how did he acquire that privilege?

Your criticism seems odd to me. I imagine that anyone who is elected as President of the United States, and, as a result, lives in the White House, has the privilege of inviting anyone to live there that he desires. The reasons for inviting people would be reasons which he alone would have to consider. No one else would have the slightest right to question his invitation.

When you live in the White House you are conscious that you are living in a house that belongs to the public and that, as far as the public rooms and the public entertainment go, you must do what the public expects; but even there you have a right to decide whether you consider the public is best served by having public functions or not. During the war they are not held.

In the private rooms of the White House, the President has the right to do as he chooses. He pays for the food which everybody eats, including all the servants, except at official dinners, and even then he pays for his personal guests. Even though a man is elected to serve the public as President, no American President I know of has completely abdicated his right to live his private life. There his own tastes and his own friends may be entirely separate from his public life, or may merge, as he wishes. He serves the public in the performance of his public duties, and on that record he is judged.

His character and qualities of mind and heart are judged by the public at election time and they can change any official at stated times.


Why do our loved ones have to be sent over to foreign countries to protect our country?

For the very simple reason that in going to foreign countries they are protecting their own country. If they wait until their own shores are attacked they would invite a catastrophe of the first water for all the people of the nation. It is necessary to keep the sea lanes of the world open if we are going to continue to live on the level which we have lived on in the past. It is necessary to help the nations who are engaging our immediate enemies in the war at the present time, unless we want to run the risk of having them go down and being entirely isolated, to fight alone against the victorious nations.

I think your loved ones will explain to you when they return what it would mean to you if we waited until the United States was attacked in the way that Great Britain, China and Russia are being attacked today. The world is too small and too interdependent to try to go back to the partial self-sufficiency of our ancestors.


Do you think it unpatriotic for boys and girls to attend college in these times if they are financially able to do so?

I think it deplorable to consider attending college simply from the point of view of whether you are financially able to do so or not. I have always felt that in a democracy, somehow, we should arrange so that all young people consider the opportunity for higher education, not from the point of view of finances, but from the point of view of what they desire to do in life and their ability to do it. It certainly has nothing to do with patriotism either, since, if the Government needs you, whether you are attending college or not, you will be called by the Government; but the Government realizes that young people who really intend to do work which will fit them to be more useful in the world are doing a valuable service either by going to college or, if that is not the type of work they intend to do, by taking courses which will make them skilled workers.


Why don't we have nationwide days of prayer for our fighting men and country?

I imagine we have. I am sure you would find that nearly all churches pray for our country and for our fighting forces every Sunday. I imagine also that there is no mature individual in the country who at some time during every day does not say a similar prayer in his own heart.


Do you think it should be permissible for teachers to wear anklets to school, now that stockings are scarce?

Winter is coming and anklets will be a trifle cold! Seriously, however, if there is a real shortage of stockings in the place where you live, and you cannot buy stockings, of course you will be obliged to wear anklets or go without stockings. As long as you can buy stocking that wear fairly well, at a reasonable price, I think you would find yourself open to less criticism as a teacher if you wore them. Conditions may change with the war, but that would be my reaction now.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1942

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 59, October 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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