The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition
If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1943


Do you think sound community organizations should curtail money-raising activities and entertainments for the duration?

No. It seems to me that community life will have to go on, but civic and charitable activities should be constantly scrutinized to make sure that they are valuable at this time. People, however, need recreation in times of strain, and some things become more important than in peacetime, so I would certainly not advocate curtailing anything which proved good entertainment and aided causes which were of value to the community.


I hear that over 600 convicts have been sterilized at San Quentin, at their own request. Don't you think this is a dangerous thing? Everyone—except the Nazis—knows that environment and not heredity makes criminals.

During the past seven years a total of 225 men have been sterilized. Of that number 116 were sterilized since January 1, 1940—which is an average of about three a month, and all at their own request.

The above statement was obtained from the Bureau of Prisons. I do not know whether all these men were inmates of San Quentin. It is probably true that heredity does not make criminals; but there are certain traits which may be inherited and, while they do not make criminals, they do not make desirable citizens.


Don't you think, in wartime, Army nurses should be permitted to meet privates, as well as officers, socially?

I understand they are permitted to except in public places. There they are governed by the same rules which govern all officers.


I am a defense worker who has recently married a man in the same line of work. My husband is all for having a baby right away, but I want to keep on with my job until the war is over. What do you think?

This is something for you and your husband to decide together; but since you married him, I should think a baby was something you would both want. Every woman can hold a job, but not every woman can have a baby.


I have heard girls say they wouldn't think of joining the Waves or Waacs because they think that women who put on uniforms are aping men. What do you think of such a statement?

I think it is an utterly ridiculous statement. They are not aping men. They are wearing the kind of clothes which are suitable for the work they intend to do. If they do military work, they must of necessity wear military uniforms. If they work in a factory doing men's work, they will probably wear the type of garments which will make that work easier, and it is likely to be something like what the men wear.


What do you consider the least income you could live on contentedly if you had no official position?

It would depend on where I lived and what my obligations were; but of one thing I am quite sure: that whatever I have, I will be able to make myself live on it contentedly.


Have you any particular way of memorizing names—or do you forget them?

I have no way of memorizing names. I often forget them, but I do my best when I hear them to connect them in some way with the face of the person whom I have met. I happen, however, to be deaf in one ear and very often I do not hear the names of people when I am introduced to them, and therefore I concentrate on remembering faces.


Why hasn't the Government yet told us exactly what our losses were at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines?

I think it is quite obvious that to give out losses publicly is probably not wise, because the news reaches the enemy as well as our own people and may give the enemy information which is of value to him. Every relative has been informed of whatever the department knows, whether a man is reported dead, wounded, missing or a prisoner.


If our falling birth rate is now going up because young mothers can look forward to dependents' pay, why doesn't the Government plan to extend this policy after the war—a cash allowance for each child?

I think that is a question that you should put up to Congress. There are, however, some facts which you should think over before doing so—namely, in wartime men are taken into the armed forces, many of them against their own volition, and in peacetime a man is supposed, if he can find a job, to work to support his own family.


How do you feel about drafting all strikers?

I think that is a question which the Manpower Board should decide. If we were to draft all strikers regardless of where they were really most needed, we might find ourselves putting men who are vitally needed in some industry into relatively unimportant positions in the Army. This is the reason why Selective Service exists and the Manpower Board exists, and I think they are the ones to consider this question.


Do you like "hot" music or prefer the classics? Does your husband agree with you?

I prefer classical music because I know it better, and I think my husband would agree with me, though he has very little time nowadays to enjoy music.

About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1943

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, January 1943

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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