If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1943

 

Why did you make a trip to England after the President requested us all to give up unnecessary travel?

Quite obviously I did not consider it unnecessary travel. I would not undertake any travel, certainly not a trip which required a great deal of thought, if it did not seem necessary, not only to me but to many other people.

The fact that Queen Elizabeth invited me to see the work which the women were accomplishing was evidence that she hoped there might be something useful to our war effort in my seeing their work. It was important, also, for us to understand better the war effort of the British people as a whole. The fact that I am the President's wife made the British people feel that my coming was a sign of interest in them. For the same reason, I think our men overseas felt my visit was a tangible evidence of their Government's interest in their lives.

I had already felt that visiting the hospitals on the West Coast had been something which had given interest and pleasure to the wounded men. I hoped, also, that in going to Great Britain it might be possible to bring home a picture of life "over there" to the women in this country whose men were abroad, which would make them feel closer than they could otherwise feel. I think this has proved to be true, because I already have had a great many letters from women who feel that my visit did bring them news which they wanted.

It seemed, not only to me but to many other people, that this trip was a useful part of our war effort and therefore worth surmounting difficulties, since it could not have been done in quite the same way by anyone else.

 

Why are landlords permitted to laugh at rent ceilings by refusing to paper, paint or make necessary repairs? Why are they permitted to discriminate against families with children—even one small baby?

I do not think that landlords are permitted to refuse to make necessary repairs, but they try to bluff the tenants, knowing that the process which tenants would have to go through legally would take a long time and that in all probability they will not resort to legal action.

Therefore, the landlords will be able to get away with something which they should not get away with. I do not think, either, that there is the slightest reason why they should be permitted to discriminate against families with children, but unfortunately that is something which only public opinion can change. The owner has a right to refuse to accept a tenant without giving any reason if he so desires, and even if he announces the reason I suppose no legal action could be taken.

 

Why no ceiling on the incomes of the coupon clippers?

There is a limit on the incomes of "coupon clippers," as you call them. Everyone must report on incomes and pay an income tax and victory tax, and that covers whatever you have invested as well as the ceiling on salaries covers that source of income.

 

Why do expectant mothers have to wait six months for Army allotments after their husbands are drafted? Necessary expenses won't wait.

The "expectant" part has nothing to do with the situation. "Expectant" and "non-expectant" are treated the same. Six months is longer than they have to wait. After the soldier has submitted application for family allotment, say, on December fifteenth, on January first the payments start to accrue, continue through January, and are paid on January thirty-first or February first. This would be a delay of one or two months from the time the soldier makes application. However, he must make application—it is not done automatically when the man is inducted.

I want to add that in answer to a question of where help could be obtained—medical care for the wives of soldiers—I left out the fact that the American Red Cross is one of the first places where women can appeal for help and for maternity care. This is one of the responsibilities the Red Cross undertakes frequently.

 

Why not insist on a vindictive peace if stories of German and Jap atrocities are true? The Bible says "an eye for an eye."

There are a good many things in the Bible which, if you took them literally, you might find it rather difficult to carry out. Somehow I think it is more important to have a just peace than a vindictive one. We are interested in the future of peoples, and in their ability to learn to live together in peace. We have been brought to a situation where we had to go to war by the mentality of Germans and Japanese, which we do not wish to continue in any peoples in the world. The only way I know to change that mentality is to lay great emphasis on justice.

 

When The Star-Spangled Banner is being played over the radio in our home, is it correct to stand at attention?

I think everyone in the United States is doing as you do. I know we do, and I should feel very uncomfortable if any of us did not feel the impulse to pay that tribute to the national anthem.

 

Why, when farmers and war workers can't get tires, are large beer trucks on the road every day hauling stuff that's not necessary, but a curse to the people and an abomination in the sight of God?

It seems to me that you are a little extreme in your question. There are a good many people who do not consider beer a curse to the people and an abomination in the sight of God. Many of these people are in the armed forces, and if you cut out beer, you might find a greater demand for spirits with greater alcoholic content. I cannot help thinking that moderation in beer drinking is preferable. You are wrong in your statement that farmers and war workers cannot get tires. They have to prove their needs, but their needs get consideration.

 

Do you think it fair that a young girl with a job, just married to a boy in service, should get the same allotment as a much older wife of long standing?

Allotments are a question of what the man in service wishes to allot, not of the period of marriage. It may happen that a young wife gets more than an older one, but we must not forget that these young wives may not be able to keep on their jobs. Perhaps the boy who allots more than an older man is facing realities and envisioning certain things in the future that may happen to his young wife.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1943

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, February 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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