If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

March 1943


Some people think that we are in danger of losing the war because of our liquor traffic. If so, why is it not removed from our training camps?

You must have read in the paper not long ago that the Office of War Information made a survey of our Army camps in this country. It was found that, as an Army, this is the soberest Army we have ever had, so if we lose the war it will not be on account of too much drinking.

I am quite sure that very few men in the fighting fronts can obtain very much to drink. Too much shipping space is needed for ammunition and implements of war and for food, so I think that it will not be this particular thing which will have any effect on our winning the war.


Don't you think some of the New Dealers should have had foresight enough to have provided for the present food shortage in staples?

The Secretary of Agriculture would be the person responsible in this country for setting aside supplies, and I think you probably have heard for a long while about our efforts to establish an ever-normal granary. Great foresight was shown in the increase of certain types of production and the setting aside of certain things to meet emergency requirements, but no one could have set aside enough to meet the needs of this war, because the country would not have allowed the Government to use that amount of money. It would have increased our taxes, and when we are not under the sting of the whip of necessity we rarely voluntarily allow the Government to do things which cost us a certain amount of hardship, even though the Government might see the need and wish it could persuade the people to see it also.


Do you think the rank and file of labor enjoy the labor unions as they are now run?

I think a great many union people find the unions extremely valuable and are grateful to them for the benefits and protection which they have obtained. There are a few union officials who occasionally oppress their members, or grow fat on unlawful levies, but these men are no more prevalent in labor unions than are the corrupt business leaders in the industrial ranks. By and large, I think you will find that labor which has been unionized recognizes the value of the union and the benefits it has received over a period of years, particularly as unions grow strong enough to be a real protection.

Of course, if the members of a union really begin to be discontented and feel their leadership is poor, they have a very easy remedy. They can use their ballots in the union elections just as we use them in local, state and national elections. Leaders never could remain in office unless the rank and file of the union members allowed them to remain.


I have heard many rumors that some of the men in Army training camps in the United States are not being fed properly. Where is the remedy for this situation?

Of course, where men in the Army are not being fed property, it usually means that the mess sergeant is not a good planner, or that the cook is not a good cook. Such supplies as are distributed from a central point are all about the same in quality, but in most cases the camps buy certain things in the neighborhood, and it may be that some camps are so situated that they cannot buy certain types of food that other camps can buy.

If it is a case of a poor cook, the remedy is for the men to ask for a new one. Perhaps if we train some Waacs as cooks, you will find good cooks who will be one solution to the problem! If it is a case of a poor mess sergeant, the men can complain until he is changed. If it is a case of having the camp in a part of the country where certain foods are unavailable, then I am afraid there is nothing to do but grin and bear it. On the whole I have found that the men in our Army are well fed and pretty healthy and that the grumbling is just the kind of Army grumbling which is the sign of a good soldier.


Did you know the $25,000 ceiling on salaries was first proposed by the Communist Party?

No, I did not.


Should I report a neighbor who is chiseling on gas and other rationing? I want to be patriotic, but I do not like being an informer.

I think it would be difficult for anyone to report a neighbor, and they should not do so unless they can produce absolute proof. If you are in an important position where you have a responsibility to the Government or to the community, then I think if you know of any citizen who is not living up to his obligation you should report it.


Why can't patriotic girls of eighteen join the WAAC or WAVES when their brothers are drafted at that age?

When the bill creating the WAAC was introduced, it was at a time when the Army was drafting only twenty-one-to-forty-four-year-old groups, and so the age group was set up on that basis and it never has been changed.

It was written into the law which created the WAVES that the minimum age should be twenty years. The WAVES accept officer candidates from twenty to fifty, and enlisted personnel from twenty to thirty-five. Miss McAfee said that their own feeling in the matter is that the Waves were in the service to replace men as well as to take their own particular places, and when they are not in strictly women's battalions they must be mature enough so the problems of control, behavior and education would not arise to any marked degree. The same sentiment was expressed by Mrs. Hobby.


Why won't the Army or the Navy commission women doctors?

Women doctors are being taken into the Navy through the WAVES, and are under the control of the Surgeon-General's office.

Women doctors are taken for duty in the WAAC. After a month's training they are commissioned as first lieutenants. None are taken into the Army itself, because the Comptroller General has ruled that none of the appropriation pay of the Army, as applied to officers, shall be utilized to pay women. The nurses are paid out of a special appropriation. It is also stated that the demands of women physicians to enter the service is small. They do not want to do it through the WAAC and it is hard for the Army to interest them. The officials think that so many of these women physicians are in child welfare, maternity and such work that they fill a very important part in civilian life.

To me, personally, it seems that there ought to be some leeway in both the Army and the Navy so that when there is an exceptional case, where a woman is fitted for particular service and can leave a locality more easily than a man, it might be possible to take that particular woman doctor. This is evidently something on which both the Congress and the heads of our armed forces may require a little more education before they see eye to eye with women on it.


How do you avoid the exhausting sense of confusion I get on the average housewife's busy day when all your days are so much busier than mine?

I think I am very fortunate in that I have a great many people to help me do the things which are exhausting and which take up a great deal of one's time. The things which I do require a little planning, a certain amount of supervision, but they do not lead to confusion or to great weariness.


Couldn't there be a pin or some insignia for young 4-F's in war work, so people wouldn't criticize them as slackers?

I think it would be a very good idea and suggest that you present it to Mr. Donald Nelson.


Why aren't small children given an allowance under meat as they are under sugar rationing?

Under meat rationing, there has been no announcement as to whether children will get a full allowance or a fractional allowance. This question has not been finally decided, as formal rationing has not yet begun. The Office of War Information voluntary Share-the-Meat program recommends to consumers that children should be given fractional allowances of meat. There are two breaks in the age groups: from six to twelve years, which get approximately half of the 2 ½ pounds, or 1 ½ pounds; from six months to six years, which get a smaller ration, ¾ pound. Above twelve, 2 ½ pounds. This is the recommendation of the OWI and was arrived at by consultation with the dietitians of the Government and other experts in the field. Other phases might have to be considered in connection with the formal meat-rationing plan which is to follow the voluntary Share-the-Meat campaign.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, March 1943

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, March 1943

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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