If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1943


Why doesn’t Mr. Roosevelt come right out and say he's running for a fourth term, instead of playing politics in wartime?

The reason why Mr. Roosevelt could not come out and say that he is running for a fourth term is that he would not be telling the truth and he would most certainly be playing politics.

I doubt, however, if the President has ever given any thought to the issue of what he would do under a variety of circumstances which may arise between now and next summer. A whole year has to go by, with all the possibilities of change in the field of war as well as in the field of domestic affairs. How could any human being know what circumstances would be facing him a year from now, or what his decision would be on a question which does not have to be met until then?


What do you think of an otherwise generous husband who won't give his wife one red cent for her own spending money?

I should say that if a husband is generous in other ways, but does not give his wife spending money, it must be either because he is convinced that his wife is extravagant and cannot be trusted with spending money, or because he is the old-fashioned type who thinks wives must be kept completely dependent upon their husbands.

My belief is that it is a great deal better for a husband and wife to enter into an agreement before marriage as to how the family income shall be distributed, and it is well to have a distinct understanding of what part of it belongs to the wife and is hers exclusively. Much of what a wife does at home can never be paid for, but she is quite justified in thinking that there is an actual money value to some of the things which she does. It is very much better to have these agreements made before people are married; and they are part of the discussion which should go on between a man and a woman before they decide they can share the rest of their lives together. It is a great mistake to wait, not only until the marriage has taken place, but until there are children in the family. This places conscientious women in a position where they cannot say, "I do not like you, Doctor Fell," and go out and look after themselves, because they are responsible for the children as well as for themselves.


Don't you think the WPB ban on two-pants suits defeats itself, since such suits usually wear as long as two so-called "Victory" suits with only one pair of trousers?

I think the WPB ban on two pairs of trousers for a suit is ridiculous, because anybody who has brought up a family knows that a coat and waistcoat easily outlast two pairs of trousers, particularly if a man saves his coat by wearing an office coat.


Why didn't you answer my questions?

I am sorry if your questions were not answered, but the editors of the magazine tell me that hundreds of questions are received, and they have to select from them and then send them to me. As far as I know, I have never refused to answer any questions which they have sent me.

I think when a great many similar questions are received, they pick out the one that is best and include in one question the variations that may have come in, but I can assure you that the choice lies with the editors. They try to pick out the questions which they think are questions of interest to many people.


Some months ago you defended the secrecy surrounding union affairs and finances. Do you still feel the same way?

I think, in the statement to which you refer, I said that should publicity be given to the financial reports of labor unions, a weak union would suffer. Strong unions make reports to their members, and these reports are open to anyone who wants to see them. All labor unions, in order to be classed as tax-exempt organizations, must file a report of income and disbursements for the years preceding their application to the Treasury Department, but are not required to report after that.

The point in a weak union's or a new union's, not having its books open to the public is that open books give the employer an unfair advantage in that he would know whether or not the union could stand up against him as an organization. Unions are, after all, protection against unfair practices; and the advantage which the employer who did not wish to be fair might take of his employees is the reason for not making public reports, and I think it is quite understandable. Until a union is strong enough to stand up against an unfair employer, it does not want to give him the advantage of complete knowledge of its financial affairs. I think that when a union becomes a strong union, there should be no more objection to publishing its financial statements than a corporation should have. It would be fairly easy to set a limit on time or on size, and then unions would report like anyone else.


Don't you think a law should be passed permitting servicemen to vote wherever they are, so they can help determine the character of the peace they will win?

Yes, I certainly think servicemen, wherever they are, should have permission to vote during the period of their military service. The difficulties are technical ones. Each state controls the qualifications of its citizens for voting, and how the voting should be done, so it would mean that each state would either have to agree on a standard, or would have to cede to the Federal Government permission to devise a way by which servicemen could vote.


Considering the fact that radio stations are licensed by the existing Administration and therefore exist only by grant of power from whichever party is in the ascendant, combined with the fact that radio is so heavily under war censorship, don't you think it would be best to inform people that radio will always be a thoroughly censored medium?

Radio licenses are granted by the Federal Communications Commission. This commission is an independent bureau, established by an act of Congress, June 19, 1934. It is not controlled politically. It is composed of seven members and functions as a unit.

It seems to me that though, of course, the radio has to be censored on war information, just as newspapers are, it is as free a medium of information as there is in the country, though, like the newspapers, it is naturally affected and colored somewhat by its sponsors. Advertising naturally has considerable effect both on the radio and on newspapers and magazines.


In numerous films Mr. Roosevelt's voice is used, and I would like to know whether his voice is actually dubbed into the films or was an imitator used?

In practically all the films which you see where the President's voice is heard, he has actually done the speaking. There was a time when someone tried to imitate the President's voice, and today, for some very special reasons, permission may be granted, but that is very seldom done and it is always frankly stated.


Why are some soldiers shipped overseas without getting a furlough, while others get home quite often?

The sending of soldiers overseas is based on military needs. When soldiers are so situated in camps in this country that they have regular time off and can get away, they usually are allowed to do so within the continental limits. Most of them have furloughs of several days, at stated intervals; but once the training period is over and they are actually needed at some battle front, then they are shipped to that front regardless of whether a furlough is due at that time or not. It is not the likes or dislikes of the soldier or his family which govern these things—it is purely the needs of the war.


Don't you think doctors, farmers, war workers, and so on, with T gas cards, and others with C gas rations who use their gas for personal driving, and other ration cheaters, should be classed with strikers in wartime?

I think all people who are living in the United States today should approach everyday living exactly as though they were soldiers on duty. They should feel in honor bound to live up to the spirit of any rules or regulations or war needs which come before them.

There will arise border-line cases in which it is hard to decide whether they should follow one course or another. In such cases I think they must do what common sense dictates and what will help them to meet their personal obligations in the best possible way. By doing so they will, of course, help the community situation as a whole.


Don't you think the stories about WAAC immorality are terribly unfair, considering the fact that every time women take over new fields where men are, the charge of increasing immorality is invariably made?

I am assured by the authorities that the morality among the Waacs is very high. These girls have stricter supervision than any other group of girls in the country, and they are serious-minded young women who have volunteered for a war job.

This rumor about immorality went the rounds in Great Britain and in Canada when women started to replace men, and it looks to me very much like Axis-inspired propaganda. We have now in the WAAC the equivalent of four divisions, and when it is up to the authorized strength we will have the equal of ten divisions of men. When you realize that the Axis would do anything to prevent our building up a force of women which will release that many men for actual combat, it is easy to understand that the Axis would be pleased if these rumors were to affect our enlistments. Many innocent people repeat this rumor and are thereby playing Hitler's game and doing what he would like to have us do—namely, to discredit our women.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1943

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, August 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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