If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1943

 

Didn't you realize that you were advising people to break a military regulation of supreme importance, signed by the President of the United States, when you told JOURNAL readers to "beat the censor" by the use of private family codes?

I am afraid I should never be facetious. What I really meant, in the answer given, was that with a certain amount of ingenuity people who know something about history or geography will certainly be able to grasp, not the exact spot where their sons may be but somewhere in the neighborhood where they are.

Every family, of course, has certain family jokes and family sayings. These are not codes meant to beat the censor, but they are things which only the family or friend could understand; and sometimes they mean something to the family or friend which might indicate, in some way, the approximate place that a man might be.

There are other things which are said about places many times. Different writers or speakers use the same phrases. If people are familiar with these writers they may quote, without any intention of using a code, but the quotes may convey again an idea which may give an approximate location to the people to whom they are writing. That is something which has nothing to do with codes or censorship, but is just ordinary common American knowledge and family or friendly relationship.

It is not intended to deceive. It is simply the way people who know each other well will communicate with each other. Very often in ordinary life people do not always write out everything they mean. They leave something to the imagination of the person to whom they are writing, and that was all that I had in mind.

I am sorry I phrased my answer so as to give the censor trouble. I am quite sure the President of the United States would have understood that I was not advising anyone to beat the censor, or to use any kind of real code.

 

How can I have the baby my husband and I want—and should have as our contribution to the future of our country—as my husband is in uniform and I have to work to support myself? What is a white—collar wife to do now that the baby nurses are all in defense industry?

There are nearly always people who would rather take care of babies or who, for one reason or another, have to work at something different than defense work. You will have to try hard to find one of these people if you want to keep on with your job. Otherwise you may have to find ways of getting on for a while on whatever your husband can send you and stay at home yourself to take care of the baby. If your husband is a private and you have no one else in the family who can help you out, you may find it impossible to support yourself and a baby; but if you have someone who can help you and you can manage to get along for a while on what your husband sends, you may later be able to find someone whom you can pay, or perhaps a nursery where you can leave the baby for the time when you are at work.

 

Is the mother of two sons in the Army entitled to a full allotment from each?

A mother is entitled to an allowance from each boy. However, she must prove that she is substantially dependent upon each for support. She comes under what is ruled as Class B dependent. For instance, if a mother has five sons in the service and she can show that she is substantially dependent upon each for support, she would be entitled to the allotment made by each son and the Government would add an allowance to each one.

 

Shouldn't ODT save gasoline any other way than by cutting down deliveries of milk and endangering the health of children our boys are fighting to protect?

I think what the ODT is trying to teach us is how we can help by going to get things ourselves, instead of having them delivered. In ordinary times it is a good thing to have things delivered, and the more comfort we get out of life the better, because it provides employment; but in times such as these, when men and women are needed in essential work in great numbers and we find it hard to get enough, then we who are at home must learn to do for ourselves things which we have never done before. Getting our own milk is perhaps going to be one of the things which we can do to help in the war effort, and if it is, then the ODT is teaching us a lesson which we should learn.

 

Many young men, whose college careers were interrupted, are coming back to Army and Navy hospitals where time must hang heavy on their hands during long periods of convalescence. Couldn't the Government arrange for near-by colleges to offer extension courses to these boys who have given so much to their country?

There is an Armed Forces Committee on Post War Personnel, appointed by the President. That board is working on a plan whereby the colleges will give credit for the courses that are being given now in hospitals and in outlying naval bases, if the boys enter college later, or if the Government sends them to college at any period. Professors who have been commissioned are giving the men an opportunity to take whatever courses they wish while in the hospitals or outlying bases. This is done in co-operation with the Army.

 

Don't you think the Government is taking a great risk bringing prisoners of war to the United States?

No, I do not think we are taking any risk in bringing prisoners of war to the United States. It seems to be absolutely necessary that we should take our share of the prisoners of war. We have a larger country in which to keep them safely, and they are farther away from the actual fighting fronts and less able to do harm to our boys. We make them work, and they are doing considerable necessary work which is a help in the present labor situation.

 

How can a staff sergeant be compelled to support his wife and child?

I do not know of any way in which you can make any man in the Army support a wife and child if he does not do so voluntarily.

 

Referring to your answer in the July JOURNAL concerning criticisms of a Supreme Court decision—was your husband also guilty of an injustice in his criticism of decisions by the "Nine Old Men"?

My husband never condemned the Supreme Court as an institution. He simply suggested that there were ways of improving it. That is entirely permissible, and I think my former answer was clear on that subject. You may also criticize certain individual decisions. The Supreme Court is made up of human beings and they may make mistakes, but the idea of the Supreme Court as a whole has proved itself good for a long time.

 

I've heard that every soldier is entitled to a furlough before he goes overseas, and yet my husband and many of the men in his outfit are being shipped without having been granted a single furlough since their induction four or five months ago. Is this fair?

It is very unfortunate when that happens to a man, but I have known it to happen in a number of instances. It only happens, however, when the needs of war require it; and you have to realize that from the time a man goes into the Army, while he will be given every consideration that is possible, there is one greater consideration, and that is the good of the country and the good of the service, and everything else must be subordinated to it. We just have to be grateful when the furloughs come through, but try to be resigned when they do not.

 

As girls of eighteen and nineteen are much more mature physically and mentally than boys of the same age, why not lower the age limit for the various women's services?

I have already said that the heads of the women's military services feel that for the kind of work the girls are expected to do they should be twenty or more. If the need becomes very great, they may be obliged to lower the age, but they feel, on the whole, that a woman is more mature at twenty and better able to deal with any situation in which she may be placed.

 

Is it true that you own stock in wineries, breweries or other liquor corporations?

No. I have no stock whatever in anything of this kind.

 

How can organized labor avoid having its gains swept away by the tidal wave of public revulsion against corrupt and unpatriotic labor leaders?

I think organized labor can put its own house in order; and where there are justifiable criticisms or any complaint of corrupt labor leaders, organized labor must take steps itself to see that those leaders are removed from power.

I am afraid, however, that there is a trend sweeping over the country which is opposed to labor. I do not think the opposition is always because of the "corrupt and unpatriotic labor leaders." It is just an excuse for certain people to make capital of a situation which is bad and strengthen certain conservative elements which haven't been very strong during the past few years.

The only way to prevent this is for those who are really interested in labor to see that organized labor does keep its own record as good as possible, and then it will be able to make a better fight; but that we have a fight before us is quite evident, I think.

< Previous Column 1943 Next Column >


About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1943

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, September 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
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC