If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1943


What is your opinion of the wives of servicemen who follow their husbands around from camp to camp? Do you think it keeps up the morale of these men to have their wives near, regardless of the conditions of the camp towns and the general high cost of living in them?

I am quite sure that it is good for the morale of the men to have their wives near, if it is possible for them to put up with whatever conditions they may meet without grumbling, which would make it harder for the men. If a wife realizes that she must take second place as against the war job which her husband must do, and that she is there primarily to help him do that job, she will endure difficulties and discomforts cheerfully and be happy that they have a chance to be with each other for a little longer.

If a woman has this attitude, I am sure she will find endless ways in which to help her husband and other men in the camp, and her presence will always be welcome.


Why is there no action to effect the release of our heroes of Bataan by an exchange of prisoners?

Every effort is being made and has been made to reach some agreement with the Japanese government on the exchange of prisoners. I read the other day that there was to be a first exchange. I do not know whether the Japanese had agreed to send us some of the men from Bataan. Japan has been unwilling to make any arrangements, and for a time we had very few Japanese prisoners to exchange, since most Japanese soldiers prefer to die rather than to be taken prisoner. We probably have some now, but not a great number, and Japan has very little interest in her imprisoned soldiers or even in accepting some of her loyal nationals in this country who are willing to be repatriated.


Why was your son James given a commission when he couldn't pass the required physical examination?

My son James was in the R.O.T.C. in college and was a member of the reserve for many years. He did not have to take a physical examination in order to get in, and therefore he is able to stay in as long as he can do useful work. He had a commission for many years due to the fact that he was in the reserve from the time that he was in college.


What is your attitude toward divorce? Do you consider it advisable or moral?

Divorce is something which should never be taken lightly, but I think the real emphasis should be laid upon the seriousness with which we undertake marriage in the first place. Sometimes even when a marriage begins with every apparent prospect of success, however, people develop differently and find themselves, over a period of years, unable to live in harmony with the person to whom they are married. When that happens it seems to me that there is nothing to do but to resort to a divorce.

Certain religions do not recognize divorce, and of course I am not talking about people who belong to those religions, but it is a rare thing that people who find themselves unhappy together can have a home where there is an atmosphere of kindness and consideration and unity, which is the only atmosphere in which children can develop successfully. It is better, I think, to make the inevitable adjustment and separate, hoping that both people involved may find companionship and love with someone else, or that one can make of life alone something worth living. For two people to live unhappily together seems to me bad for them and for the children involved, if there are any[.]


Why don't the Allies arm the Chinese?

They are doing the very best they can, but everything that goes to China has to go by air, and the route is long and difficult. We are constantly increasing the amount we can send, but the transportation problem is not yet solved.


Don't you think the married men in service should be given an insigne to wear on their uniforms?

Why? I cannot imagine that they want to be singled out from the other men in their regiments.


Is there any possibility of women being drafted into the armed forces?

I do not think there is the slightest possibility at present, because the need is not great enough. If the need were to become great, no doubt women would be drafted into the WAC, the WAVES, and so on, or into factories or onto the land, just as they are in other countries where the need has made it imperative.


How have you been able to develop such a sense of fairness, good will, kindness, tolerance and serenity?

You are very kind to attribute so many good qualities to me. I am afraid that with the amount of publicity and controversy which have surrounded me and my family for a great many years, I would either have become an embittered old lady or a nervous wreck if I had not been able to decide on what I thought was right and become indifferent to what other people thought, unless they were people whose opinion I respected and valued.


When a woman puts in an eight-hour day at a war job and has a family to look after, too, don't you think it is only fair that her husband should do half the housework?

I should think it would be a little difficult to divide the housework equally, but any husband who really cares for his wife will naturally help her in any way he can.


How can we who believe the Bible says not even to look at wine teach our children the Bible without condemning you and the White House group to whom you serve liquor?

The Bible tells a story of Christ at a wedding feast turning water into wine, of which all the guests were asked to partake. In the communion service many churches use wine to represent the blood of our Lord.


Why are all our Christian boys drafted into the service while our Jewish and colored boys are deferred and placed in good-paying defense jobs?

That is just one of the lies which are circulated by our enemies. Jews and colored boys are drafted into the services in exactly the same proportion as any other, unless they happen to have an essential war job. If you will read the casualty lists and the list of decorations for brave deeds, you will find many Jewish names. I know there are colored soldiers who have received medals for exceptional service, too, but there is no way of identifying them by their names.


Why can't laws be made so that a wife can control the family income equally with her husband?

There is no reason why they cannot, though I imagine where laws exist to prevent this, women have never expressed their feelings strongly enough or worked and organized to see that the law is changed.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1943

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 60, October 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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