If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1944


My husband has joined a modern religious order and won't have anything to do with me because he says he is on a higher spiritual plane, but he won't hear of divorce. What can I do?

Get a divorce yourself.


By what right did you travel to the South Pacific wearing a Red Cross uniform?

Anyone working for the Red Cross not only may wear a Red Cross uniform but is asked to wear it if she is actually engaged in work which is understood and arranged for with the Red Cross officials at headquarters. I worked for the Red Cross, and wore a uniform while engaged in doing it, during the last war. I do not see any point in wearing a uniform when I am not doing something which makes it more efficient or convenient to do so. I have been a life member of the Red Cross since I was eighteen, and I have always done work for them, both in peacetime and in wartime, but it was not always work which was more easily and more efficiently done in uniform.


Do you think the shocking increase in juvenile delinquency in America is the fault of the home or the community?

There are many reasons. In some cases it may be the fault of the home; but homes make up communities, and so, in a larger sense, it is the community which fails its young people. The need for women to work outside of the home may have left young people with less home supervision, but this supervision could have been supplied if the communities had seen fit to organize themselves.

Schools might have had more supervised recreation out-of-doors; there might have been more craftwork offered in out-of-school hours. Schools might have been open in the evenings and the communities might have shared the responsibility for holding supervised parties where young people, either in the military services or in war work of some kind, could let off steam and have a good time.

In addition, the communities might have made it more possible for women who had to go to work to run their homes more efficiently and have more leisure time in that home. We have done nothing about a universal program throughout the nation for a hot school lunch for every child, for hot meals in every factory at low prices; for cheap restaurants, such as are run in Great Britain, in which people of moderate means—whole families—can be accommodated for about what it would cost for a meal at home.

Shopping has never been organized in a way to make it easy for women workers; laundry work and care of little children have never been thought through so as to make the whole setup as easy as possible and keep the home running as smoothly as possible, with the mother still in charge when she is home, and not driven to the limit of her strength by the difficulty of doing things which must be done to keep the home functioning.

It is not enough to leave this simply to the plants involved. Every plant has different problems, and they must be taken up in consultation with the workers. Sometimes mothers might want little children taken care of in the plant; but if they have long trips to and from work in crowded public conveyances, it would be better for them and the children if the day nursery could be near their homes. This same thing has to be taken into consideration where shopping is concerned. Just establishing chain stores in the plants may not meet a woman's needs, since carrying quantities of packages, with the present difficulties of transportation at hours when shifts are changing in big factories, will not be an easy task.

The exhaustion of a mother is bound to be a contributing factor to juvenile delinquency, so we really have the problem of home organization—which is largely a community problem—and I do not think we can simply say that the increase in juvenile delinquency is the fault of the home, the school or any other particular situation. The whole community setup has to be taken into consideration, and the whole community has to take its share of the responsibility for the present situation.


Was it honest to give the story of Christ at the wedding feast as an excuse for serving liquor in the White House, since the "wine" referred to in John 2:1-10 may well have been non-alcoholic?

I have never used "an excuse" for serving liquor in the White House. I do not consider that it requires any excuse. I answered a lady—who seemed rather fanatical—with what seemed like good authority; and whether the wine mentioned in the Bible was alcoholic or not, I have no idea, but I see no reason for calling it wine if it had no alcoholic content. Whatever is done in the White House requires no excuse from me. It would not have been done unless I thought it was right, and I have always been willing to make an explanation, but never an excuse, for doing anything I considered proper.


Why are farmers, living on the fat of the land, allowed the same number of red points as city people?

I imagine because they are citizens, and all citizens are entitled to the same treatment under the law. In addition, it would be rather complicated to give some people one number of points and another group a different number.

Farmers do not live on the fat of the land, however. They have advantages, in getting some types of food, over people who live in cities, but many of them have just as hard a time in some ways as do the city people. Furthermore, just because you receive points, it doesn't mean you have to use them, and I am quite sure that any patriotic citizen, whether farmer or city dweller, does not use points when it is not necessary.


Is it true that you recently referred to the President as "the ruler of the United States"?

I cannot remember doing so. If I did, it was a slip of the tongue. However, the man elected President of the whole United States has certain powers under the Constitution which, in many ways, are similar to those powers exercised by rulers in other nations where there is a constitutional government. All powers, under our constitutional government are derived from the people.


Do you believe in "love at first sight"?

I have heard tell of such a thing. Many people when they say "love at first sight," mean that some people have a natural attraction toward each other. This does not mean always that it will develop into the lasting love of a lifetime.


Why are servicemen forbidden to go with Alaskan Indian young women and girls?

I question whether servicemen are forbidden to associate with Alaskan Indian young women and girls. There is, however, a rule which I think operates anywhere outside of the United States, that no man can get married without his commanding officer's consent while on foreign service. This is to prevent people from being made victims of sudden infatuations brought about by loneliness, and so on.


As children's panties outwear several elastic waistbands, what are mothers to do now that it is impossible to replace worn-out elastic?

I should think the most practical thing to do would be to put on a band of self material if you have it, or some cotton material, with buttons and buttonholes arranged so that the buttons could be moved as the child grows.


How does the Government think expectant mothers whose husbands are in the Army can support themselves and their babies?

The allowance for children of men in our armed services has just been raised by Act of Congress. Arrangements can be made for the mother's care at the time of birth. It is a difficult adjustment to make, but it can be done, as is shown by the fact that many thousands of women all over the country are doing it at the present time.


Is it fair to let the college boys go back to college, now that they are beginning to take pre-Pearl Harbor fathers and boys out of high school?

Any boys going back to college are probably going back, if they are of age to be inducted, because the Army decided that they will be of more value if they can do work which the Army has arranged, for boys of this age who have the proper qualifications, in the colleges. Any boys taken out of high schools are taken because of age and not because they happen to be in high school.

There is no question of "beginning" to induct pre-Pearl Harbor fathers. I met men all over the Southwest Pacific and I know men in every theater of the war who were married long before Pearl Harbor and who have children. I have never thought that simply being a father was a good criterion for or against induction. If a man is needed at home for the support of his children, that should be weighed very carefully by the draft board; but the mere question of being a father does not seem to me to have much bearing on whether you should go to war or not, when so many men who are fathers are already in the war.


Do you think a seventeen-year-old girl should get a defense-plant job and put off college until after the war?

If she is college material, she will do much better to continue in college work by going straight to college from high school. She will make a better contribution because of her training in college, and in the difficult days that follow the war, trained minds are going to be very necessary for the solution of our problems.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1944

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 61, January 1944

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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