If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1944


What does John L. Lewis have on your husband which prevents his stopping wartime strikes?

Your question is curiously phrased. Its implication would be that Mr. John L. Lewis knows something which is detrimental to the President, and that therefore the President gives Mr. Lewis special favors. Phrasing your question in this way seems to me not a question but a suggestion of a supposed fact which you have not quite dared to state openly as a fact. I fear such a statement or question shows great ignorance, for you must know that from time to time every connection between the President of the United States and Mr. John L. Lewis has been broadcast in the papers over and over again.

The President himself does not prevent nor bring on strikes. There is regular machinery for handling labor difficulties. When this machinery is unsuccessful, both sides sometimes appeal to the President, or he may appeal to them if he thinks a labor situation affects the country as a whole. If his good offices are unsuccessful and he thinks the good of the country is at stake, he may order a particular industrial plant or a mine, or a group of activities privately owned and operated, taken over by the Government until such time as the owners and the labor people come to an agreement.

But all this is done under the laws which are passed by Congress and under the protection of the courts, and the President does nothing which is not according to law and open to all who wish to investigate it.


Are German prisoners of war paid $30 a month and allowed to send the money home to their families? If so, what do our boys receive when prisoners of war?

German prisoners of war are credited with $40 per month on any grade above and including a major; $30 for a captain; $20 for first and second lieutenants; and enlisted men get $3. If enlisted men desire to work, they make 80 cents a day. This money is credited to the prisoners and they may use the credit at canteens, post exchanges, and so on. What is given them when the prisoners are repatriated is still in process of negotiation. This is not done according to the Geneva Convention, but under another agreement and not yet accepted by Germany.

The pay continues all the time for our boys while they are captured. Any allotments made to their families are continued during the time of their capture. If the boys haven't made any allotments previously, they can request the Secretary of War to make allotments in the needed amount and he will do it.


Union workers gain increases by striking, but white-collar workers' wages are frozen. Is this fair?

White-collar workers' wages are not frozen any more than union workers' wages are. It may be that civil-service employees' wages are held down by rules which have been made since the war began, but that does not affect all white-collar workers. Any of these white-collar workers can strike except the people working for the government—city, state and Federal. As far as I can see, the average white-collar workers are able to do exactly what the union workers are able to do—unless, of course, they are not organized, in which case an individual has a limited opportunity to do anything for himself.


Do you think Red Cross certificates, like Navy E's for excellence, to those of us who have knitted a hundred sweaters would stimulate laggard knitters?

I have no idea what is the incentive which makes people knit for the Red Cross, but I should think wearing a Red Cross pin would be something stimulating enough; plus the satisfaction that you are doing something for the men in the services.


Couldn't women do some part-time war work in their homes by manufacturing small parts?

There may be some types of manufacturing which could be carried on in individual homes. I think I was told in Great Britain that they had made use to a very limited extent of homework, but it is not possible where the use of machines is involved. As most of the war work being done today requires machinery, part-time workers are usually used for shorter periods of time in factories.


Are letters to soldiers overseas censored?

Military Intelligence reports that letters to soldiers are subject to censorship. This does not mean that all letters are censored, but they may be.


Is there any truth in the report that soldiers overseas for two years will be returned to this country?

There is a rotation plan in the Air Forces and a rotation plan in the Ground Forces, but no definite period is set. The answer to this specific question is No.


I am eighteen and madly in love with a soldier. My parents think I am too young to marry; should I obey them?

I think parents are taking a great responsibility if they actually forbid young people to marry. It would seem to me that you are obligated to give every consideration to the reasons which your parents give in opposing your marriage during the war period. I am quite sure that your parents have some very good reasons for asking you not to marry your soldier. The question as to whether you finally obey your parents or not is one that no one can answer for you. That must be decided among you and your parents and your future husband.


Who—next to Mr. Roosevelt, of course—would you like to see President of the U.S.?

You imply in your question that because Mr. Roosevelt is my husband I would like to see him the President of the United States. I am glad that my husband has earned the confidence of the majority of the people of the country three times in the past, but I would always like to see the man elected whom the majority of the people in this country felt they wished to have at the head of their Government.


Do the Four Freedoms mean freedom only for white men, or freedom for the yellow, brown and black races as well?

I should think the Four Freedoms meant freedom for all human beings throughout the world. It is obvious that freedom is always conditioned by the amount of ability an individual has to govern himself, but that is a question of time and the opportunity given for development, and the basic freedoms apply to all in exactly the same way.


Why cannot a soldier obtain a divorce while in service?

A soldier can get a divorce if he can qualify under the state laws. The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act provides that in a suit for divorce against a soldier, the suit may be continued by the court for final action until after the soldier gets back.


Can you tell me why a soldier can get a furlough to see his dog, when my husband can't get a furlough, for the first time, to see his fourteen-month-old son?

My dear lady, it just happened that the soldier who went to see his dog was due for a furlough, and someone made a good newspaper story out of it. I am quite sure that no man would be given a furlough unless he was entitled to it and the military needs of the area were such that he could be allowed leave at the particular time when he made application.

The paramount consideration in granting any furloughs is the need of the military services, not the pleasure of the individual involved.


Why can sailors, marines and coast guardsmen receive packages without asking for them, but soldiers must write for things?

The War Department made the regulation in cooperation with the post office in order to try to cut down printed material being sent to the boys overseas. The mails were being swamped with papers and publications of various sorts which the boys didn't read, but which hindered the delivery of the regular and desired mail. This was done under the Postmaster General's Order No. 19687, which was published in the postal bulletin January 8, 1943, and is still in force.

The Navy Department has not made the same ruling, I imagine because there are not the same number of men in the Navy.


Can a soldier make someone other than his wife beneficiary of his insurance policy?

Insurance will be payable only to the widow, widower, child (including stepchild or illegitimate child if designated as beneficiary by the insured), parents (including persons standing in loco parentis), brother or sister of the insured.


Should a defense worker quit to join the WAVES or WAC?

I am afraid this is a question which you will have to decide for yourself. If in your locality there are people who could do the job as a defense worker which you are now doing, and the quotas are not filled for WAVES or WAC, then I think it would be well to consider whether you would be doing a better service in changing your job. I think, of course, the consideration of your home situation and how it would affect your home responsibilities would have to be weighed.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1944

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 61, February 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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