If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1944


How do you, as the mother of sons in active service, control your anxiety for them?

Largely by being so busy I have very little time to meet things before they happen. Many of our worries lie in anticipation of things which may never happen. When you have reached my age, life has taught you through discipline to meet situations when they must be met.


Can you help an average couple living in California who want to adopt a baby? Out here there are so many wealthy people adopting babies that an average couple has little chance.

I am interested to know that wealthy people in California can find babies to adopt. For the most part, I understand the difficulty is getting babies. Most people, naturally, want healthy babies and babies whose background they can be sure holds no taint, such as insanity or disease, which can be inherited. I am told that there are far more people waiting for babies than there are babies for adoption. I am quite sure that if your home is a good home and gives a reasonable assurance for the child's future care, there would be no discrimination against you in spite of the fact that you are not rich.


Why don't the innocent dependents of a conscientious objector who has been called up by his draft board receive an allotment?

I am afraid the conscientious objector can make no allotments to his family because he does not become part of the Army. The allotment to families comes from the Army and is the direct result of the service of the man for his country. The conscientious objector is not preforming any service for the country and therefore is not entitled to any pay. If he goes to a civilian camp, they agree to pay him a small sum of money for work in that camp, but that is work which he chooses to do and is not work which the Government is asking him to do as a citizen. He is not forced to do any work because the Government considers he has a right to his own convictions, but neither can he expect that he will be paid for something which he is not doing. It is hard for the innocent dependents who must suffer, but that is part of the burden which a conscientious objector assumes when he lives up to his beliefs.


What can be done to help saleswomen to obtain a living wage?

The only thing that can be done to help any workers to obtain proper working conditions and to get better wages is to organize. Only the strength of an organization of workers can bring about any changes.


What is your personal postwar plan?

My personal postwar plan is to try to be as good a citizen as possible in private life, and to work as hard as I can at work which I enjoy. To have more time for my own interests and to spend with people whom I love.


Have you ever said or done anything that could be construed as encouraging young people to drink?

I certainly hope not. Many years ago I made a statement that I thought it wiser for young people to discover in their own homes what the effect of liquor might be rather than to be allowed to go out in complete innocence and through ignorance perhaps find themselves doing something that they would regret later on. That was in answer to a question about young people going to roadhouses because they were forbidden to have liquor in their homes. It was construed by some as encouraging young people to drink. I, of course, did not mean it that way. Ever since prohibition was repealed, I have believed we should bend our efforts to teaching people that moderation should be observed in all things. Anyone who does not have enough self-control to live within the bounds of moderation is a slave in the very truest sense of the word.


Did or does President Roosevelt play any musical instruments? What kind of music does he like personally?

The President could play the piano when he was young. He does not play any instrument now. He likes Wagner very much, largely because as a young boy he was taken to hear the Ring at Bayreuth one summer and enjoyed it. He has enjoyed Wagner's music ever since. The President likes well-known songs and certain patriotic songs. He has so little time to hear music nowadays I think he will almost have forgotten what his likes and dislikes are. He certainly has had no time to form any opinion on any of the modern composers' works.


Can my husband stop my allotment as he threatens to? And can he make his ex-wife beneficiary on his insurance policy?

The soldier may discontinue a voluntary allotment as distinguished from the family allowance. He may not discontinue his contribution to the dependency allowance. Only members of the family may be made beneficiaries of National Service Life Insurance.


Will Army officials assist a soldier to obtain a divorce in whatever state he happens to be, whether or not he has grounds, simply because he is a soldier?

No, but every post and camp has a legal-assistance officer to whom a soldier can go to obtain advice on any legal question. The Army will not instigate any legal action for him, but will advise him concerning any legal question.


Do you think, in view of the acute paper shortage, it might be a constructive saving of paper if the newspapers throughout the country discontinue their society pages and columns for the duration of the war?

I think this might be a very good way of saving paper, but since there is a considerable interest in localities in certain information which is usually carried on those pages, it might still be printed in one column and very much condensed.


How soon after the war do you suppose it will be possible for a wife to go abroad to join her husband if he is stationed in some foreign country?

I think that can be decided only after war comes to an end, and we know what conditions exist in these foreign countries. No rules can be laid down at the present time.


Is the allotment check for a serviceman's wife and children discontinued if he is listed as missing in action or a prisoner of war?

The allotment check continues until such time as the serviceman is officially declared dead. Payments to prisoners' dependents, of course, are continued.


What do you do for fun?

I go to the country, see my friends, read, go to the theater and to concerts.


Do we pay rent to England for the air bases there from which our planes take off to bomb Germany?

For the use of air bases in England by the United States Army Air Forces, a fiscal entry is made in the reciprocal Lend-Lease agreement. The rates vary according to the size of the fields. This means we give England a credit just as England gives us credit in similar situation in this country.


Shouldn't drafted fathers be released first when the war is over?

No. I think release should come to all men according to their physical condition and length of service. Many unmarried men have as much at stake in returning home quickly as have the fathers. Many young men haven't had a chance to begin their lives, so it would not seem to me fair to make of the fathers a privileged group.


What is the presidential flag and where is it displayed?

It is a blue flag with the presidential seal in the middle and a white star in each corner. It is displayed wherever the President appears. It stands behind his desk in his study in the executive office with the American flag. The same flags are in his study in the White House.


How do you get enough ration points to do the necessary entertaining at the White House and Hyde Park?

The White House is classed as an institution and points are given according to the number of meals we have served in the two months previous to the time the points are issued. Sometimes we have quite a hard time if we happen to have a great many visitors and the months chosen on which to base the allotment of points were rather quiet periods, but on the whole we do very well. At Hyde Park, when the President is there, we have the same conditions as in the White House. When the President is not there, each of us uses our individual ration book, and we have only what we are entitled to as individuals.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1944

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 61, June 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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1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC