If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1944


Don't you think we should make the returning President head of the opposition party, as in England, so that the nation might benefit from his vast knowledge and experience?

Every retiring President acts more or less as an elder statesman in his political party. If his knowledge and experience are wanted, there is no reason why they cannot be drawn upon.

Frequently, however, the new President coming in will feel that he is hampered by too close contact with one who has just gone out of office, so perhaps it is just as well that we do not have a system of placing a retiring President automatically in the legislative branch of the Government, for sooner or later any Administration comes to certain disagreements with the branches of our Government.

A defeated President is always the titular head of his party between elections, so whatever wisdom and experience he has are at the service of the party at all times.


Do you think women have as much sense of humor as men?

A sense of humor is purely personal and has nothing to do with sex. I have known men with no sense of humor and I have known women with none. Both men and women can have a keen sense of humor and both can have none.

Sometimes I think that women are more apt to have a greater sense of fun because they have traditionally adapted themselves to the mood of the people they are with and therefore reflect the atmosphere around them more quickly than do men.


Why don't our boys get furloughs before they go overseas? A friend of mine just lost her son and she hadn't seen him for two years.

The War Department answers your question as follows: "Men are given furloughs not to exceed fifteen days whenever military necessity does not prevent it."

There are some explanations of cases where boys go overseas without a furlough. In the first place, many boys do not have the money when they are given a furlough to get to their homes and back, and they cannot always borrow it. "Military necessity" means that the boys are alerted for overseas service, which means they cannot get a furlough. If a boy is moved from one camp to another very close to the time when he would get a furlough, he may have to wait for a longer period than another boy, because they have to be in one place for a certain length of time before they are granted furloughs. This may result in shipment overseas before his chance for a furlough comes in the new camp.


Does your husband notice a new dress or hat when you wear one, or is he like so many other men who never even see a wife's new clothes?

I think my husband is too preoccupied, usually, to notice my clothes, but sometimes he will suddenly look up and say he likes something I have been wearing for two or three years!

Do you think that in these war times good manners permit wiping up egg yolk and gravy with a piece of bread? We have all been taught that this is not proper, yet a good deal of food could be saved that is now wasted.

I see no reason why this should not be done. It is perhaps better to do it with a fork and a piece of bread than with just a piece of bread in your fingers. A good many things we were taught as good manners once upon a time are really nothing but an idea that someone evolved, and they do not hold good all over the world. For instance, here at home many of us have been taught that we should not eat everything on our plates, and for years in France it has been good manners to eat everything on your plate and not to take more than you could eat—so you see it is just a question of whether you live in a country that is wasteful or not!


Do you own large shares in the Southern cotton and textile industries? I have heard that this is why you are interested in colored people.

The small amount of money which I have in invested capital is held by the Bank of New York, and came to me from my father and mother. It brings me in now a very small income. I have no Southern cotton or textile stocks and I have always left all my investments entirely in the hands of this bank.

I have to earn any money that I want to use for charitable purposes, as my inherited income is very small. I have never invested any money because I feel that what I earn should be spent to help others or to give useful employment.

I cannot see how owning stock in a textile mill would create an interest in colored people, since there are just as many, if not more, white people employed in textile mills.


Do you believe in planned parenthood?

Yes, I do, if it is not used as an excuse to shirk having a family. I believe that every married couple should have children if they are able to do so, but I believe that they should use intelligence so that the children will be healthy and the mother not physically exhausted. Of course, if this is against your religious belief, that is a different matter, but outside of that it would seem sensible to plan intelligently for the family health and happiness.


Why does the United States support illegitimate children in other countries and not her own?

Assuming that this question pertains to the United States soldier, under Section 120, Subdivision C-4, of the Servicemen's Allowance Act, the term "child" includes illegitimate child wherever located if the father acknowledges in writing that he is the parent or if appropriate judicial decree has been ordered. This applies in this country and overseas alike.


Why is it that a Navy boy in the Pacific can receive a five-pound parcel at any time, while an Army boy in England has to write for what he wants and can get only an eight-ounce package?

The writer of this question has the wrong information. Any boy in the Army overseas can receive a parcel weighing eight ounces or less without a request from him, as that parcel would go first-class mail, and he is allowed to receive a package weighing up to five pounds when he requests it.

The Army has a postal service and the Navy has a postal service, and each has its own regulations. The Navy has an entirely different problem from the Army's. It is about one fourth as large and they know at all times where the men are, as they are either on the ships or in port. The Army does not know where each man is; he may be at the front and might advance five or thirty miles during the day. So many unnecessary and unwanted things were being sent to the men, such as heavy sweaters to those in the Southwest Pacific, boxes of chocolate and things to eat that were in an unusable condition by the time they were delivered to the men, the Army felt it must enforce these restrictions. The Navy has not felt such a need.


In your opinion, is a man in his thirties too young to be President?

I doubt if any man in his early thirties has had enough experience at home and abroad to be President. The Constitution says a man must be thirty-five, and in the days when this great document was penned the men assumed responsibility at a much younger age than they do today, as a rule. At that time a young man had usually finished his education at seventeen, even if he had gone as far as was possible in the educational institutions of the day. Now many a boy is not through with his formal education until he is twenty-four or twenty-five, which would give him only a few years out in the world of affairs before he assumed the position which requires the greatest amount of background and experience to carry the greatest load of responsibility any one person carries in the world today.


In general, do you think it a good plan for married women with children to work outside the home?

No, when the children are young. At the present time, however, when women are so badly needed in industry, if a woman can find in her community either a good nursery for her younger children or someone whom she trusts to take care of them, she is justified, I think. There must be community services in her area, however, such as schools and playgrounds equipped for all-day care, so her older children will not run the streets. She goes to work as a patriotic act, but both she and the children pay a price.

In general, I do not think anyone can take the place of a mother at home with the children as long as they are not grown to years of discretion.


What did the President say to you when he proposed?

That is a question that I do not think I have any obligation to answer. There are some things in life which one should be allowed to keep to oneself.


Do you think that a person is right to continue in a religious cult when others in the family feel so strongly against it that the whole home is disrupted?

When you talk about a religious cult, I do not know just what you mean. The forms of religion mean very little to me, but I do not see how anyone could change a belief which he held at the behest of anybody else. The really important thing about religion is that your faith and your belief help you to live a better life, sustain you in sorrow and make you face the end of life with serenity. This kind of religion should not cause dissension in any family.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1944

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 61, July 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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