If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

December 1944

 

If you had a needy relative who was always struggling to "get by" financially, would you give him a substantial sum of money, or a regular allowance, or just ignore the whole thing?

This is a question which would have to be settled differently in each individual case. For instance, if you felt that a person was able to handle a substantial sum of money and would perhaps be made self-supporting by having it, and you were able to give it, that would be the sensible thing to do. On the other hand, many people, particularly those earning regular salaries, can afford to give monthly a certain amount but cannot give lump sums. In many cases where people's financial difficulties are due to their inability to handle money wisely, the monthly allowance is a better way to help.

 

Just ignoring the whole thing would be a rather strange way to handle a situation, whether the person were a relative or not, though there are occasions when there is nothing that can be done, either because a person is really not worthy of help or the individual appealed to cannot afford to give financial assistance.

 

How have you kept in such perfect health during your strenuous twelve years as First Lady?

These past years since 1933 have not been particularly strenuous. I inherited a good constitution and I have always lived very moderately. I seem to have very few of the little ills which trouble many people. I try to lead a sensible existence, to do the things which keep me well and then forget about my physical being as much as possible.

 

I would like to know just what parts of the Bible you like best. Does one verse mean more to you than any other? Would you please name one or two of those that mean most?

I like the 13th Chapter of First Corinthians, the 23rd Psalm and the 121st Psalm and the 14th Chapter of St. John. I do not think there is any one special verse that means more than any other, though "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up" is one of my favorites.

 

Why not let our discharged wounded wear their uniforms, with a special insigne?

I do not think there is any reason why our wounded men should not wear their uniforms. The question of wearing an insigne is one, of course, the military services themselves would have to decide. In Australia not only the returned wounded men, but the men on furlough who have been overseas, are given a special insigne which entitles them to certain privileges. For instance, in a restaurant, such men are served before anyone else, and in waiting for a bus or a train they go to the head of the line. I think something of this kind would be helpful to us in this country, but the decision on the wearing of uniforms and a special insigne remains in the hands of the services themselves to decide what is practicable.

 

Do you think it is fair to discriminate against married teachers as they still do in this Midwestern town?

I do not think it is fair to discriminate against married teachers anywhere. It has always seemed to me that a teacher who is married and has children, when she returns to the classroom, may have greater understanding of the children because of the experiences that her own children have brought her.

Married women teachers were barred only because of an economic situation which did not provide as many jobs in the teaching field as there were candidates. However, there have always been fewer teachers than were required for the best interests of the children. I think if we could have an economy which provided for full employment, we might look forward to a time when we would plan our schools with full regard to proper economy, but also with regard to the best interests of our children, in which case we would engage teachers for their qualifications without regard to whether they were married or single.

 

What do you think is the reason that profanity is not only accepted in "polite society," but actually seems to be approved? How can I teach my children not to use such expressions when they hear them from people they admire?

I think the use of certain expressions is not regarded as profanity by a good many young people. Even some older people have come to use these expressions as a method of emphasizing their remarks. They would use a slang phrase or a descriptive word in much the same way, and I do not think, as a rule, it is done with any idea of actually being profane. If you do not want your children to use any expression, it is best to explain your reasons, and they will often follow your example. I think what troubles you is just a temporary and passing thing and probably will cease to be the fashion in a few years' time.

 

What do you think could be done to cut down the great number of abortions in this country?

For married people, planned parenthood is the obvious answer. For the unmarried ones, I think if young people were brought up to have strong characters and to resist certain temptations it would help.

 

What men do you think should make up the troops of occupation after the war?

I think, as far as it is possible, the troops of occupation should be made up from new men going into the Army. Regular rotation policies can be established after the war, and certainly the men who fought the war are entitled to come home.

 

Is it true that Chiang Kai-shek has more than one wife?

I do not really know. In the past, I believe, it has been the Chinese custom to have more than one wife, and it was entirely consistent with the beliefs of their religion.

 

Since there is a paper shortage, why are the new three-cent stamps twice as big as the old ones?

Usually on commemorative stamps some historical subject is portrayed, and the artist couldn't do justice to it on a small stamp.

 

Why is it that fliers can come home after 60 missions while the infantry has to wait until the war is over?

The statement "60 missions" is not true. Sometimes the men make from 170 to 200 missions before they are returned; sometimes they make as low as 20 or 25. Whether a man returns or not depends entirely upon the recommendations of the flight surgeon. It depends on a man's mental stability; some men can go on forever; others can stand only so much, and if they would have to continue they would crack up and go to pieces. The infantry has an entirely different problem. It is much larger and stronger in numbers and it is not such a strain on the mental stability of the men. However, even in the infantry they are trying to return some of the men through the rotation plan of furloughs.

 

What did you mean when you wrote an Alabama housewife recently that you had never advocated "social" equality for Negroes?

I meant that it is impossible to advocate social equality for anyone. Social equality is a personal relationship. You or I can associate with anyone we like, and when we do, we associate as friends and equals, but you cannot "advocate" that for anybody.

 

Are you and the President members of the same church?

The President and I attend the same church.

 

When meeting people from different parts of the country, whose pronunciation differs from yours, do you try to use their pronunciation or your own normal way of speaking? For instance, if a woman asked you if you'd have tomaytoes, would you say, "Yes tomahtoes would be fine," or do you watch yourself and take tomaytoes?

I doubt if I ever gave this situation much thought. The way one speaks becomes so natural that I think it would be unnatural to change one's pronunciation. Unconsciously, however, some of us are mimics, and I have caught myself copying the people with whom I might happen to be many a time. As a rule, I think I would stick to my own pronunciation without really thinking about it.

 

Why does the President like Fala so much better than other dogs your family has owned?

I do not think the President likes Fala any better than he has any other dog which belonged to him, but Fala is his own dog, and one always likes a dog that is a constant companion more than the dogs that belong to other members of the family.

 

How did you and the President punish your children when they were young?

The President rarely punished any of the children. On only one occasion, as far as I can remember, did I make him spank our eldest son, and it never happened again. The children went to their father as the final court of appeal, but I did most of the disciplining. I used to deprive my children of certain pleasures, or make them do certain things which they should do but which they did not very much enjoy. I am ashamed to say that I sometimes let governesses or nurses impose punishments on my older children, when they were small, that I felt were unwise; and later, when I gained more confidence in my own ability to bring up my children myself, I knew these punishments were very unwise.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, December 1944

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 61, December 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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