If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1945


What do you do when you're talking to someone whose name you have forgotten?

I try to find out from the conversation what he or she is interested in, and sooner or later that suggests who the person is. If I cannot find out and I am not sure of finding out afterward, I usually end by frankly saying, "My memory has grown poorer with age and I remember your face very well, but I just cannot recall your name."


How can I convince my mother that twelve years old is not too young to have dates?

I doubt very much if you can. I have a feeling that only a very unwise mother would consider that a girl of twelve should have dates. You are still a child and should have a good time as a child and stop thinking or wishing that you could grow up before your time. You will have a much better time in the future if you do not try to grow up too quickly.


What do you consider the characteristics of intellectual maturity?

It seems to me that intellectual maturity requires a recognition of the fact that the world is full of things which no one human being can possibly know all about. The intellectually mature are usually anxious to learn and they know that not all wisdom is attained in university degrees.


More and more women seem to be taking up the habit of handshaking from men. Do you shake hands with both men and women upon being introduced or upon leaving?

I certainly do. It has never occurred to me not to do so. I was taught as a child that handshaking was an expression of friendliness, and I do not think of necessity it has to be limited to men.


I think it is a crime the way girls go barelegged and bareheaded in the wintertime these days. Here in Wisconsin a doctor says that young people can catch rheumatic fever that way. What do you think could be done to change this fad?

I think the use of the word "crime" is a little extreme. I do not happen to think that bare legs are very pretty, but I doubt if it follows that all these young people who go barelegged and bareheaded acquire rheumatic fever or commit a crime.

I went without a hat in the country most of the time until I was completely grown up, and even now, winter or summer, I rarely wear a hat or cover my head in the country. It has been pretty much the habit to let little children go barelegged even in cold weather. Probably the only reason it has become a fad of late for older young people is the shortage of stockings, so that I doubt whether we need worry about this continuing when it becomes easy to get stockings again.


We have been told by a serviceman that he was charged for coffee and doughnuts served by the Red Cross on the fighting front. Is this true?

The Red Cross makes no charge for anything which it brings to the boys on the fighting fronts in clubmobiles.

Where there are established clubs back of the fighting lines—such, for instance, as we have in London and various other large cities—a charge is made for rooms and for food. It is kept very low, but the Army prefers that this should be done, and so do most of the men, as they like to feel that they are paying their way and not receiving charity when they are on furlough and having a good time.


How can you consider your husband's "gift" of the Hyde Park estate to the Government as a real gift when you and your children can occupy it tax-free with upkeep paid by the Government?

You apparently have not understood the terms of the gift. The President reserved the right to live in Hyde Park as long as he wished, and if either I or the children wish to live there, we may do so, but as long as we enjoy this privilege we must pay taxes in full to the Government, and the upkeep on the place, as well as all the running expenses.


Why do we hear nothing of the Arthurdale Housing Project, on which so much money was spent? Was it not a success financially?

You probably made no inquiry about the Arthurdale project. There was nothing hidden on this typical type of housing program which was undertaken at that period. The houses are all in the process of being sold to the occupants if they wish to buy, or to other people as soon as they can be liquidated.

I do not think there ever was any intention that they should be financially successful, since they were one of the many experiments inaugurated to relieve distress and to prevent the Government's having to support a number of people in prisons, hospitals, insane asylums and tuberculosis institutions, as well as through direct relief. Some of them, of course, cannot hope to be financially solvent, but you can never evaluate the actual profits and losses of any undertaking which has as its objective the salvation of people from complete despair.


My husband is training in the infantry. He tells me that the men are required to buy their own soap, cleanser, brooms and mops to clean their barracks. Aren't these men paid little enough without having to pay for these items?

The Army does not require enlisted men to buy their own soap, cleanser, brooms, mops to clean their barracks. It is possible that there have been instances in which enlisted men "chipped in" to buy additional supplies of this nature to supplement the "Government Issue" supplies which are furnished by the Army, but such a procedure would be on a voluntary basis, with no Army sponsorship. Adequate supplies for cleaning barracks are furnished by the Army on the basis of experience showing how much of such supplies are required.


How can the Army change the classification of men drafted for limited service to general service and overseas duty when the original physical defects exist? The soldier I am thinking of is my husband, who has one eye.

After induction, the Army does not use the term or classify men as "limited service." A more accurate description of those men who are not physically fit for general service would be that they are "limited assignment," meaning that the possibilities of their assignments are limited by certain physical incapabilities, and they cannot be used from the viewpoint of their physical condition for all types of general service.

Under current regulations, the test as to whether or not an enlisted man is physically qualified for overseas assignment is: "Can he perform his military occupational specialty in his current assignment satisfactorily under field conditions?" This, of course, is also dependent upon the fact that the unit commander desires to take this man with him overseas, knowing his physical defects. There are certain exceptions to this rule, such as a man with an enucleated eye, in which case overseas assignment is prohibited.


What happens to packages sent overseas when the soldier dies before they arrive? Can't they be given to some other soldier and not take up shipping space coming back?

Packages sent overseas which arrive after the death of a soldier are returned to the sender. They cannot be given to some other soldier, inasmuch as they are the property of the sender and the intended recipient, and are not the property of the Army.


Is it true that Army nurses who have been Jap prisoners are being returned to the U.S. and that they have had their arms and legs cut off, their tongues cut out, and are pregnant from Jap soldiers?

The Army Nurse Corps says they have no information to substantiate the correctness of such a statement. They have had no prisoners returned from the Philippines, but they have had a record and a report from a young civilian nurse who was returned and who had been interned in the camp with the Army nurses. She worked right with the nurses and said that there were no atrocities committed on the Army nurses.


Is it true that Nazis in internment camps here insist upon many "rights" not to be found in the Geneva Convention? Isn't it true that at the detention station on Ellis Island the Nazis objected to being waited on by American Negroes and the Negroes were removed?

It is true that some Nazi prisoners of war demand privileges and special courtesies not to be found in the Geneva Convention. Because these privileges and special courtesies are not in the Geneva Convention they are not rights and the War Department, therefore, does not grant them. The War Department adheres strictly to the provisions of the Geneva Convention and does not go beyond these provisions in its treatment of Nazi prisoners of war.

There is no detention station on Ellis Island for prisoners of war, nor is there any other prisoner-of-war facility on Ellis Island. There has not been a prisoner-of-war facility on Ellis Island in this war.


We civilians don't care if we can't get butter as long as our boys overseas do. But is it true that our boys in France are getting a butter substitute while we are sending real butter to the Soviet Union?

The Army does not send butter substitutes to its troops overseas. Troops in some areas, particularly in the tropics, receive a canned butter to which certain ingredients have been added in order to make it stable under extreme climatic conditions. Under the Foreign Economic Administration a moderate quantity of butter is sent to the Soviet Union and larger quantities of butter substitute are sent.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1945

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 62, February 1945

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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