If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1945

 

What is the difference between Russia grabbing a slice of Poland and Germany doing it? How can we condone one, and condemn the other?

It is against the conscience of the American people to take any land from a sovereign state, but I think there are some differences in the situation which you state.

We must remember that Poland for two hundred years in the past invaded parts of Russia, that her boundaries have been changed over and over again, and that when Germany invaded Poland she knew that Great Britain had concluded an alliance with Poland which bound her to come to Poland's aid.

In the course of the war Russia's alliances have changed. She first had a defensive alliance with Germany, hoping to prevent the invasion of her own country until she was ready to defend herself. When the invasion by Germany came, Russia had already gone into a part of Poland where a great many of the people were Slaves. Her great objective in the future is not the acquisition of more territory, since she has as much land as anyone could want, but she does want to make her boundaries as secure as possible. If she can achieve this even by taking some land from the conquered and giving it to a country like Poland, from which she is taking some land, but with whom she hopes to establish friendly relationships, we may not condone it, but we cannot look upon it in the same light as we would the outright conquest of a nation by a power that planned to make the people completely subservient to their wishes, as Germany did.

 

People are always talking about the intriguing things they would do if they only had the time. Do you have a special thwarted ambition which circumstance has not allowed you to carry out?

My ambitions are all of a rather modest variety. Someday, if I ever feel I have the capacity, I should like to write some short stories, but I shall not feel thwarted if I never get around to it. It is more in the category of the things one would like to do but that one is not sure one should take the time to find out whether one is capable of doing.

 

Don't you and your husband realize that failure on your part to refute the many vicious charges made against you by certain columnists make many people believe these attacks?

Don't you think deeds speak louder than words? Don't you think it is far more sensible not to bother about foolish criticism, but to live one's life and let the people finally draw their own conclusions?

I am a great believer in letting time bring out the truth and not being overconcerned about what other people say when you know they are motivated by considerations which you can do nothing to change.

 

I am going with a man eight years younger than myself. We get along splendidly, but my friends are opposed to our marrying because of my age. What do you think?

Eight years do not seem to be an insurmountable barrier, though as you grow older it will grow more difficult to bridge the gap. If you and the young man, however, face the fact that women age more quickly than men and that you will not be able to do many of the things he will perhaps want to do in the future, you may find that your love is great enough to surmount all difficulties.

 

Are the families of boys in the Merchant Marine entitled to display service flags?

Yes. The flags can be obtained from retail outlets. The flag has a blue background, gold cord, a white silhouette of a boat at the top, and below white stars for those in service and gold stars for those who have been killed.

 

I would like to correspond with wounded boys in Army or Navy hospitals who have no relatives to write them. How can I get their addresses?

Lists of boys' names are not given out as it is considered a dangerous practice. You could make personal contact through mutual friends, or you could work for the Red Cross in hospitals and get to know special cases.

 

Are G.I. Joe's wife and child actually supposed to live on $80 a month? How can this be done?

Allotments are fixed by Congress, not by the Army. If a soldier's wife has no other source of income but her allotment, she, I suppose, must either try to find a way to live on $80 a month, or she must find a way of increasing her income. One can either work or live with one's relatives.

 

My husband is a prisoner of the Germans. When he is liberated, will he have to fight Japan if we are still at war with the Japs?

I am afraid nobody knows the answer to this question. In the first place, when one has been a prisoner in Germany, it will take some time to get him back into condition, and by that time the war with Japan may be over; or it may be decided that men who have been through such hardships can be used to better advantage in this country. I doubt if the military authorities are as yet prepared to answer this question categorically. There are always exceptions, and if a man has special qualifications for something that is badly needed, so that he wanted to go on serving against the Japanese, it might be a great hardship to keep him out of military service.

 

Would you call me unpatriotic or selfish in wanting my husband home after the European war is over for the following reasons: he will be thirty-eight in July and I am over thirty-five and we want children very badly. Because of financial reasons, we couldn't marry until May, 1941. Would there be a chance for men over thirty-eight to be let out after this war in Europe ends?

I have no idea, of course, whether the men who are over thirty-eight will be sent home when the European war is over and used again in the Pacific or not. That is a question which only the military authorities can decide. I am sure the men in the services will be given an opportunity to state their cases to their superior officers, however.

I do not think it is either unpatriotic or selfish for a couple situated as you are to ask for consideration. If a man is indispensable for any reason, individual considerations would have to go by the board; but short of that, I think consideration should be given to individuals as far as it is humanly possible to do so.

 

Why can't department stores secure good cotton materials such as gingham, chambray and ordinary cotton prints? You can purchase a nice cotton dress of these materials—but at such a price! If dress manufacturers can secure such materials, why can't they be bought by the yard in department stores?

At the present time, due to the decrease in total production, shortage of manpower in the mills and increased military demand, we are getting for civilian use only about 50 per cent of the former supply of cotton goods. There is about the same drop in the supply of piece goods as there is in the supply of dresses made out of the same materials. The jobbers and retailers get the same kind of priority treatment as manufacturers of essential garments.

It is not wholly true that dresses can be bought and materials cannot. There is just as much shortage on dresses throughout the country as a whole as there is on piece goods, and both situations are rapidly getting worse. In order to step up the production of children's clothes, the WPB had to withdraw priorities for making adult clothes out of cotton materials, as they felt rayons could be substituted for those better than for children's clothes. In order to take care of the rural trade, which has been particularly hard hit in the piece-goods situation, the WPB made a special allocation of ten million yards this last quarter, which was distributed through jobbers for sale as yard goods. That was limited to small communities, so that it didn't go into the big cities where there was more to choose from. For the coming quarter there is another program like this, but this time they expect to allocate about fifteen million yards.

 

Over the radio I heard that some official has proposed giving the families of servicemen in the Pacific the opportunity to live on Pacific isles in order to be with the servicemen occasionally. This might seem a crackpot plan to some, but not to most families of these servicemen. Could you get this plan through the proper channels to be up for consideration—or at least give it your support?

I did not know that any official made this suggestion. I am afraid it is wishful thinking. No family could live anywhere where the Army was not already living, since there would be no quarters for them, and I doubt very much if this plan is feasible at all except in places where families have been before, such as Hawaii, the Philippines, Midway and Guam, which, of course, at the end of the war, will be open to wives and families as they were before, as well as any other places where our troops may be stationed; but I doubt very much if anywhere this will be allowed before the Pacific war ends.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1945

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 62, May 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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