If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1945


Would boys who have been seriously wounded be sent back into battle?

The nature or seriousness of the wounds is not what decides whether a man goes back into battle or not. It is his condition when he is being reassigned. No man who cannot pass the physical requirements for active service would be allowed by any doctor to go back into battle.


Thousands of us housewives waste hours daily in mixing coloring into oleomargarine. Why can't this foolish law be changed, since every variety is labeled as to contents? It would take less time to add the coloring at the factory.

The housewife who asked this question is quite correct in her understanding that the restrictions on the sale of colored oleomargarine were intended to prevent its sale as butter. The Oleomargarine Act, which is enforced by the Bureau of Internal Revenue of the Treasury Department, was passed in 1886, and in addition to imposing taxes on manufacturers and distributors of all oleomargarine, that Act placed a heavy tax on the colored product. It is to avoid that excess tax, which of course would be passed on to the ultimate purchaser, that manufacturers ship most of their output uncolored, but include the color capsule for home mixing.

In January of this year, Senator Maybank introduced a bill, S. 195, which was referred to the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. It provides for the removal of the special tax on wholesale dealers and retailers, as well as the ten cents per pound on colored oleomargarine. The bill provides also for the use of the alternative name margarine in lieu of oleomargarine.

There is, of course, nothing in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act which prohibits the interstate shipment of the colored product, and at the present time there is a limited amount of this article being made and shipped. This law requires only that the color used be safe, and that the finished product be labeled as artificially colored.

It might be added that there probably will be opposition by certain groups to the passage of Senator Maybank's bill, and housewives who want to see it go through had better be articulate.


I am a fifteen-year-old girl in senior high. I would like your straight opinion on teen-age girls' personalities today. I mean how a girl's personality should be.

It is a little difficult to tell you what your personality should be when you are still in your teens. In the first place, everybody in the world is different, and if you are wise you will not try to copy someone else, but you will try to develop what you have within you, to the best of your ability. The most attractive personality is always the most natural one, and the one which is least affected and the least bothered by self-consciousness.

A girl in her teens cannot have a great deal of personality because she hasn't lived long enough, but she can be gay, thoughtful of others and interested in life. That will give her a good foundation on which to build a richer personality as she grows older.


Why do soldiers' wives not have to pay income tax on the wages they earn?

This is not true. A soldier's wife is no different from anyone else, as far as the wages she earns are concerned. Her wages are subject to withholding tax. However, in cases where a soldier's pay is not more than $1500, and wife is employed, she may claim in such case not only her own exemption of $500, but her husband's exemption of $500 as well, just the same as any other couple filing a joint return. The amount a wife gets from her husband is not taxable to her, it is charged against the soldier's pay; and a soldier's pay up to $1500 is exempt from income tax under a special provision of the law.


Why does an Army man overseas have to request a package and a Navy man doesn't?

I have answered this question, or one similar, on a previous page, but perhaps it is worth the repetition of facts.

The Army has a postal service and the Navy has a postal service. The Navy has an entirely different problem than the Army. 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 many is; he may be at the front and might advance five to 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 chocolates and things to eat that were in unusable condition by the time they were delivered to the men, that the Army felt it must enforce these restrictions. The Navy has not felt such a need.

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


What can be done to give domestic workers the Social Security already given to other workers? I am a middle-aged woman and for years have been employed as working housekeeper in private homes. I feel that a more satisfactory relationship could be brought about by short training courses for household workers and honest recognition of them as a respected group in the community, with the benefits given to others.

The inclusion in the Social Security program of domestic workers and of farm labor is before Congress. If Congress feels that there is in the country a real desire to see these workers included under the Social Security Act, it will be done.

Up to this time, the difficulties of administration have kept people from actually tackling the possibilities of finding some simple method by which this could be done. In England they do it by a system of stamps, and I think we have found a method which will be practicable here.

You are quite right that household workers, if they had to live up to certain standards, could make their occupation a profession, and be looked upon as skilled workers, but of course this would necessitate a sense of responsibility, and training which has often been lacking in the past. It would also necessitate the training of employers, and acceptance by them of standards for domestic employment, and many employers have disliked accepting this in the past. I believe, however, that this is coming in the future.


Why do women sue for divorce more often than men?

I think men usually prefer that their wives obtain divorces from them. It is not considered exactly chivalrous for a man to insist on divorcing his wife, even if he feels she is at fault. I do not think there is any difference, probably, in the numbers of men and women who desire divorces, or who reach a point where they feel they must live apart from the persons whom they have married; but, at least among the people I know, a man is supposed to give his wife a choice. If for some reason she does not desire to get the divorce, then of course the man does so.


What is your opinion about girls' wearing slacks to high school?

I have never liked slacks in the city or for any kind of wear where they were not indicated as being suitable.

One important thing, I believe, is to wear clothes that are appropriate. Slacks are very nice for lounging at home, they are good for certain kinds of outdoor activities, but I think they should not be worn universally any more than any other kind of garment which is not appropriate for every occasion.


How can I convince my mother that fourteen is old enough to get a job and also to drive the car? All the other boys in town drive cars and they look on me as a "mommy's boy."

You had better be glad that your mother is strong enough in character to stand against that old cry: "All the other boys are doing it."

If some boy of your age has a bad accident, every mother will be sorry that she let her boy drive a car around town when he was not legally responsible.

You can drive at fourteen as well as anyone can drive, but in many states licenses are not issued to people until they are older than you are, and sometimes then they are issued on a limited basis. The reason for this is that boys and girls of your age may have just as much technical skill as older people, but they are lacking in judgment and in self-restraint.

I will give you a good example. I was driving my own car, and another car attracted my attention because it shot out ahead and began passing other cars on a road where there was a great deal of traffic. In and out went the car, showing that the driver was judging his distance remarkably well, and was technically very expert; but my heart was in my mouth several times, and what I feared eventually happened?the boy misjudged his distance by a few inches and an accident occurred. It turned out that the three occupants were in a car belonging to their elders and that they had taken it without permission. None of them had enough money to pay for the damage and they were three very frightened and unhappy youngsters, not because they could not drive a car, but because they did not have enough judgment and at their age should not have been allowed to drive a car.

In addition, if you were to get a job now when your family can afford to give you additional education and get along without your wages, you would be doing yourself a very great disservice. The most you could do would be to get a war job which would give you one skill, which might or might not be of use to you in the future, and so you would find yourself a victim of a dead-end job, without the necessary education to you for a better job.

Do not worry about being called "mommy's boy." I think you should be proud of your mother's courage.

< Previous Column 1945 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1945

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 62, June 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
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC