If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1945


Will you kindly tell us in what sense we are born equal?

I suppose what is meant when people say we are born free and equal, is that we have equal opportunity to make of ourselves whatever our abilities will allow us to become. It is true that heredity and environment play a part in everybody’s development. When you see people, however, with the same heredity and the same surroundings, who differ, you realize that there is something inherent in an individual which makes him take advantage of his opportunities and do better, perhaps, than someone else. It is that equality of opportunity for an individual to strive for himself which is meant when people talk about being born equal.


How soon after the war do you think we will be able to sell our bonds? I don’t want to wait for maturity because I want to use the money for my trousseau. I am putting an extra dollar every week toward bonds since the Seventh War Loan.

You can sell your bonds right now if you want to take the present value. It is, however, more patriotic to hold them until the war is over, but then there is absolutely no restriction. It is to your advantage to hold them to maturity, however, because you gain in interest on them, so if you can do so, be sure to hold them for the full time.


Why should we acknowledge a party named Communist? I thought ours was supposed to be a two-party government.

As far as I know, under the law we are not obligated to have any particular number of political parties. There are rules governing how a party can get its name on the ballot. You have to have a certain number of voters and signers of a petition, and if you comply with the law, any party can get on the ballot. It happens that we have had two major parties in this country so that we ordinarily function as though there were only two which were important in an election, but frequently the minor groups get together and make a difference in the outcome of an election.


Don’t you think this nation should change the name of the city of Berlin to some other name, so it will be a new beginning in the new world?

I do not know that a change in the name of the city of Berlin would make very much difference. It would complicate our geography! Much of the city is razed, so whatever name it has, it will have to make a new beginning in many ways; and since so many of us have learned that Berlin is the capital of Germany, perhaps it is simpler to let that name be retained than to learn a new name.


I am a soldier who has been in service over four years and take pride in the U.S. Army uniform. I’d like to know why the enlisted Wacs are allowed to wear a gabardine uniform and not the enlisted men of the Army. Gabardine uniforms are much nicer in appearance and hold shape better, but enlisted men are not allowed to wear them even if we buy them ourselves. I don’t think this is fair.

The reason Army enlisted men cannot wear gabardine uniforms is the shortage of that material and the shortage of tropical worsted. The Army has taken the entire production of tropical worsted ever since last January, but there is still not enough available to provide enlisted men with such uniforms. There are not so many Wacs as there are men in the Army and they were able to obtain enough gabardine to make it possible to outfit them, but until it can be provided for all the men, the regulations state that none can wear it.


Why doesn’t the OPA ration camera film for civilian use? There are so many special occasions—weddings, anniversaries, sons and daughters leaving for service. And there must be many mothers like me, with new babies, who’d appreciate one roll every few months. When film is so scarce, it doesn’t seem fair that only the few who "know someone" dealing with film can obtain it.

The OPA must have a directive from the WPB in order to institute rationing. The WPB feels that camera films are such a small end product, mostly for recreational purposes, and there is such a limited number of people within the population who use film it would be hard to set up criteria for rationing. Film isn’t like sugar, for example, which everybody uses and everybody needs. If everyone had cameras and had to use them, then the film would have to be rationed; but as it is, most people use their cameras merely for recreation and hobbies. Some dealers use a sort of voluntary rationing system, putting what film they have on sale at a certain hour, and asking the customer to produce his camera in order to buy the film.


Why doesn’t the government send men of the 4-F status over for the Army of Occupation? I mean men able to carry on with heavy work and yet not physically able to be in the Army. Our boys overseas now serving in this capacity certainly deserve to come home.

One of the reasons the Government cannot send 4-F men into the Army of Occupation is the obligation it would impose upon the Government. When a man is brought into service of the Government against his will, such as in the draft, obligations are thereby imposed upon the Government which last for many, many years. The men who are put in 4-F in the main have disabilities which are progressive, and the service which would be required of them in the Army of Occupation would aggravate their disabilities. Some 4-F men are not only physically unfit, but also mentally and morally; that classification covers a multitude of things. It would not be to their interest to induct them into the Army, and if they were taken in, they would be eligible for the same rights from the standpoint of Government obligation. Even if they were allowed to enter the service and waive their rights, and then later on their disabilities grew worse, they could go to court and say that in the service of the nation they became disabled and the Government would be liable.


Do you think I am too young to write to wounded boys in the Army and Navy hospitals who have no relatives to write them? I am only thirteen, but I am quite tall. Do you think I could work in a Red Cross hospital?

I think at thirteen you would not be allowed to work for the Red Cross in any hospital. You could join the Junior Red Cross and do whatever work was assigned you. You are too young to write to wounded boys in the Army and Navy unless they are friends of your family and you know something about them.


Is the grave where your husband is buried in a garden near the home and are there other members of the family buried there? Is the public allowed to visit the grave?

The grave where my husband is buried is in our old flower garden between the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and the house. There are no other members of the family buried there and the public is not allowed to visit the grave at present, because the grounds have not yet been taken over by the Government and the stone is not yet in place. When the Government has made all of its arrangements the whole place will be open to the public.


Will officers who have gotten their commission during the war be able to keep them if they wish to re-enlist after the war is over? If not, I would like to know why.

If an officer is honorably discharged and goes into the Reserve Corps, he will retain his commission and when it is necessary to expand the Army and he is called back into active service, he will be called back with the same commission which he retained in the Reserve. However, if an officer does not enter the Reserve Corps upon discharge and a few years later wants to enlist in the regular Army, he would have to enlist as a private. The commission is retained only in the Reserve.


It seems to me that if the pin-up girls dressed in bathing suits can keep up the morale of the boys in the Army and Navy camps, there is certainly something the matter. I hope my son in the Navy can look for a more decent picture to keep up his morale. What do you think?

I haven’t happened to see any pictures that do not look just as any girl looks in a bathing suit. Bathing suits nowadays are rather abbreviated, but I do not believe that seeing a girl in a bathing suit either adds to or detracts from the morale of our boys in the Army or Navy. Photographs of girls in bathing suits are not very different from seeing the actual girls; but if a boy has a girl of his own, he usually puts her pictures up, and I do not believe then that he pays much attention to any others.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1945

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 62, September 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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