If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1945


Is it true, as has been stated frequently, that President Roosevelt's final stroke was not the first, but that he had suffered several previous ones? If there is no truth in this report I think it would be a good thing for the country to have it specifically denied.

At the moment Admiral McIntire, who was President Roosevelt's physician during the past twelve years, is in the Pacific, so no one can speak for him. When he has been asked by various newspaper correspondents, he has said there is absolutely no truth in this statement and it is too absurd to deny.

I think it would be impossible to live in the house with someone who had suffered several strokes and not know it. Neither the children nor I ever saw the slightest sign of a stroke. My husband was always susceptible to germs and had had infantile paralysis and later on the flu and colds, but one of the effects of infantile paralysis is less good circulation. In some ways, however, I think the care which was a necessity made my husband stronger, and certainly being able to take less physical exercise seemed to make it possible for him to conserve his energy and use his mental powers with better concentration.


Do you approve of the custom of children calling their parents by their first names?

That seems to me an individual thing to decide. I have always liked mother and father, but many children use mamma and papa, or ma and pa. After all, it seems to me your association with whatever name you use for your parents is the important thing, since it is that sense of unending love and security which gives the child confidence about life; and whether that is attached to the first names of the parents, or to the more usual mother and father, seems to me quite unimportant.


Do you think a woman should have a baby as late in life as 45 years old? Many women who have had children and suddenly find their children grown would welcome a new baby, while many others would think it an almost tragedy to have a baby at that age. Can you say that you know anyone who has had a baby as late in life?

I did not suppose that many women would feel they could cope with a new baby at the age of 45, particularly if they had had other children when they were younger. If they are still able to have a baby and never had one before, I can understand their wanting one. I do not think that I have ever known of a case where a woman was actually 45 when her baby was born, though I have known one woman who was nearing that age. She was a fine person and went through the ordeal successfully and her child had a normal happy childhood and was a great satisfaction and joy to her.


Once you stated publicly that you would never under any circumstances run for an elective office. Would you make the same statement today?



Do you believe it is indicative of the morals of our society that we condone, make light of and even seem to approve the loose way of life led by so many stage and screen stars?

I am afraid I do not know a great deal about the lives of stage and screen stars. I, of course, know a few of them personally and I have usually found them very much like other people. They have difficulties, sorrows and joys just like the rest of humanity. I think probably among them there are some rather shallow people, but then there are some of that variety off the stage and screen also.

You evidently think that the morals of our society today are at a rather low ebb. As I read history, our present standards seem to me on the whole rather higher, however, than they have been in many periods of similar stress in past centuries. I feel rather hopeful that we are accepting responsibility more consciously and thinking out our problems more carefully than has often been the case in the past when nations have been through long periods of war.


A New York editor said recently that our Army has been the most homesick army the world has ever seen and that this has been a military problem. His explanation was that American women "mother" their sons and husbands too much. Do you think that this is true?

No, I do not think it is true. It amuses me very much that in some periods our writers bemoan and bewail the fact that the American home is disappearing: it has no hold on the young people; it has no stability and our youngsters have no real attachment to their homes. Then presto, overnight the young people go to war and the reporter finds that they are desperately homesick! It will be acknowledged, I think, that one cannot be homesick for something which does not exist!

The simple answer is that the rank and file of American children rarely leave home before they are eighteen, and when you draft them at eighteen and take them away from home and put them under military discipline at that age, it is the first time that most of them have been away from home. There is every chance that homesickness will persist for quite a long while under these circumstances.


We are members of an adult Bible class and have had many arguments about whether playing baseball on Sunday or attending professional baseball games is breaking the Sabbath. What is your opinion?

I am afraid I am not a very good person to pass judgment on this question. I was brought up by my grandmother very strictly. I was not allowed to play any games on Sundays; my only recreation was an afternoon walk. I was not even allowed to read the same books that I read on weekdays. The effect was not altogether successful. I hated to have the book I was really interested in removed from me on Saturday night, and just as I got interested in my story on Sunday, that book was whisked away and I had to wait a week to finish it!

The result is that I have allowed my children to feel and have myself felt that Sunday should be a day of rest and relaxation as long as what one did was in no way harmful or wrong. If you feel that playing baseball or going to a professional baseball game is not harmful on Saturday afternoon, I can see no reason why it should be harmful on Sunday afternoon, if it does not interfere with your duties, whatever they may be.

This, however, is a question which each individual must answer for himself. What you feel is right or wrong is a matter for your own conscience. No one else can decide for you.


What single piece of reading matter during the past year has given you the greatest pleasure?

That is difficult to say, since one derives pleasure from so many different kinds of books. I have enjoyed greatly reading UP FRONT WITH MAULDIN, by Bill Mauldin, and before that I enjoyed very much Ernie Pyle's book, but I am not sure that they have given me the greatest pleasure because so much depends on one's mood.


Do you believe that now the war is over there will be an opportunity for young women in the field of flying?

I certainly do. It seems to me that flying is going to become so much simpler that men and women both will be able to fly small planes and use them for many different purposes.


Do you think it fair to accept a pension from taxpayers of the country when your husband left you a life estate of $2,000,000?

You have made a statement which is incorrect. My husband did not leave me an estate of two million dollars. The estate not being settled, it would be impossible for me to tell you the exact amount, but I know it probably will be under half that amount.

As far as I know, the pension given to widows of Presidents has nothing to do with the need at the time the pension is granted. The decision does not lie with the widow but with Congress, which has to pass a bill granting the pension. I have always supposed that it was given by the Government in recognition of the Presidents' service to the country in order that any widow who might sometime need this pension would be safeguarded. It would be difficult to put it on the basis of need, since many people might feel that instead of being an honor to accept it, it was an admission that their husbands failed to provide adequately for them and no wife likes to admit that.


I understand that social workers are badly needed by the Red Cross for service in this country and overseas. Is this true, and, if so, how can I apply for duty?

At least 750 trained social workers are very much needed by the Red Cross for service overseas and in the United States. These must include trained psychiatric, medical and generic social workers for administrative positions and staff positions to supervise many hospital workers, trained and untrained in the areas of social case work.

Recently the Red Cross announced that they would give six hundred one-year scholarships to accredited schools of social work, and students awarded scholarships must pledge one year of hospital service abroad or at home. The scholarship carries full tuition and $100 a month allowance.

This plan, however, is to meet the long-range need and will not supply the immediate need. If you are a trained social worker, go at once to the Red Cross headquarters and put in your application.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1945

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Ladies' Home Journal, volume 62, October 1945

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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