If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1946


We civilians worked in different ways during the war. Please tell us what we can do for the peace. Surely we can have county, state and national federated organizations for peace that would be effective. Please be definite.

We can join with the organizations which are working in our localities for peace. I think perhaps the most effective thing we can do is to get together all the groups in our neighborhood and see how we can live together with good will at home, and then apply that good will to whatever position we take, or our country takes, toward the rest of the world.

Our most effective aid to peace is our citizenship at home and the way in which we choose our representatives, the way in which we watch their actions where international questions are involved.

There are many national organizations working for peace: the United Nations Organization, the Women's Action Committee and several others.


Although I am only sixteen years of age, I would like your answer to this question, as someone very dear to me has entered the service. Why hasn't the "duration of the war" been proclaimed by the President? I'm asking this in the case where someone enlisted before the war was over in the Army Air Corps and didn't get called until he was eighteen. On the orders it says he stays in only six months after the duration.

I imagine the President will not proclaim the end of the war until actual peace treaties are signed, and a United Nations Organization is set up.

The end of hostilities is never the end of a war, and the President may feel that it is necessary to keep on with certain powers which can be exercised only during the period of war.


Several people have told me that, from the very time your five children were born, you had help and never bathed one of them yourself or fed them or put them to bed, or even pinned a diaper. I do not believe this, as I don't think there is a mother, no matter how much help she has, who would not want the pleasure of doing some of these things. If you will answer this question, then that story will be settled for good.

I did have help from the time my children were born.

However, every mother, I think, at times takes complete charge of her children, and I was no different from any other mother. Every mother, for the reason you give, would miss a great part of the joy of motherhood if she did not bathe and dress and feed her own children. I did all these things every day of my life when my children were growing up, and I became a good trained nurse in the course of the years and nursed my family through various contagious diseases and serious illnesses.


How soon will it be before civilians will be able to travel in Europe—Italy and France—as tourists?

I do not think anyone can tell you that positively, but I should imagine it would be some time off, and certainly not until the armies of occupation are brought home. I can not imagine, however, that traveling as a tourist will be pleasant even after that. The destruction of beautiful buildings which some of us have known and loved in the past will make being a tourist a sorry business; and if we are conscious of the destruction which must have gone on among the people, I think most of us will prefer to stay at home unless we can be useful to the countries we visit.


Do you make new-year resolutions? If so, do you keep them?

I haven't made many new-year resolutions in my life. Those I have made, I have kept.


What hobby in your lifetime has given you pleasure for the longest time?



I would like to know your views on necking, petting, and so on, for teenagers—or anyone, for that matter. Also late hours and good-night kisses. There have been many opinions expressed on this subject, but they all seem to beat around the bush so you don't know any more than when they started.

You must remember that I am sixty-one years old and therefore "necking" and "petting" have very little charm for me! That holds good for good-night kisses! Seriously, however, I think a girl is wise if she does not make herself cheap. I know that it is ordinarily said that unless a girl allows a young man to kiss her or lets herself be handled with familiarity, dates are apt to be few and far between. I have always doubted that, because I have always thought a really nice young man would understand quite well that until a girl was really attracted to him, she did not care to be mauled, and that she could be just as good fun and just as informal and friendly without the type of demonstration which sometimes leads one into more than one had counted on.

I think, also, you have to remember that someday you are going to meet someone you care for a great deal, and then you may be sorry that you have given other people so much of what you would like to have kept for a really great love.


Your granddaughter, Miss Dall, is quite a young lady now. Are you contemplating encouraging her mother to have young Negro men present at her debut or any other of her grown-up parties?

I have never contemplated interfering with what my children or my grandchildren do. I would neither encourage nor discourage any plans which they had for social recreation, nor interfere in any way in which they wished to conduct their lives. Once your children are grown up and have children of their own, the problems are theirs, and the less the older generation interferes, the better. I should hope, however, that like any other mature person, my granddaughter would know men and women of all races and appreciate them for what they are worth.


How in the world can you be so nice and polite to these nasty people that ask you personal questions like the one in the October issue who thinks it's unfair for you to have a widow's pension?

Why shouldn't I be nice? If people really want information, they are entitled to have it within certain limits, and if they are just trying to be disagreeable they are hurting themselves and not me.


Do you think that labor unions should have the right to participate in determining what industrial prices and profits should be?

I think we are coming probably to a period where our old ideas are going to change somewhat. There was a time when we thought it was nobody's business but the individuals' how much they worked, or under what conditions they worked, or how much profit an employer made, or what was charged to the consumer for the goods that were on the market. As we have developed, we think it is within our rights to know under what conditions any work is performed, and whether the wages paid make it possible for a family to maintain a decent standard of living. If we are interested in that, it goes without saying that we are interested in finding out whether a business can really pay these wages. We can only do that as we know what the recompense of management is, what the profits are to management and to the stockholders, what the remuneration is for distribution and whether the ultimate price to the consumer is a fair one or too much of a mark-up.

It should not be just labor unions and management who are interested in these questions. It should be the public as a whole, and the information should be available to any citizen. In fact, it seems to me quite fair that reports should be given on negotiations of contracts between labor and management, since all these points should come up for consideration, and those who are going to buy should be as interested as the people who are to perform the work and the people who own the business and are going to profit by what is sold.


Do you think there should be compulsory courses for girls in community work to correspond to a year's military training for boys?

I think girls should have exactly the same opportunities that are given to boys. The only variation is that they should do the kind of work which they are best suited to do, but as far as possible should have opportunities for education in citizenship responsibility. I think that the girl has just as much responsibility in the life of a community and of the nation and of the world, and therefore should have the same opportunities for training and preparation.


Is it true that you and the late President were cousins? Do you think there is any danger in cousins marrying cousins?

Yes, we were fifth cousins, once removed. I have been told that when the relationship is close it is not wise to marry; but we were so distantly related that we might not have known of the relationship if our families had not been friends and our names the same.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, January 1946

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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