If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

February 1946


Is it true that you employ seven secretaries?

No. I have Miss Thompson, who has been with me for over twenty years, and she has one assistant. I also have, on part time, one person and occasionally two, for research work.


Do you think it necessary to kneel when you pray?

I think it often is conducive to more concentration if you kneel when you pray, but I do not think it at all essential. Some of the most heartfelt prayers have been offered while men and women were doing some very active work.


A group of six women work in our office. We are wives, mothers and sweethearts of servicemen. We are appalled at rumors of war, inadequate foreign policy, the seemingly unprincipled induction and discharge of servicemen. We want to know what we can do about these things and how to avoid a third world war.

Your question is rather a large one. One of things that you can do is to stop passing on the type of thing which creates rumors of war. You do not know whether the Administration's foreign policy is inadequate or not. We are passing through a period which is bound to be confusing and I think it would be only fair to wait a little while before making such a sweeping statement. I see absolutely no reason for saying that the induction and discharge of servicemen is "unprincipled." They are discharged according to rules laid down by the Army and Navy which are worked out with as great care as possible, and the men are inducted because they are needed in different parts of the world at the present time in the service of their country.

I think the best way to avoid a third world war is to work as hard as we know how for a strong United Nations Organization, with a security section that has some power and a good economic section that will try to solve economic and social questions which are confronting every nation in the world today.


Since American women spend so much of their time in business and politics, what can be done to keep them out of the taverns? Do you think if taverns were licensed to sell spiritous liquors only, and if tables and chairs for women and soft drinks and all food and music were banned in taverns, it would do any good?

I haven't the faintest idea. Women nearly always go where men go. In the long run, it seems to me, the important thing is to make whatever place people go to a decent place in which to be.


I am a girl fifteen years old. I have a problem that is really worrying me. I don't know whether my mother doesn't understand me or what, but I know she is disappointed in me. She used to be mad at me because I wanted to do the things my friends did. Now she doesn't like it because I don't. I can't talk things over with my mother like other girls can. I would really appreciate your advice.

It is very difficult for anyone to give personal advice such as you ask, but there is one general rule, and that is that it takes two people to talk things over, and that one of them usually has to make the first advance. Suppose you try asking your mother to talk with you. You might find that she is just waiting for an invitation.


Do you think the young people of today are worse than they were ten or twenty years ago?

Certainly not. I have lived more than sixty years and I have heard young people condemned many times. I think nearly every generation is better than the last, and I certainly admire the present one.


Would you please tell me if you believe, as I do, in love at first sight? Do you know of any actual cases?

No, I do not know of any actual cases, and I do not know whether I believe in love at first sight or not. I have seen love develop very quickly between two people and I have heard people say that they knew the minute they found themselves with the man or woman whom they later married, that there was immediately a great attraction, but I haven't the faintest idea if it was love at first sight or not.


Frankly, I do not find the filmy sheerness of nylons very flattering to mature legs, and I recall the silk service chiffon which really did help. My idea is to show real friendship to China by demanding silk hose. Let the younger women have their nylons, but I am sure many older women would prefer silk. What is your idea?

I really have given this very little thought. I never liked the feel of nylon as much as I like the feel of silk. If we could get silk for hose from China, it might be a good thing, but I do not know how the transportation situation is as yet, nor whether the silk-making industry there is able to provide us with the raw silk.


I wish to know if the quotation "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" is an original saying of the late President. If not, from whom did he quote?

It was an original saying, if there is anything really original!


As compared with men, what do you think are the chief faults of American women, both as workers in organizations, in public, and as individuals? Are there any respects in which as a group you think women are superior to men?

As workers in organizations I think sometimes women are more sensitive to supposed slights and get their feelings hurt more easily than men. When you say "in public," I suppose you mean in public office, and I should say this same trait is visible there. They find it hard to stand up under unfair criticism, and they are easily discouraged.

As individuals I think you have a more difficult question because every woman is different just as every man is different, and what you might say about one group even might not be true about another.

There is a large group of women, however, who lack self-confidence as individuals when they undertake anything outside of the traditional spheres in which women have always moved. Even as individuals the same sensitiveness to criticism is a drawback in family and social relationships. I think women are often superior to men in their intuition about people; in their executive ability when they are handling detailed work; and in their ability to subordinate themselves to a cause or to another individual if they think that is the way to serve a cause. You will laugh, ladies, but I think women often talk less and act more quickly than men.


How many more wars will there be to end war? I have lived through two, to one of which my husband gave his life. Don't you feel that it is ironic that two days after the United Nations became an international fact, the President should ask for national training to maintain our military supremacy?

I do not, and neither does anybody else, know how many more wars there will be, or whether we will have the intelligence to take the opportunity that lies before us and really build a peaceful world. It seems to me that we have only two alternatives, since we now have the power for the complete destruction of civilization in our hands. We must either have a peaceful world or run the risk of total destruction.

I do not think the President asked for national military training to sustain our military supremacy only. I think he felt the need at the present time to continue the training of our young men for military work. We none of us know just what kind of training will be needed for real defense in the future, and we will have to wait and review our whole defense problems, I think, before we make any final decisions.


Must another "lost generation" develop from our wartime laxity in morals?

No. I see no signs of a lost generation at present.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, February 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, February 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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