If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1946


Do you think a mother should accept her son's foreign wife and child even though he was engaged to a lovely American girl? There are thousands of the girls overseas, deliberately roping these boys in. Our Government seems to be more concerned over other countries than our own people.

I do not see what the Government has to do with our acceptance of the wives whom our sons marry. Unfortunately, being engaged to someone is not quite the same as being married. If a young man marries someone else, the girl to whom he was engaged has no redress, but if the young man marries and leaves his wife, the situation is, of course, different. Therefore, I think whether the young man who married during his service abroad was engaged or not, a mother will have to accept the girl to whom her son is married. If there are children from the marriage, we most certainly will want to get on, since the children are our own blood. Paternity is something which cannot be wiped out. If we are wise I think we will learn to love the women our sons marry.

We will remember that the wives gave our sons, in the days that were hard, love and affection and a cure for the loneliness which might have been unbearable.

It is true that there are some foreign women who have "roped in" our young men and married them for selfish reasons, but I hope they are in the minority.

The best safeguard any boy could have, of course, was the knowledge that he had the love of his people at home, waiting for him to return, and their constant attention as far as the war would allow, during the time he was overseas.

Young people are prone to fall in love through propinquity. If they have married, we will be wise to do all we possibly can to help them in this new adventure, since we desire their happiness above all else in the world.


Do you think it is wrong to marry a man a few years younger than yourself? I am a widow 35 years old with two children.

I am not able to give this kind of advice. These are personal considerations which can only be decided by the individuals involved, and each case is different from every other case.


If you were to live your life over again, is there any one outstanding thing which you would like to change, or do differently?

I think anybody reaching the last decades of his or her life realizes that there are many things one would like to change. Often one had no choice, however, as in my case, since they were due to conditions when one was very young. Certain characteristics and qualities of character I think might have been developed earlier and obviated later difficulties, had one grown up in different circumstances.


A friend of mine is starting a neighborhood domestic-service business. She will have a trained staff, to do catering, cleaning, laundry, nursing and other chores, by weekly or individual appointments. Do you think the average community (of 10,000 or more) could support a business of this kind?

I certainly do. I think it is a very good idea and it will be a tremendous help to a great many housewives. I hope such a setup will include someone to take care of children a certain number of hours a day.


Most women fib about their age at some time, but I never had until now. Recently, when applying for a job, I was discriminated against because of my age. My prospective employer was extremely pleased with my work until I told him my age, and then his whole attitude changed. I decided not to be so frank in the future, but my husband argues that the Social Security Board will catch up with me and notify my employer of the discrepancy between his reports and their files. Is this true?

I think any employer who is satisfied with your work and then, when you tell him your age, loses interest in the work which you have done, is a pretty weak reed on which to lean for continuous employment. However, if your worry is just about the Social Security Board, you can be entirely honest with them, since I understand that they never divulge any person's age to any employer. However, you should be sure to tell the Social Security Board the truth because I think it might be serious if the records were not accurate.


You stated that you and Mr. Roosevelt were fifth cousins, once removed. Will you please explain what is meant by "once removed."?

Once removed means we belong to different generations. My husband was one generation older than I was. In other words, he was my father's fifth cousin.


Like many others nowadays, the thought of what an atom war could do to our world often comes to my mind. But, like most others, I push it to the back of my consciousness with the excuse that there is nothing that I myself can do about it. Is there anything really which the common man can do?

Yes, there is a great deal that the common man can do. We can work for peace. Even during the war some of our leaders were thinking about how to establish a unity among nations after the war which might prevent future wars. The machinery was set in motion first to write a charter which could be agreed to by many nations. At present fifty-one nations have agreed to that charter and in London, on January 10, they sent delegates actually to set up the machinery to implement that charter. That is now done. The permanent home of this organization will be in this country and under it many undertakings will begin which we hope will lead us to a peaceful world.

However, this will only be possible if the peoples of the various nations keep their interest alive and work to the best of their ability under the organization, whether it is a health organization, or an educational organization, or a labor organization, or any of the other numerous organizations which create the ties among peoples that make them want to work together and not to fight each other.

You and I, as ordinary citizens, can work for these various undertakings and, above everything else, we can create public opinion and make it favorable to cooperation. When one has seen Europe or the Pacific and understands what modern war does to countries and peoples, one can fully realize, I think, that our future existence depends on making the UNO a vital instrument for peace.


I have War Bonds which I hope to keep for ten years, with my name only on them. People tell me if I were to die, my own daughter could not collect anything from the Government for the bonds. Is this true?

I think your bonds would be part of your estate if they had no other name on them, and therefore they would be taxable as the rest of your estate would be. It would be wise to make a will specifying that the bonds are to go to your daughter, or take the bonds to a Federal Reserve Bank, or the bank with which you usually deal and have them changed to include both your name and that of your daughter. In that case if either one of you were to die, the bonds would automatically belong to the survivor and they would not be taxable.


My attractive sixteen-year-old daughter, a popular junior in high school, has been dating steadily. To this I have no objection, as she is a high honor student, but she repeatedly returns from dates on school nights well after midnight. Two or three years ago when she disobeyed, she went across my knee and was soundly spanked with a hairbrush. I think this practice should be utilized again. My wife disagrees. I would like to know your views.

I am afraid, when you reach the age of sixteen, to be spanked as though you were eight or nine would be rather bad for your sense of dignity. At sixteen a girl should be reasonable enough so that you could talk over the question of hours which are kept during the school week. My daughter never allowed her very attractive, charming daughter to make any dates during the school week, and the youngster herself realized that it was a wise plan and never even asked to make them.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, May 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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