If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1946


We have had many discussions as to which ring should be placed on the finger first—the wedding ring or engagement ring. Will you please settle this for us?

I had no idea what the correct answer to this question was. I have always worn my wedding ring with my engagement ring as a guard for the wedding ring, but I have done a little research and find that the engagement ring is a variation of the "keeper ring," a diamond hoop of our own Colonial period and somewhat similar to today's wedding ring. It was given for betrothal and also mentioned as the "hoop ring," and was worn next to the wide wedding band, so that the latter could not be lost. It was later known as the "guard ring." Women considered it bad luck to lose their wedding rings, once placed on the finger by the clergyman or magistrate. The ring was never taken off during life.

I have followed the custom without knowing it. I have never taken my wedding ring off and I have always worn my engagement ring as a guard ring, though it happens to have a diamond in it, and I really should wear a guard ring to keep it from dropping off!


Is it necessary for a woman to risk her life for a pair of hose, already in a bag and waiting for her, after spending two hours in a line? I am sure the majority of women would be glad to have them rationed to insure equal distribution, not only of the precious nylons but also the baggy rayons. How scarce do they have to get before someone with authority will take over?

I thought that the public had made it clear that it does not want any more regulation than is absolutely necessary. I heard a good deal of complaint about the possibility of rationing any clothes. It might be possible, if you have a charge account, to put in your order for what you want and ask the shop to fill it when they are able to do so.


Do you think that women will always be subservient to men?

I do not think that women have to be subservient to anybody. It depends entirely on their own characters.


Every time I listen to those silly jingles on the radio or to some man shouting at me to buy this product or that, my blood boils. I realize that, if a company has a new product, it should tell the public about it, but what can be done about the nauseating advertising on the radio?

I do not know what you can do about it except to write in and tell the sponsors that you object to their commercials. Perhaps they can make them more interesting from your point of view.


Would you be willing to act as an official U.S. representative to Moscow on a mission to foster better understanding between Russia and our country?

I hardly think that I would be suited to such a mission. I do not speak Russian and I have no background for any political mission. There are innumerable people who could be far more useful officially than it would be possible for me to be.

I hope someday to go to Russia as a writer and to have the opportunity to see some of their achievements and some of their hardships, which must exist in a country developing as rapidly as Russia has developed in the past few years. At the same time I would hope that I might be able to help the Russian people to understand our own way of life and our own point of view better than they have in the past. If we are going to live and develop peacefully side by side, we shall have differences, but we must understand each other.


Someone told me that you said recently in your column that the American people do not know how to govern themselves and need to be told. What exactly did you say?

I have absolutely no idea what I could have said in my column which gave such a peculiar impression. The only thing that I have said at various times is that, when the American people become apathetic and do not keep the control of their government in their own hands, it is bound to slip into the hands of those who make politics a profession. Therefore, because of their indifference, the American people may sometimes find themselves slaves to representatives who do not really represent them.


In recent months I have heard people talking about the "next war" as if it were inevitable. What is your opinion of people who talk like that?

I think they are very foolish people who really have no conception of what the next war would bring. We have been exceptionally fortunate in not having war on our own doorsteps. Our men have gone out to fight in faraway places and we have known anxiety and loss, but we have not known what bombs dropped on our own soil would mean, and perhaps that is why certain people feel free to talk about the next war. Even without the atomic bomb, destruction with our modern means of warfare is far too great to contemplate another war with equanimity. War can no longer be considered civilized.


I should like to send packages of food and clothing to friends in England, but prefer not to send anything on which duty must be paid. To whom should I write for information? Is used clothing duty-free?

You can write to the Red Cross for information, or go to your post office and find out. Used clothing is duty-free, and nearly all foodstuffs that can be shipped are duty-free.


I am a girl of 13 ½. An only child, I get lonely. I want a dog. My mother won't give her consent. She doesn't like dogs. Can you tell me what to do?

I am afraid I cannot give you a formula for persuasion. Judging from my own experience as a mother, however, I am sure that if you try to please your mother in every way and prove to her that you are reliable and responsible, your mother will someday feel that she can trust you to look after a dog and not to allow it to become a burden on her.


What, as you see it, is woman's function in society after middle age, when the years of childbearing are over?

If a woman is blessed with good health, she is freer after middle age to do things outside her home as her children grow up. If she has a home, however, and a husband to look after, and has been fortunate in having a number of children, she will find her freedom from family cares is purely a myth. They are different, but they are still fairly time-consuming.

Nevertheless, the most rewarding activity for any woman, young or old, is to meet the needs of those who are nearest and dearest to her. She will not meet these adequately, however, if she has no interests and occupations of her own, since it is important that young families should never have the feeling that the older members of the family are languishing for their constant companionship. This makes the time they spend together less enjoyable and makes a duty out of something which should be a pleasure.


Don't you feel that the American people were misled in accepting the Four Freedoms as ideals to fight for, and don't you think our boys who died for them died in vain?

No. I do not think the American people were misled any more than they were misled by our forefathers who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We haven't yet achieved everything that was set down in the Constitution as our ultimate objective, but it did not hurt us any to have it set down, and it gives us something to strive for, and many people have died for these aims. Every time that we get a step nearer to the great conception that our forefathers had, we justify the faith of those who died, and this is true of a belief in the Four Freedoms and in the hope of their ultimate realization.


What do you think is the greatest single cause of misunderstanding between the nations of the world, both great and small?



How can the New York Social Register exist when there is no class distinction in the U.S.A.?

Being listed in the New York Social Register does not mean anything in the way of class distinction really. Many of the most distinguished people whom I know never were in the Social Register and never wanted to be. The Social Register grew up many years ago in New York City and in other cities, when there were just a few families who knew each other rather well and who constituted the social life of rather small towns. The make-up of the Social Register is probably done according to some pattern, and, though I know some people who attach great importance to being included because they think it has some social meaning, I do not think most people really know whether their friends are in it or not. I find it easier to handle than the telephone book when I want an address or telephone number, but it does not yield the addresses and telephone numbers I want on many occasions!


Would you please give me your opinion of the frightful waste reported as going on in our Government services? Food, clothing and equipment that are being dumped from our boats, according to returning G.I.'s?

I cannot imagine that waste of the kind you suggest has been going on. Things that are no longer usable or that have gone bad might be dumped from our ships, but certainly nothing which is of value and can be used would be dumped at the present time when the need is so great.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, June 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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