If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1946


Do you think that compulsory psychiatric consultation, at a cost scaled to all incomes, would solve the divorce problem? If so, how could it be inaugurated?

I think if psychiatric care were available to all at small cost a great many people might obtain help when they found themselves faced with difficulties in their daily lives which now result in broken homes. I do not think that it would be possible to prevent all divorces by making psychiatric care available, but it might reduce the number of divorces very greatly.

The way to inaugurate the use of such care is to make it available just as all other medical care should be available to all people within the nation, regardless of the size of their incomes. It is as important as surgical and medical care or other types, and if one is available, all should be.

At present the less expensive provision of medical care is thought of largely as an insurance problem, but many people think that it should be a question of taxation in just the same way we provide schools or public health.


I want to have six children, because I feel that children are happier and have a better start in large families. My husband and I are both college graduates, but he makes only an average salary and feels that we should have fewer children and give them more advantages. What would you advise?

I would advise coming to a joint decision on this subject. No outsider can give any advice on what is essentially the problem for the parents themselves to solve.


Some time ago I heard that you encourage our young people to drink. This I don't believe. Will you tell me what you think about this subject?

This harks back, I am afraid, to a very ancient time. In the days of Prohibition, when young people were prone to think it smart to go out and drink bootleg liquor, I once said that I had been brought up in a very strict home, but that on my grandmother's table there stood, as a rule, two decanters of wine. This was the custom in many old-fashioned houses, and all young people learned to take wine in moderation, just as we were taught, when we were old enough to drink coffee, to drink it in moderation.

During the days of Prohibition I thought that this teaching might be a safeguard to some young people. I do not like anything which is done immoderately. Where people indulge in anything to excess, I think it is unattractive and unwise.

I would gladly see hard liquor done away with. Since that is unlikely to happen, I do believe that the individual has to make decisions for himself, and that it is rarely successful when moral decisions are made for individuals by law, except in the case of criminal offenses which injure society. I, therefore, would bend every effort if I were bringing up children today to teach them moderation in all things.


Do you think Federal aid for schools would help raise our educational standards in poor communities?

I certainly do. I have wanted to see us have Federal aid for schools for a long while because our educational opportunities are so uneven throughout the nation.


So much churchgoing was forced down my throat as a child that I grew to hate church. However, since I've reached maturity I have found religion in music, a pretty picture, the fragrance of wistaria, the love of my husband and children, and so forth. Do you think it would be wrong to bring up my children to find religion in the life around them and let them decide later for themselves whether they want to join a church?

Here again I think people have to make this decision for themselves. Some children—in fact, nearly all children—enjoy going to church and Sunday school, and, if they want it, it seems a pity not to let them have it. The formal joining of some particular church seems rather meaningless until a child is old enough to understand what the various denominations stand for, but this is something you will have to decide in relation to the individual child and its development.


I would like your opinion on the following question: Do occupational forces teach democracy?

I suppose what you mean is: “Do our armies of occupation teach democracy?” That all depends upon how well our armies understand democracy. I am afraid young men in armies of occupation are far from understanding the real underlying principles of democracy or wanting to practice these principles as a way of life. A few do understand and are genuinely devoted to democratic ideals, both in government and in their way of living. When that is the case, they are without question increasing the knowledge of democracy wherever they are stationed.


What were you most afraid of as a child, and how did you get over it? I'm still afraid of the dark, for instance.

I think as a child I was more afraid of not being loved than of anything else, and therefore I could stand sharp punishment better than a scolding, particularly a scolding when several people were present. I felt that if several people were conscious of my guilt they might not like me as much as they had in the past. I got over this fear gradually by coming to realize that people usually care for you in spite of your faults and that wanting to make them love you is not, as a rule, the key to their hearts.


What do you consider to be your greatest fault?

The desire for approbation from those I love. It is difficult to do a thing which I believe right in spite of the knowledge that someone I care for differs with me.


Don't you think the radio's singing commercials are a reflection on the intelligence of the American people?

No, I do not think they are a reflection on the intelligence of the American public but I think perhaps they are an indication that the average advertiser thinks that the American buying public is attracted to his wares by somewhat juvenile methods. The advertiser may be right, and who am I to criticize, for I rarely buy anything which I hear advertised over the radio.


Some ministers feel that the pulpit should not be used to urge blood tests on their congregations in the U.S.P.H.S. check on syphilis. What do you think?

I should think that schools and PTA groups and civic assemblages were probably better places than church, and it would seem to me that the doctors of the community would be more effective than the ministers in spreading this knowledge.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, July 1946

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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