If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1946


Do you miss the comings and goings, the hustle-bustle routine you followed when Mr. Roosevelt was in the Presidency?

No. I cannot say that I miss the hustle-bustle routine or the comings and goings that were part of my life when I lived in the White House. I never have lived a very quiet life, and I cannot say that life is very quiet today. I keep busy enough so that I have very little time for wishing life might be something different.


Although I am a man, I am convinced that men will not end war. Do you think a world-wide women's organization for world peace would be more powerful than any organization now operating (not including the U.N.)?

I am not much of a believer in organizations which do not include both men and women. I think that an organization which had a great number of women working in it, with men, would probably be more effective than an organization very largely composed of women working for peace, as has often been the case in the past.


I am married, with a lovely home, two fine children and the best husband a woman could ask for. During the war I did a great deal of Red Cross staff work and found that I have definite executive ability. I miss my war work and, in spite of no need for money, long to get a job. My husband feels that I should devote more time to my family and home. I have two capable servants who have been with us since I was a bride. Under these circumstances, do you think it would be all right to work in spite of my husband's wishes?

You have asked me an impossible question. This is something which two people must decide for themselves. No outsider can tell what the situation is, nor what the necessary adjustments would be. Only you and your husband and children can decide whether the sense of satisfaction which a job would bring you would mean that your home would profit by it as well as your own ego. I am afraid I am no Beatrice Fairfax. This is something which you and your husband and children will have to decide.


I am eighteen, have worked in a small-town post office for three years, and I have saved enough money to practically put myself through college. Do you think it would be wise to give up a $2600-a-year job to go to college?


Neither my husband nor I went to college and have often been sorry. Our seventeen-year-old daughter has taken the college preparatory course at school, but has no interest in going to college. She graduated this spring and is entered in one of the well-known women's colleges. Although it means financial sacrifice to give her a college education, we feel it is money well spent. While our daughter is willing to abide by our wishes, are we correct in forcing her to do something she hasn't the slightest desire to do just because we know the advantages?

I doubt very much whether your daughter would profit by going to college if she really does not want to go. Why don't you let her work for a year? Then she might find out what she wants to do in life and what advantages college might have for the particular thing she is interested in. Many girls who marry and run a home and never expect to hold a job or have a career find that college training would have been invaluable in the home. Until she finds it out, however, and really knows how she wants to use these years in college, it seems as though you would be making a sacrifice and your daughter might get very little out of it.


I have read a lot lately about artificial insemination from anonymous donors. In childless marriages, if both husband and wife want children, do you feel there are any moral or social obstacles involved?

I really know very little about this question, but I should think if both husband and wife had consented to this type of treatment, it was a question for them to decide and also of no interest to others, and should not be known to anyone but themselves and the doctor.


When you have warned your children that such-and-such proposed actions would be bad for them—would bring them pain, or unhappiness, or hurt feelings—and when they went stubbornly ahead and met setbacks, and came to you for consolation, could you always keep yourself from saying, "I told you so!"?

I do not remember ever having been so unwise as to say, "I told you so." I think I was usually so mindful of the many times when I had done exactly the same thing myself that I was not tempted to bring the question up. Besides, when those you love suffer, even though you may have tried to explain to them that it might happen, you cannot help feeling sad with them and not wanting to add to their pain.


Are any of Europe's homeless children available for adoption? Or is it possible to bring some of them here for temporary care, similar to the Foster Parents' Plan?

I do not think any European children are being brought here for temporary care. Children are being brought here for permanent care and for adoption. I would advise you to write to the United States Committee for the Care of European Children, 215 Fourth Avenue, New York City.


Can you give a short list of books, other than the Bible, which you think were influential in forming your character—and that of your husband?

My husband read very widely even as a very young child. I think that Mrs. Lex and Mrs. Ailshein had a lot to do with his sense of resourcefulness. Outside of that, I think it was his reading of biographies of naval character that probably had the greatest influence on his character.

As far as I am concerned, I really do not know. I read everything and anything I could find in our library, mostly classics, of course. Just what influence they had on my character I really do not know, but Dickens, Scott and Thackeray were all old friends before I was fifteen years old.


I am of Jewish extraction and lately have begun to feel that there is a great deal of intolerance against us in this country. Every time I glance at my two babies I wonder how long it will be before the reign of terror descends upon them. Am I being unduly pessimistic?

I think you are much too pessimistic. I do not think for a moment that there will be in this country a reign of terror. There is too much recognition of the fact that there is something that needs to be fought and too many people who would feel that the whole fabric of this nation was falling apart. If such things as happened in Germany were to begin to happen here, many of us would feel the purpose underlying the founding of our nation had been negated.


I am a little over sixteen and am a high-school junior. I like to dance, but am not allowed to go to any dances except school dances, two or three times a year. Also, my mother dislikes me to go bowling. Do you think it is wrong for high-school girls to go to bowling alleys?

I think your mother is a very wise woman. Sixteen is very young. You do not realize it now, but you have plenty of time ahead of you to go bowling and dancing. Your health is important today, and if you do not have all the experiences and all the pleasures at the age of sixteen which you desire, you will enjoy them much more when you are a couple of years older. What is more, the young men will find you more interesting because they will not have had a chance to get tired of you.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, August 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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