If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1946


I am a Palestinian with American college education, and I see through the questions and answers on your page that the women of America are taking a very big interest in world affairs, and the bringing about of peace for which we all suffered and paid so dearly. I wish to ask you what the women of America can do for Jewish women of Palestine in their present struggle.

I think the women of America can probably do little specifically for the women of Palestine until the whole question of the status of Palestine is settled. Whatever is done in this country, of course, for the people of Palestine as a whole has the support of many women in this country; and that, of necessity, must give encouragement to the women of Palestine. In the future there will probably be many possibilities for the women to work together, but it seems to me that the political and economic situation of Palestine must first be settled, in addition to the whole refugee question, before any plans in detail can be worked out through which the women of this country could work directly with the women of Palestine for specific objectives.


I am a high-school graduate, nineteen. Last year I stood first in my class and have been offered three scholarships. As I plan to be a doctor, I am anxious to get started in college. But I am also 1-A. Now I approve of national military service, but don't you think we teen-agers should have some choice about when we serve our time? It's my belief that the law should require one year of service any time between nineteen and twenty-two. This would give bright students a chance to take advantage of their brains without that "year out" and also give a chance for education to a great many boys who would lose interest or ambition to go back to school after a year in the Army. What do you think of this plan?

I think that your scholarships should be made available to you after you have done your year in the Army. It will be easier for you to give this year now and then be able to go right through with your college and professional courses than if you took one, two or three years now, and then had to break up and finish after your year in the Army.


What can a housewife do to equip herself with as much factual information as possible before voting in state and national elections?

She can read two newspapers that represent different points of view, and she can join an organization that will give her nonpartisan information both on candidates and issues, such as the League of Women Voters, or the Union for Democratic Action.


How would you spend your time if you knew you had just six months to live?

I haven't the remotest idea. I think that situation has to be decided when you are obliged to face it. I rather think I'd try to go on living as usual, since that would be easier for others around me.


Don't you think a girl can say "no" and turn away the attentions of a man? A girl I know stole a boy friend I was going steady with. She is telling everybody that she just couldn't help it. Don't you think she ought to have played fair and kept hands off? I know you can say "no" to a man, because I have, and he knew I meant it.

Yes, you can say "no" to a man and you can send him away; but, my dear child, remember that if you were "going steady" with a young man, and any girl could take him away, then his heart was not yours anyway. You could not have held him, and if this girl had not taken him, some other girl would. You are both better off to discover before marriage that on his part, at least, love was not lasting.


Don't you think there is far too much preoccupation with psychology by the layman these days? It seems to me that people are so busy thinking about themselves they haven't time to consider more important issues. If students, wives, job holders and all others spent less time analyzing themselves (and everyone else), I think they would lead more efficient lives and be happier.

I think it is probably a valuable thing to face ourselves once in a while and try to recognize our own difficulties and limitations and overcome them. I certainly think it is a good thing to try to understand what motivates other people, but that can hardly be called a preoccupation with psychology. I agree with you that those who are not trained psychiatrists should not give too much thought to analyzing either themselves or others if it impedes their daily lives.


I should like to know your opinion of national college sororities. Are you, your daughter, daughters-in-law and granddaughter members of sororities? Would you advise a mother to take any steps toward trying to gain membership for her daughter?

My daughter and I did not go to college, except that my daughter attended Cornell University for a short course in agriculture one winter. I do not think she joined any sorority, and if she did, I doubt that she has ever been active in it. I belong to no sorority, though I may be listed as an honorary member. I would certainly not advise a mother to take any steps toward getting any membership for her daughter. Her daughter must come into any organization on her own.


I am a widow of forty. While my husband was alive we were very happy. I loved him very much, but feel I am too young to spend the rest of my life alone. I am a working woman, so have an opportunity to meet new people every day. How much time do you think should elapse before I can decently be seen with other men?

Heavens above! You can decently be seen with other men whenever you feel like going out again. This is your life, not someone else's, and your own feeling is what is important, not what the rest of the world says. I never can understand why one cannot live one's life as one thinks is right. You can get rid of your neighbors, but you cannot get rid of yourself, so you are the person to be satisfied, not your neighbors.


I heard on the radio that farmers and professional people aren't eligible for Social Security under our present law. Is anything being done to correct this situation?

Both farmers and farm workers are excluded at the present time from the Federal old-age and survivors' insurance program under the Social Security Act, as are professional people who work for themselves, or for nonprofit charitable and similar organizations, or for governmental agencies covered under the law. Several other groups also are excluded, such as domestic workers and self-employed business men and women.

The Ways and Means Committee of Congress recently held public hearings on Social Security, and many persons testified in favor of extending the insurance program to cover every individual who works for a living, rich and poor alike. I think that the inclusion of all persons under the insurance program is essential. Methods have been worked out by the Social Security Board which would make this possible, but the Congress has not yet acted on these recommendations.


I am sixty-seven years old, living with my daughter and her family on $25 a month independent income. As families go, we are happy, but my daughter is very strong-willed and will allow me no part in helping raise the children or taking care of the house. And so the days go by in a useless sort of way. I seem to be of no value to anybody and have no money from outside activities or hobbies. My question is: Why not give the old at least as much consideration as the very young? Cannot some provision be made for older people during the day, similar to child-care centers or day nurseries?

It seems to me that you might offer to do some work with your church or with some organization in your neighborhood on a voluntary basis. I think it would be a little difficult to arrange to take care of older people as one arranges to take care of children. Older people are supposed to have developed certain interests and preferences during their lives and prefer to find their own occupations. Organizations in a few cities, notably New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland, sponsor clubs where "the sixties and over can get together for a good time's sake."

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About this document

If You Ask Me, November 1946

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 63, November 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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