If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1947

 

My husband and I decided some years ago that our small contributions to peace would be never to tell or repeat "Eleanor stories," racial-prejudice stories or jokes, but we differ on our reactions to others' telling such stories. My husband says that if other persons make racial jokes, it is like beating your head against a stone wall to argue with them. He just changes the subject. I "light into" them, and tell them if they can't say anything good, not to say anything. Which of us is correct?

I doubt if "lighting into" people ever does much good, but I think the time has come when we ourselves must stand up and be counted for our beliefs. If we can say quietly that we think the attitude that someone is taking is harmful to the co-operation between people of different races and religions and will not help to promote peace in the world, and explain very calmly why we think so, we may plant a seed in even a prejudiced mind, which may of itself bear fruit someday.

 

I have read that it is difficult for Russia to understand us fully because of differences in our languages which are lost in translation. This is doubtless true of other nations too. Don't you think it would be an excellent idea for the United Nations to push the idea of a common language which every child should be required to master in addition to his own? English has become somewhat of a world language, although it is considered one of the difficult languages to master. Could we not have a simplified English such as Theodore Roosevelt advocated?

I think there is a growing feeling that a common language, learned by all children, would be tremendously advantageous and a help toward peace. The difficulty is that whatever language is chosen, other nations will feel that it gives that nation an added political prestige. You are right; English is becoming more widely known and may, little by little, be accepted as a common language. I doubt very much if simplified English would make a great deal of difference, but a certain amount of simplification is going on all the time.

 

I am a girl of 13 of the Jewish faith. My mother and I have been discussing the problem of eventual dates with boys. My mother says I should confine my dates to Jewish boys. I say it does not matter with whom I go out, Jewish boys or boys of other religions. What should I do?

I do not like to answer questions on subjects which really have to be decided within a family. Racial and religious questions fall into that category, but I would point out to your mother that we have to live in a world in which all races and religions have to learn somehow to live together.

 

In a recently published eulogy of Marian Anderson this statement was made: "It was the religious voice of a whole religious people—probably the most God-obsessed (and man-despised) people since the ancient Hebrews." Please tell me why are the Negroes probably the most man-despised people?

I do not know who wrote that quotation, but I imagine the author was thinking of the fact that in parts of our country, and perhaps in some other countries, the Negro has not been treated with the respect which one should accord to every human being.

 

Is there any provision in the work of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis for the rehabilitation of victims of infantile paralysis before the time the organization was formed? My husband had infantile paralysis as a child. He was affected in both legs, but regained much of the use of one. On the other he wore a brace and was able to lead a happy, normal life. Six years ago he fell and broke his hip. At 43 he found himself confined to bed for life. We don't want charity, yet the kind of specialized attention which he needs is almost impossible for us to get. The orthopedic specialists I know don't make house calls. He can't go to a doctor's office except in an ambulance. When you have difficulty keeping your bank balance at $50, you just don't go around making too many demands. I feel his morale is getting so low that I must do something.

I think Warm Springs takes in such patients and does have some funds to assist those who cannot afford to pay. There is, however, a long waiting list. In any case, it would do no harm to write to Mr. Fred Botts, Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, Warm Springs, Georgia, and ask him about the chances for your husband.

 

I am a houseworker now. How may we organize? I'm receiving substantial pay for these days, but some employers want blood, not sweat alone. Would you please help me with suggestions?

There are a few houseworkers already organized, but it is a difficult group to organize, since there are rarely more than one or two employed in a household and each household has different requirements, so the standards are very difficult to set except for wages and hours, and even those have to vary now and then. I do think there are certain conditions, however, which could be covered, and I am quite sure if you go to the Y.W.C.A. wherever you live, they will give you the information you desire and help you in every possible way.

 

I am eleven and a half and like to listen to mystery stories on the radio. My mother and father object because they are too exciting and limit me to one a day. I would like your opinion, please.

I think your mother and father are very wise. What do you really get out of mystery stories? They give you a certain amount of excitement, but they do not give you anything that you want to keep in your mind.

 

Would you please clear up the confusion which exists about your name? Newspapers sometimes refer to you as Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, and sometimes as Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. Which is your preference?

I much prefer to be called Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. There are a number of Eleanor Roosevelts in our family, but only one Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

I have a daughter, 17, who will finish her freshman year in college this spring. She wants to quit school and marry a boy of 20, also a freshman in college, in June. He goes to school under the G.I. Bill of Rights. I feel that she is too young to take on the responsibilities of married life. Am I right in asking her to put off marriage now? If so, will you please help to convince her of the advantages of this?

I am afraid I cannot help you to convince your daughter that she is too young for the responsibilities of marriage. She probably knows that her great-grandmother married at sixteen. The person who really should be convinced is the boy, who today has a more difficult time to support a wife and family than did his grandfather, who probably lived on a farm, or worked in some small, developing business. He will have to find an opening and establish himself, and he is the one who should convince your daughter that both of them will need the equipment which college can give them to face the problems of a more complicated world than the one in which their grandparents lived.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1947

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 64, June 1947

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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