If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1947

 

Although I am 19, I look only about 16. Maybe this is why my parents have always treated me like such a baby. I was never allowed to go out with boys until I was a senior in high school. I was married shortly after I graduated and am going to have a child soon. We have been married almost a year and have never had a real fight. I am happier than I have ever been. My problem is that my parents never have approved our marriage and seem to resent my husband. How can I help to change this?

I do not like to give advice in such intimate family matters as these, where the feelings of the individuals involved enter into the solution.

In a general way, however, I should say that it might be that your parents found it hard to adjust to having a child, whom they had always regarded as a baby, actually living a life of her own and belonging primarily to her husband. If that is the cause, it will take time and patience both on your part and on your husband's part, and an effort on the part of your parents, to realize that all people grow up and that parents often have to develop interests of their own when their children leave them.

 

My father is afraid to let me fly on a trip I am planning because of recent plane crashes. How do you feel about flying yourself these days?

I have had absolutely no change of heart as to flying. I would fly anywhere that I wanted to fly. The percentage of accidents is no greater that it was a few years ago. The airlines are flying more planes and more miles, and as a result they have had more accidents, but on the whole the record is good compared to all other modes of transportation.

 

Don't you feel that if the American Government spent half as much time solving the problems of its own minority groups as it does meddling in European affairs, less of its people would turn to communism for a solution of their problems?

I think very few people in the United States are turning to communism as a solution to their problems. I am afraid that you will have to get over thinking that the United States is meddling in European affairs. The U.S. has a vital interest in affairs all over the world now, because without that interest the world cannot be stabilized, and we cannot prosper in an unsettled world.

There is no reason, however, why the United States should not give proper attention to helping people at home to a solution of their prejudices. There are no minority problems existing here except those due to prejudice, and the people themselves have to overcome those prejudices. The Government may help them by stimulating education on these subjects, by seeing that as a Government there is equal administration of justice and that equal opportunities are accorded to all people. These things will never become realities, however, except through the removal of prejudice from the hearts of all our people.

 

I am going to be 21 soon, and the thoughts that I am not adequately equipped to vote intelligently disturbs me. Would you suggest some literature on the subject of preparing to exercise what is to me not only a privilege but also a pressing duty?

I think the only literature which can prepare you to vote intelligently is contained in the daily newspapers and magazines which discuss current topics, because it is the affairs of the day on which you have to base your decision in choosing your representatives when you go to vote.

 

What is the origin of the name Hyde Park? Why was your estate given that name?

Hyde Park is the name of the village and post-office address for all the people living in a certain area. Our particular place has had several names, but we always give the address as Hyde Park because that is the post-office address. It was named for Sir Edward Hyde, who as governor had granted the patent in 1705 to Jacob Regner and company. In that company was Peter Franconnier. In 1772, Dr. John Bard, who was married to Peter Franconnier's granddaughter, purchased land and gave the name "Hyde Park" to his own residential portion of the land.

 

Immediately after graduation from college, I married and came to a strange town to live. Within a year our child was born. Now that the baby is a year old I find myself with some spare time occasionally. I have met some very nice people through our church, but am too shy to be a good mixer. Still, I would like to be a more active member of this community. I was educated to be a teacher and feel that I could and should contribute something to the welfare of those outside my own family circle. How does one get to be a member of clubs and organizations?

If I were you I would take an immediate interest in the parent-teachers association. Your child will be going to nursery school or kindergarten before long, and you might take an interest now in the school facilities in your community. I think you will find that that will lead to your joining other organizations. Perhaps in connection with your husband's business there are certain groups to which other women belong, which you could enjoy too.

 

Please tell me what you think makes a good speaker, and to what do you attribute your success as a public speaker?

I do not know that I have been particularly successful as a public speaker. I think I have made progress. I found I did not know how to control my voice, so I took some lessons to help me to do so. Then I worked very hard to think out the things that I wished to say and to find ways in which I could hold the attention of an audience. If I were to define what I believe makes a good speaker, I should say:

a. It is essential to be heard.

b. A speaker must have something to say.

The way it is said and the effectiveness of the presentation are largely something that has to be developed through practice.

 

I went with a boy for about six months. He was nice and always kept his dates on time. Right after Christmas he just sort of dropped out of sight. Everybody says he's not going with anybody now. I have been going with other boys, but I can't forget him. What do you think would be the best thing to do?

I do not think that there is much that you can do. You might write the young man and ask him to come to see you, or you could telephone him. I would not, however, be too insistent, but perhaps if you make one effort he would come and tell you what went wrong.

 

I belong to the Church of Christ and my husband to the Methodist. I want us to attend Sunday services together, but he doesn't feel that he can go with me, even though he promised to do so when we were married. I cannot go with him, because Christians of today are commanded to repent and be baptized, and there is no mention of a Methodist or any other church as far as I know in the entire New Testament. I feel that he should let me take the two children with me because of the promise he made. Do you agree with me?

I am a very poor person to answer this question. Denominations mean very little to me. I would go to any church available if I felt the need and it gave me help to live my life better. I think if we pattern our lives on the life of Christ we will find that He made little mention of denominations. He was a Jew and yet He founded the Christian religion.

I do not know the difference between the Church of Christ and the Methodists and, of course, you and your husband will have to decide between you what actually seems important to you, but to me the way your personal religion makes you live your life is the only thing that really matters.

 

I am the son of fairly well-to-do parents, discharged from the AAF, where I was a base mechanic. Before the war I was just getting ready to begin college. Now I find I no longer want to go and, instead, have been planning to take a job as part owner and worker in a small garage. My parents, however, feel that this is socially degrading and insist I allow them to send me to college to work toward a law degree. I hate to disappoint them, but have no interest in law or going to college. What should I do?

For your own future, I think it would be far better if you went to college, for the reason that college will give more training to your mind and prepare you for wider enjoyments in life as well as for better work, whatever occupation you choose. However, if you do not like to study law, I see no reason why you should do that; and if when you come out of college you want to become part owner and a worker in a small garage, I see nothing degrading about it. College may equip you to earn a better living when you start to work in the garage.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1947

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 64, August 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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