If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1948


Truman says, "Eat cheaper cuts of meat." What are the people who have had to eat cheaper cuts of meat to do, and who is to get the better grades; or is this going down the European rathole? It seems that every time someone "in the know" takes a trip to Europe, they come back with a story about our so-called commitments, new obligations made without our knowledge. How long must this continue? Don't you think we can dispense with a lot of that corn?

Your question is couched in language which is so evidently prejudiced that it makes it somewhat difficult for me to think that any reasonable answer will carry any weight with you.

It is not tremendously important what cuts of meat you eat. The important thing is that wherever we have been eating more meat than is essential to good health, we should cut down.

I do not know what commitments or new obligations have been undertaken by our Government representatives which are not already known. They have all been published after each meeting, and so far as I know there are none that are not known to both Congress and the Administration as well as to the people if they take the trouble to read.

I do not know what you mean by your last two sentences. How long must what continue? Aid to people who are in need of aid? Quite obviously the answer is until they are back on their feet; not only because you and I cannot bear to think of suffering in the rest of the world without doing something about it, but because we are extremely grateful that bombs did not fall on us. In addition, if we expect to have markets for our goods and to keep up our high rate of employment we will have to help other nations to get back to a point where they can buy our goods.

In your last sentence—I do not know what you mean by "corn." If you mean a surplus in our country of corn, I am sure we can give it where it will be of great value. If you are using the word with the implication that you do not believe reports which come to you, of the need for aid in Europe or Asia or wherever it may be, then I would advise you to take a job somewhere in Europe or any other war-torn country and see how you like it over there. I am sure you would find it enlightening.


Walter Winchell is of the opinion that Soviet Russia is preparing for a sneak attack on the United States. Do you agree with him?

No, I do not agree with Mr. Winchell. I am not surprised, however, that he is bitter against the Soviet Union, because they attacked him unjustifiably. Nevertheless, I think we have no proof that the Soviets would or could prepare an attack against us now. I think we have a great deal of proof that the people and the government at present are anxious for peace. They have much rehabilitation to do in their country. They have plans to carry out for the well-being of their people which could hardly be carried out if another war was contemplated or was actually going on. I think at the moment there is no more danger of an attack from Russia on us than there is of an attack by us on Russia. In both countries the fear of such an attack exists, but I do not think that fear is very realistic.


In a group of public-spirited women recently, I heard this remark: "When the grain situation gets critical enough that our own Government curtails the use of it in so evil a thing as liquor, then my family will co-operate to the fullest, but not until then." Don't you believe this is the general feeling everywhere, especially among church people?

I do not know. I have not discussed it with anyone, but the distillers are co-operating and have closed down. Some liquor is essential and much grain alcohol is used in industry.

Not all church people are believers in complete prohibition. I myself do not believe in prohibition, but in temperance and self-imposed temperance and not a prohibition law.


Do you think that the saying is true, "A son is a son until he gets a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all her life"? Most people, I find, do; but I think a son can never be as close to a mother as a daughter. I don't feel his marriage has anything to do with it.

I think this is a question of individuals entirely. I have known many sons who were devoted to their parents and who remained close and as devoted after they were married as they had been before. Naturally a man has to give more time to supporting and living with his family when he has one, and he will not be quite as free, perhaps, to be with his parents, but closeness does not imply constant association. A daughter when she is married is in exactly the same position as a son: she has a family of her own which she has to look after; but again I have known many daughters to stay close to their parents.

The real answer, of course, is the quality of the relationship that exists between parents and children, and it may exist with either a son or a daughter, or it may exist with both sons and daughters in a family, and marriage does not have to change it.


I have three children, the youngest 17 years old. She has graduated from high school, works as a stenographer in the daytime, and attends college three times a week. She is pretty and well dressed. In spite of these qualities, she has no friends—boys or girls. When she meets a girl, she goes out with her once or twice and then is left alone again. This has gone on ever since she went to high school. I have asked her repeatedly what the trouble is, but according to her, the other girl is always to blame. Now, I, even though her mother, believe there is something wrong. Our home is always open to her friends. Any time she brought them in, I tried very hard to please them. Do you think I should ask one of these girls why they suddenly stopped seeing my daughter? My husband says this would not be the right thing to do.

No, I hardly think it would be right to ask someone else why they no longer were friendly with your daughter. Perhaps if you study her carefully yourself, you will be able to find out. There must be something in her character or in her temperament which alienates the people she is with for any length of time, and certainly you, who know her better than anyone else, should be able to find out what it is.


You are working with the U.N. and have contacts with the Russians. What do you think of them?

As individuals I like them very much. As representatives of their government, I find them at times irritating and at times difficult to work with. They are tied by directions given them by their government and they are allowed very little, if any, individual flexibility, which makes compromise and co-operation very difficult.

They were cut off for a long time by the action of other peoples and now, when they could mix freely with people and learn about others and make friends, they are seemingly unwilling to do so, or perhaps just too shy and suspicious to do so. Therefore they still live, even in this country, very largely to themselves, with only rather formal contacts. Fundamentally I think they are very like ourselves; they love children and will always show with pride the photographs of their children which they carry around in exactly the same way we do ourselves.

They are well disciplined and extremely well trained, and with an energy and an enthusiasm for their own country and its beliefs, born of the advantages which have come to them in the past twenty-five years and of the fact that they have great hopes for the future. They are enjoying, for the first time, a feeling of success which is extremely exhilarating.


Can you not say something about the sex question? The more we talk and read about sex, the more we are liable to go to extremes. Do you agree with me that our writers have sex on the brain?

I had not really given this question very much thought. I will agree that in some of the novels, of which I read very few nowadays, I have thought that the authors were prone to dwell too much on the sex question. I think it is a question which we all know exists, and our young people should receive certain instructions to safeguard them as they grow up. After that, the least said about it the better, I think.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1948

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 65, January 1948

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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