If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1948


Is it true that at the time of Winston Churchill's speech at Fulton, Missouri, you reprimanded him? It was reported over the radio that you told Mr. Churchill that he had torn down all that your husband had believed in and worked for regarding Russia.

Of course it is utterly untrue that I reprimanded Mr. Churchill. It would hardly be fitting for me to do so. If Mr. Churchill had asked me for my opinion on his Fulton, Missouri, speech, I could not have told him what my husband would have felt about it, because I do not believe in trying to say what people who are not here to speak for themselves might have said. I certainly would have told Mr. Churchill, if I had been asked, that I thought it an unwise speech to make, and that I regretted it. He probably knew what my attitude would be if he even bothered to think about it when he made the speech. Therefore it would seem to me that offering any comment without invitation would have been foolish.


I am at a loss to know how to sign a greeting card or small gift to a lady I admire who was the wife of my son and is now married to another person.

It is a little difficult, for anyone who does not know your personal relationship with your former daughter-in-law, to suggest the way you should sign a greeting card. If your affection for her has not changed, why not express it and sign your name either as you did before, or as you would to anyone outside of your own family with whom you are on friendly terms?


I am a young wife and mother who would appreciate some advice. My husband is from a very fine family who have always had the better things of life. I, on the other hand, haven't a very good education. It was quite a struggle for my parents to send me to high school and one year of college. My husband and I love each other very much and his sister and parents treat me as if I were really one of the family. But I fear the day will come when, if I don't know how to carry on a conversation about something other than the daily news and the baby's newest tricks, I shall be left out. Could you help me by telling me what books I can read? I have three or four hours a day which I can devote to reading and study, and want so badly to learn. I feel it is necessary for my husband to have a wife who can carry on an intelligent conversation with his clients and our friends.

My dear, education is not entirely a question of what you learn in school or college. It is largely a question of the opportunities you have to talk with intelligent people and to become acquainted with as many facets of life as possible. One cannot give you a list of books which in themselves will make you a person of culture. To have read some, at least, of the classics is valuable to anyone. You can get good translations of some of the old Greek philosophers and old Greek plays. You can read some history, books about art, modern philosophers, biographies of famous men; and, of course, some of the best-known fiction writers in American and English literature, such as Dickens, Scott, Hawthorne, and so on, as well as poets and modern writers, all add to your background.

The field of learning is so wide that none of us can ever say we know much; and perhaps if you find one or two things that interest you, you might read a little more deeply along those particular lines and, above all, think about anything you read so you will have something to contribute that is the expression of your own character and personality. It is what you sift through your own mind and think about which makes you a more interesting person and therefore better able to interest other people.


A columnist who has been branded as a warmonger insists a third world war is inevitable. How does this fit in with freedom of speech and the press? Should we give certain sensationalists the opportunity to talk us into another war?

I doubt if any columnist can talk us into war. If we curtail their right to speak, we could not speak ourselves against some of their statements. Freedom of speech and of the press is essential to all of us, but education and a thinking public are also essential, because where there is a freedom of expression, there must always be an ability on the part of the listeners to think and to sift the good from the bad of that which one hears or reads.


I have read that you were such a splendid wife because you were trained by your mother-in-law. This is an old European custom. Why don't more American mothers of sons give the new bride or bride-to-be a few pointers on how to be a good wife? Don't you think that if this custom were more generally observed there would be fewer divorces?

I do not know where you read that my mother-in-law trained me. I think I said she taught me a good deal about housekeeping and her own way of doing things. I do not know that I was a very good wife. One can only do one's best. I do not believe anybody, no matter how wise, can teach another woman to be a good wife. I am afraid the older generation can rarely give advice to the younger. I think training from a mother-in-law would result in more divorces rather than fewer.


Recently you wrote, "We may in time come to a world government, but we are not yet prepared for it—too much haste—harmful." I would like very much to know your reason for feeling this way.

I feel that world government is rather beyond what most nations are ready to accept as yet, and if it is forced upon them, the nations which have come together in the United Nations may fall apart. Whereas if we work together within the framework of the Charter of the U.N., we may come in time to be willing to create a world government.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1948

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 65, June 1948

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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