If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1948


We are coming to you for advice because we are ashamed to go to our pastor or anyone else we know. We found out recently through a note which we discovered in our seventeen-year-old son's pocket that he and his seventeen-year-old girl friend have had illicit relations with each other for more than two years. When confronted with the evidence they defiantly admitted everything. Our son wants permission to marry this girl as he says that he loves her. Her parents do not know about them. Should we tell them and have them help us decide what should be done? We truthfully told our boy the things which he should know through the years so he did not fall into temptation and yield through ignorance. He is conscience-stricken about the whole affair but the girl seems to be utterly devoid of a conscience.

I think your son and the girl should go to her parents. It is their story, not yours, that has to be told. Then you and her parents could talk the situation over. It would seem to me that if you are able to do so, you would want your son to finish his education so as to be as well prepared as possible to take care of the girl he marries. Her parents, I should think, would feel that they wanted her to finish her education so that she would be well prepared to be a good wife.

In addition, two or three years may make a very great difference in both of them and the fact that they had to wait to marry until they were able to earn a living would probably mean a happier future for them and give them time to mature and realize that marriage is not just a question of physical attraction but a life companionship into which many other things have to enter if their lives are to be useful and happy together.


My husband and I do not agree on an important matter. I think we should help our daughter while her ex-serviceman husband is attending college. They have some help from the Government and his folks have been contributing each month. Our incomes are about the same, approximately four thousand dollars a year. Do you think that the boy's folks should stand all of the expense just because the man is supposed to be the breadwinner? The young couple have a small child so my daughter is unable to help her husband make a living.

I think perhaps your husband is right in feeling that the boy and his parents would prefer not to have you give stated sums of money toward the support of your daughter. They certainly would not object to your giving presents now and then, as you are able, either small sums of money for specific things the young couple need, or some things for the baby. That would not hurt the boy's feelings or make him feel he was less the breadwinner and responsible for his family.


Were you a Republican before your marriage?

I am afraid before I married I did not know much about political parties. I was very fond of my uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, and admired him greatly as a person. As far as knowing what the Republicans or Democrats stood for, I fear my knowledge was nil. My bringing up in my grandmother's home was completely lacking in any kind of political education. Women did not have the right to vote at that time, and my interests lay along many other lines.

It was not until we were on our honeymoon and went to visit some Scotch friends where the lady of the house asked me to explain our form of government that I realized I was deficient in the most elementary knowledge of my own country's government. From that time on I began to study and become better educated, though I cannot say I have had the hidebound feeling which some people seem to acquire about belonging traditionally to one party or the other.


What ten books should one read before considering oneself well educated?

I am afraid there are no ten books which will educate anyone. Education is not merely a question of reading ten books. You might get from a library a list of ten books that everyone should read, but that would not mean that because you read them you were educated. Education goes on all the days of our lives and is acquired not only in school but in actual living.


Do you approve of the return at Government expense of the bodies of servicemen who were buried overseas?

Naturally if the bodies are going to be brought home they must be brought home by the Government. One does not approve or disapprove of this. Different people feel differently about it. I happen to belong to a family whose members have always wanted to be buried where they died, but I know many people who feel differently and I think it is a question for individuals and their families to decide.


I had the great fortune to escape from a mad and bloody Germany and it took long to overcome bitterness and an inferiority complex. But I feel double the responsibility to work for peace. Stronger and stronger grows the conviction within me that it must be the mission of the women to unite against war. Do you think it possible to reach the Russian women?

I doubt that we can find a way to reach the Russian women at the present time. Communications are very difficult between our two countries, information is restricted and friendship is not encouraged.

I wish it were not so, but I feel that any effort to break the barriers down would be looked upon with a good deal of suspicion and be entirely unsuccessful.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1948

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 65, August 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
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC