If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1949


In Bernadine Kielty's column in the JOURNAL she wrote that when Madame Chiang visited the White House she insisted on having the linen sheets of her bed changed several times a day. These sheets cost $7 each to launder. This story has been rehashed several times in my presence. Surely, the First Lady of China is not so lacking in common decency as to make a nuisance of herself on any occasion. What is the real truth about this?

Madame Chiang never used linen sheets when she was in the White House. She brought her own crepe de Chine sheets. I have no idea what linen sheets cost to launder. Certainly nothing like $7 each. That is pure exaggeration. No guest in the White House, to my knowledge, ever insisted on anything. Madame Chiang, however, did have trained nurses when she first came and it may be they asked for certain things, and of course anything necessary would have been provided. Madame Chiang was always a most considerate and delightful guest.


You have three big, strong American men as sons. Why do they not horsewhip Westbrook Pegler?

I have four, not three "big, strong American men as sons." Why should they bother, however, to horsewhip a poor little creature like Westbrook Pegler? They would probably go to jail for attacking someone who was physically older and perhaps unable to defend himself. After all, he is such a little gnat on the horizon. He cannot touch my husband's memory. Deeds, not words, count in this world, and thousands of American citizens answer such attacks as Mr. Pegler's out of their own experience with love and loyalty in their hearts which remained untouched by Mr. Pegler's diatribes.


I have found out that a man and woman who are my friends are active communists. They have a store. Knowing their sympathies, I have stopped patronizing them. However, the rest of the neighborhood continue to shop there, knowing they are communists. Am I doing wrong mixing business with politics?

Communists have a right to earn a living in the United States as long as we permit them to be here. We have an obligation to allow people to think and peacefully communicate their thoughts to others as long as they do not attempt to overthrow the Government by force. For that reason the fact that people who run stores and gain a livelihood believe in certain theories which we do not believe in is no reason, from my point of view, for not associating with them. It may, however, become disagreeable to have contacts with them because you feel you are helping them to promote something in which you do not believe. In that case, you will naturally not continue your contacts. That will be for personal reasons and not because of their political views only.


I am a college girl and belong to a well-to-do family, but I am extremely unattractive. I have never had suitors and realize my chances are very slim. With this in view, what attitude should I adopt toward life?

For heaven's sake, my dear child, do not make up your mind because you are in college and haven't had any suitors that you are unattractive. Looks alone do not make one attractive. I do not know you, so I do not know just how to answer your question, but remember that one can do a great deal to improve one's personal appearance. The most important thing is what comes from the inside out. If you cultivate your mind and your spirit, you can have charm, which is far more important than looks. You may not have suitors today, but do not try too hard to have them. If you become an interesting and charming person, that will appeal to people and draw them to you when you are out of college and have a chance to make your place in the world.


I would like to know what basis you have for the statement, "In fact, the government has already lifted its ban on the various religions and allows them complete freedom in Russia today."

The promise was given by Mr. Litvinov and his government when Russia was recognized, that there would be freedom for the various religious groups to worship within Russia. I have heard since from a number of people coming out of Russia that though the church representatives must very carefully eschew the discussion of politics, they are allowed freedom of worship, and I think this is generally accepted by all those who have visited Russia of late.


The Townsend Pension Plan is making headlines again. Do you think it is a good movement to follow?

No. I have never thought it a practical movement and I do not think it practical now.


My husband died three months ago. Although I am only twenty-nine, I have no intention of remarrying. My husband and I loved children, but were unfortunate enough not to have been blessed with any. I would like to adopt a little girl four or five years old. I am making my home with my parents and a younger brother who will go to college soon. I have corresponded with a chaplain in an orphanage who says he may be able to arrange for me to adopt a child. In adopting her I would take away from her the chance of being adopted by "parents." Do you think I could be both a father and mother to her and not feel I was cheating her? Financially I am more than capable of taking care of her.

Not knowing you, it is very hard for me to tell whether you could be both father and mother to your little adopted daughter, but if you care enough about her to adopt her I am sure you will make every effort to fill her life with the kind of affection and companionship which would make her feel that she had both parents. You are only twenty-nine and even if you do not intend to remarry, none of us knows what the future may hold; and if you adopt a little girl and give her the best that you have to give, someday you may find that you will want to give her a father. In any case, your young brother who will soon be going to college will furnish her with the kind of male companionship which is valuable for any youngster.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1949

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

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 66, January 1949

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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