If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1949


1. Why did you leave the Ladies' Home Journal for McCall's?

I changed from the Ladies' Home Journal to McCall's because Mr. Gould, the editor of the Ladies' Home Journal, wished me to do more work on my manuscript in collaboration with others. On thinking it over I decided that this had to be my book and I could not very well do what he felt would be necessary. It then became entirely a business question, and the McCall's offer seemed to me a fairer, more concrete and businesslike one. There was, however, no hard feeling on my part, and I hope none on the part of Mr. Gould and the Ladies' Home Journal. I simply exercised my right to decide what I thought was wisest in my own interests, and Mr. Gould exercised his right of decision as to what he felt he could best do in the interests of the Ladies' Home Journal.


2. Today a great deal is being done for the youth of this country through various social agencies, but somehow it seems to me the girls are on the short end of things. I know of the Boys' Clubs of America but is there a Girls' Clubs of America? If there is such an agency would you let me know the address of it? Do you not agree that girls need help if they are to be the right kind of mothers when they grow up and that a national agency for them is as necessary as the Boys' Clubs of America is for the boys?

I do not know of any national girls' club of America, but, of course, the Girl Scouts—which parallel the Boy Scouts—have done a great deal for girls, and so have the Camp Fire Girls. The 4-H Clubs do as much for girls as they do for boys. There are, of course, in almost all cities clubs for girls of different ages, and I do not think in any of the various local groups there is a forgetfulness of the needs of girls in recreation and in guidance. A national boys' club organization has value, of course; and through Mr. Hoover's interest the Boys' Clubs of America became a strong organization. If the same amount of interest can be taken in drawing together the work of the girls' clubs a national organization might be set up, and it might be valuable, but I do not think the absence of one means we are neglecting girls throughout the country.


3. Did the newsmen get the correct story of Mr. Roosevelt's death? Why were people not permitted to view the remains?

Judging by the newspaper stories written from Warm Springs I would say that a very clear story had been written about my husband's death by the newspapermen who were there. His body did not lie in state because he and I had often talked over this practice as we observed it in the case of other public officials, and he had expressed a dislike for the idea. I entirely agreed with him. I think he wanted people to remember him as he was alive, and I respected his feelings. I requested that after we reached the White House the coffin be opened once for me but not for anyone else.


4. In a recent newspaper column I read that the United Nations does not open with prayer, in deference to one nation's wishes. I have been disappointed that you have not spoken out in the U.N. for the recognition of divine power. Do you believe that a meeting of men without it can bring the peace for which we are pleading?

It seems not to occur to a great many people that the U. N. is made up of many nations of different religious faiths. I doubt if any delegate goes to a meeting without a prayer in his heart for guidance in a difficult task, but it would be impossible to demand of a gathering as large as this, with so many different religious practices, that all join in a common prayer. It is not because of deference to one nation's wishes but because of deference to the many nations represented, whose practices and observances vary widely in their respective religions.


5. My husband was a victim of infantile paralysis when he was a child, and it left him slightly crippled on one side. He has the intelligence to pass the civil service exams, but due to his having had polio he is barred from taking the examinations. Don't you think the law on this should be changed? Surely if our country could be governed by a man who had it the government should accept workers who could qualify although they've had polio?

Yes, I entirely agree with you that any law which bars a man from taking an examination for the civil service when he is able to do the work that the examination entails is a very unjust law. Of course, it is necessary for the man to demonstrate that he can manage to do the work, and if he can prove this I certainly do not think that he should be barred, because of physical handicap, from participation in the work needed by the government.


6. Since citizens of the United States under 21 are considered minors and are not permitted to vote, why are they burdened with income taxes, city taxes, etc.?

Paying taxes has nothing to do with the right to vote. It is dependent on what an individual is able to earn. If he has an income of $600 a year he is liable to the federal income tax law and to other taxes. This is purely an economic question and not a question of political rights.


7. I am in love with a man 15 years my senior. We agree upon most things of importance and are very happy together. Yet he is skeptical about marriage because of the many people who insist it won't work out. As far as I am concerned age does not make any difference as long as we love each other and hold the same interests. Do you agree?

While I think such a difference in age may prove a hardship for a woman in her marriage at some point in later life, I think it does not create an insuperable barrier. I have known many happy marriages in which there was a great disparity in age. As long as the two people have similar interests I think there is a chance of many years of happiness together. It is true that, later on, the woman may be left alone, or she may be in better health than her husband in the last years of his life, but a man of 60 is often quite as well and strong as a woman of 45, so I would not consider this difference in age a deciding factor.


8. I should like an expression of your opinion on the issue of national health insurance. The physicians in our city are campaigning strongly against it as something which will handicap them and ultimately lead to "socialism" and government control. I personally feel that our constitutional form of government contains enough elasticity to permit a form of national health insurance which will help defray the overwhelming medical costs of our population without necessarily leading to government control of either the doctors or their patients. How do you feel about this?

I feel that national health insurance is a step in the right direction. I am not sure that we will find it the only answer to our problem, for it is a problem of giving the best possible medical care to those who need it regardless of the ability to pay. This is a question which will require experimentation and changes and adjustments before we reach a final happy solution. But if we do not do something we will arrive nowhere. Since the doctors have had a chance to make suggestions and the American Medical Association has come up with no wholly satisfactory solutions, I think it would be wise to get the cooperation of as many doctors as possible and see what can be accomplished under the government's suggestions.


9. I know that you used to be against the Equal Rights Amendment. Since its form has changed somewhat, and since various organizations have changed their minds in regard to it, I am wondering what your present opinion is. If you are now for the amendment what are your reasons?

I have always felt that the Equal Rights Amendment was unnecessary and that , if we put half the work which has to be expended on getting an amendment to the Constitution into amending the state laws which are really objectionable as they concern women in our various states, we would be better off and further ahead than we are now. I objected to the Equal Rights Amendment at first because of its effect on women in industry, particularly the unorganized women in industry. I am not sure that I think even now there is sufficient organization among the working women to make it possible to do away with all protective legislation for women. For that reason I think I would still prefer to see us give our energies to the removal from the statute books of really harmful legislation which handicaps women. However, if the majority of women in the country decide that they desire an Equal Rights Amendment of course all of us will accept it, since we all believe, in this country, in majority rule.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1949

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

McCall's, volume 76, June 1949

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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