If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1949


1. I have often wondered how you addressed the English royal family—what you called the king and queen when you were eating hot dogs with them at Hyde Park—and what term of address you used to Queen Mary and the young princesses when you were having tea with them at Buckingham Palace.

One does not address any member of the royal family first. They must speak first, and in reply for the first time to the queen or the queen mother you say "Your Majesty." After that you say "Ma'am." The king is "Your Majesty" for the first time and thereafter "Sir." The princesses are addressed "Your Royal Highness" and subsequently "Ma'am." As far as I was concerned I called the princesses their first names, because they were so young at that time.


2. Don't you think it would help people receiving old-age pensions if the five-year state residence requirement could be abolished? This would enable persons in need of warmer climates to make the change and in general allow freedom of movement that is impossible under the present arrangement.

Yes, I think the requirements for old-age pensions should be changed so as to allow people to go to climates more suited to their health as they grow older. Perhaps it will be done in time.


3. How many Christmas cards do you send out each year? In what year did you send out the largest number?

I enclose Christmas cards with my gifts, and I send cards to a few old friends—about 300 in all. When we were in the White House my husband and I sent cards to officials and friends—usually 500 in all. All of the employees in the White House and in the executive offices received a card with a gift. I do not remember that the number varied much.


4. Will you please state your views about immortality? Do you feel that we will see and know our loved ones again? I realize that this is a question which no one can answer positively, but you can help by stating your beliefs.

I really have never thought very much about immortality. I do not know whether I believe that the future produces people as they were here or not. I am not going to worry about it, because there is no way in which we can possibly know. It always seemed to me that it was incontrovertible that, in some way there must be some kind of immortality, because it would be such a wasteful performance otherwise. I hope very much that in spirit the things that we cared for in people we will be conscious of again, but, after all, there is nothing we can do about the type of life that awaits us, and we waste our time when we speculate about it. This is one of the areas in which faith that whatever is in store will be for the good of mankind is about the best rock on which to build.


5. My husband and I support his mother. She has reached the age where she can no longer live entirely alone, so we built an apartment onto our home for her. We cut a door between the two apartments, which was to be used as a passageway only. I have an exacting job, and when I get home I need rest and privacy. However, my mother-in-law seems to feel it unjust that I wish the door closed. Am I being silly about this?

I think you are very wise to keep the door shut between your mother-in-law's apartment and your own house. It is a great mistake, even when you love someone very much and he is very close to you, not to be able to close a door when necessary. If you have a job you must insist that your life is your own, to be lived with your husband and not in constant contact with anyone outside. To have a door between your house and your mother-in-law's apartment is a great convenience and also, must give her a sense of safety, but that is all it should do. It should not be constantly open so that you have no sense of privacy.


6. My classmates and I are disturbed by the number of military men in high government office and about the plan now going forward for complete militarization of labor and industry. We believe in preparedness, of course, but shouldn't we be spending our tax money getting ready for peace instead of war?

There are fewer military men in high government office at present than there were immediately after the war. I do no think that labor and industry will be completely militarized. Naturally, in making plans for a possible war those who are concerned about war and defense must think of the way in which labor and industry would be used were there to be a war, but that does not mean that in peacetime these plans will be put into action.

I agree with you that tax money should be very carefully allocated. It is necessary to spend a certain amount to build up our military strength, but at the same time we should be building the things in our nation which prepare us for peace.


7. I have been reading and enjoying This I Remember. In the June McCall's on page 121, column 2, you say "...my grandmother, Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt." Now I am unable to figure how Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt was your grandmother. Can you explain this relationship?

My father was President Theodore Roosevelt's brother. His name was Elliott Roosevelt, and their father was Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, who married a Miss Bulloch of Georgia. That is how it happens that Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt was my grandmother – the mother of President Theodore Roosevelt, not his wife.


8. On every hand you hear that our country is heading into a bad depression. Do you think this is true? What should be done to avoid it?

I do not think we need to have a bad depression, if our industrialists and economists learned their lesson in the 1930s. It cannot be prevented by greedy men. It must be prevented by men of wide and unselfish vision who see that no one group can garner unto itself great resources and leave the mass of people without their fair share.


9. Why don't we require that posters explaining the accomplishments of the Marshall Plan be placed in every public place in countries receiving this aid and every article sent there to be stamped "Made in U.S.A."? Why are we throwing away our "bullets"?

That is a question of public relations, and I think it must be handled in conjunction with the peoples of the countries where the Marshall Plan is administered. Your idea would seem to me a very good one, but there might be objections which I know nothing about, and therefore we have to leave it to the public relations departments who work out these matters with the countries receiving Marshall Plan aid.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1949

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

McCall's, volume 76, September 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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