If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1949


1. I marry a widower. The first thing I see when I enter my new home is the picture of his first wife prominently displayed on the mantelpiece. He still goes to the cemetery to mourn her, carrying flowers, especially on days meaningful to his first marriage. What is the sensible attitude for each of us to display?

When you married a widower you knew he had had a first wife. In all probability you hoped that he had loved his first wife, because the fact that he had been able to love her would make it probable that he would love you.

The fact that he is still loyal to her memory and still mourns her is something you should be happy about. If you had known her you probably would join with him in thinking of her. As long as you had not known her you cannot do that, but you can at least respect and admire him for his loyalty and realize that in a different way he will give you more just because of this loyalty.

No one loves two people in exactly the same way, but one may love two people equally and yet differently. And if you love one person very much you will love another person perhaps even more because you have learned how to love and what love can mean.

Be happy with your husband in the kind of love he gives you and be grateful for his loyalty to the past, because it augurs well for his loyalty to the present.


2. How in the name of intellectual honesty and fair play can you explain your stand on the Spanish question? To be consistent you should apply the same yardstick to Russia, Roumania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, etc.

I cannot see that not wanting to bring, at the present time, more recognition and power to Franco is inconsistent at all with my stand on any other country. Franco is the only living dictator who was an ally of Hitler and Mussolini, against whom we fought the war. It is true that for a short time Russia was an ally of Germany under Hitler, but she afterward fought Hitler. It is true also that today Russia and her satellites are dictatorships, and one has to speak out against dictatorships. Certainly no one has been more plainspoken than I have.

But Russia is a member of the United Nations already and is also one of the powerful nations of the world. While we can be quite honest about what we disapprove of in communism, we must recognize the fact that by becoming our ally the U.S.S.R. helped us to win the war, and we can only hope, because of her power and strength, that the U.S.S.R. will eventually learn to live side by side with the democracies without trying to change them. To go out of our way at the present time to recognize a dictator who upheld Mussolini and Hitler would seem to me to make little sense.


3. What is the pattern of Lenox china used in the White House?

I do not know whether there is any new pattern of Lenox china used now in the White House. The pattern of the set bought while we were there may be seen when the White House is again open to the public. There are samples of it in the China Room on the lower floor of the White House. I am sure the Lenox people have samples of the china if you wish to see it.

The set we bought was designed under the direction of my husband. The border of this special design is dark blue and gold on white.


4. Women need more time to be women, not merely cogs in the machinery of the business world. Why don't more employers use double shifts or something that will make it possible for more women to work part-time?

I am afraid if women want to be considered on a par with men in the business world they must work a man's hours and find time for their own interests in their spare time. Part-time shifts in most businesses are very difficult and not as efficient as full-time work. However, where there is a possibility of giving part-time work it should be arranged so it does not hurt the work to be done, and where women need part-time work because of home duties it should be available.


5. I read how shy you were when you were young, and I know you are very tall, which sometimes makes one shy. How did you overcome timidity? How can I help my very tall daughter to live a happy life and not be ashamed of her size?

I think the best way to help your daughter to become unselfconscious about being tall is to give her dancing lessons, so that she feels she knows how to control her body and so that she moves with ease and grace. Being athletic will help her too.

There are many tall people in the world today, and she ought soon to be able to forget her shyness if it is because of her size. If she is shy because of other reasons I can only suggest that you build in her an interest in other people, and as she forgets herself in her interest in others the shyness will disappear.


6. Why can't the United Nations remove one block to understanding by deciding upon a common language for all the children of the world to learn?

I am afraid the United Nations cannot by decree force any decisions on all the member nations. It has to have a majority vote and, in some cases, a two-thirds vote.

There is a growing tendency in many nations to have English taught in their schools, and it may well be that little by little more children will learn English, and then it may not be difficult to pass in the United Nations a joint agreement by which every nation will agree, as its first secondary language, to have children taught English.


7. What is the matter with the children of today? Years ago there was always at least one grandparent in the home. But now the old people are pushed out and left to shift for themselves.

I do not think there is anything wrong with the children of today. I think it was very unfortunate when grandparents had to live with their children. I think it is fortunate if grandparents, either through old-age pensions or social security, have a chance to have a home of their own, as long as they are well and able to get along in it alone, no matter how simple it may be. Old people, as a rule, are not happy living with their children. It is natural for the generations to love and need each other, but it is rare that things go well when they are thrown in such close contact as permanent living in the same home means. If it must be done for reasons of health or economic need it can be done, but it requires on the part of the grandparent more tact than it does on the part of the young people.


8. Is it true that the government pays or helps to pay for student trips to Europe? If so, how does one go about getting on one of these trips?

There is a program now in the Department of State for exchange scholarships of different kinds between the United States and other countries. I am sure if you write to the Division of International Exchange of Persons, Department of State, Washington, D.C., you can get this information.


9. Is it true that you and Franklin were separated at the time he was first nominated for President and became reconciled for appearance's sake for campaign purposes?

This same story has been circulated about nearly every President and his wife, and I am surprised that anybody believes it any more. I was never separated from my husband.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1949

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

McCall's, volume 77, October 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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