If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

December 1949


1. While still in my teens I was greatly honored to be invited to a White House reception along with the other delegates of a Children of the American Revolution convention in Washington. We were very surprised, and a little disappointed, when we were served only water as a refreshment, especially since it was served in such an elegant manner. Would you please tell me if it was a Roosevelt custom or a White House tradition to serve water at an official reception?

I do not remember this particular reception for the Children of the American Revolution. As a rule nothing was served at the large reception for the Daughters of the American Revolution because there were too many to make it possible to serve them. My recollection is that when the Children came they did not come at an hour when refreshments would ordinarily have been served. It may have been thought better not to have refreshments for their reception. I have a very vague recollection of the different decisions that were made on when to serve, when not to serve and what to serve, because that was usually arranged by the social secretary and the organization; and, while I undoubtedly was informed at the time, it is not one of the things that has remained with me very clearly. Entertaining of this kind was not a Roosevelt tradition.


2. All these years I have tried to find out why Japan got our scrap iron while fighting China and right up to Pearl Harbor. There was a law by which the President could have legally stopped this, and even without it the American people would have backed up our President Roosevelt.

If you will read Secretary Hull's book you will, I think, recognize the difficulties we faced in our diplomatic position with Japan prior to Pearl Harbor. There were a great many people in this country who felt that by our belligerent attitude we were forcing Japan into going to war with us. Our government officials feared that if we refused to continue trading with Japan she might use that as a pretext for going to war with us. Quite naturally we were anxious, if it were possible, to prevent war with Japan while a war was going on in Europe. One of the things our students of military strategy feared more than anything else was war in two parts of the world, and that is the situation into which Japan's attack finally forced us. That is the only reason why our officials, after much thought, decided to continue trading with Japan and the supply of scrap iron was accumulated even though we knew it would come back at us in very unpleasant ways if war actually came. Though my memory is no longer accurate on this I have heard it said that every month we gave scrap iron to Japan, and thereby delayed Japan's entry into the war, we increased our productive capacity to such an extent that it probably put us four months ahead in our preparation for war.


3. Is one allowed to use flashbulbs to take pictures indoors at Hyde Park? What restrictions are there in regard to picture-taking, both still and movie?

There are no restrictions with regard to taking pictures at Hyde Park. However, when there are large crowds of people it sometimes is difficult, so it would be a good idea to check at the librarian's office and at the historian's office at the house and get permission.


4. Up until now my husband and I have considered ourselves good Americans. Now I feel our rights as Americans are threatened because my mother and stepfather belong to the Communist party. What is to become of us and our twelve-year-old son? Will he be branded too because his grandmother is a Communist? What can we do to prove that we are good Americans?

Your situation is a difficult one, but there is, of course, no reason why you should suffer because of the ideas held by your mother and stepfather and certainly no reason why your twelve-year-old son should suffer. During the present state of mind in this country I suppose it is hard for people to think of members of a family as individuals, but it must be done. The only thing you can do is to continue to live as a good American and to insist that you do not hold communist theories and therefore should not be condemned merely by association with your mother.


5. I understand that Herbert Hoover gave back the salary paid him while President. Did F.D.R. give any of his salary back while he was President?

I have no way of knowing what ex-President Hoover did about his salary while he was the President. I know that my husband did not turn back his salary, except for the fifteen per cent which was deducted from every government employee's salary as a depression measure. He, of course, paid an income tax just as does any other citizen.


6. Because a man in known as a scholar and philosopher do you think he is always capable of unbiased judgment?

No, I do not see why a man should be presumed to have unbiased judgment because he is a scholar and philosopher. A philosopher is apt to try to take an objective view and see more than one side of a question, but there is nothing which makes it absolutely certain that he will be unbiased in his judgment.


7. I should like to start a nursery school in my home. What qualifications should I have?

I should think the best thing to do would be to go to the best known and most successful nursery school in any nearby neighborhood and find out what they consider the essential qualifications. I am not an expert, and I would not feel qualified to give you advice, but in a general way I should think it essential that you really be fond of children.

< Previous Column 1949 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, December 1949

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

McCall's, volume 77, December 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
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC