If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1950


You—having had an excellent background, a wonderful education, an unlimited amount of parliamentary experience, so many years in the White House, so many positions of note, and having had an honest political career all your life, with a real human heart—why then do you not do the world a favor by running for the office of President of the United States, thereby becoming the first female President and demonstrating what a Roosevelt can do?

You credit me, my dear lady, with more qualifications than I believe I have. You also forget that I am 65 years of age and that I have no desire to be President of the United States.

I do not think the time has come for a woman to be President of the United States. It seems to me that before a woman can successfully be President many more public offices must be filled by women and we in this country must have ceased to think of our candidates as men or women but only as people who have the proper qualifications for the job to which we are considering electing them.

On the whole I think the Roosevelts have already demonstrated what they can do, and probably will do so many times again, but I do not think it is up to me to demonstrate either the capacities of Roosevelts or women in general. I feel at the present time that a woman could not fill the Presidency successfully because she might not be able to hold a following long enough, and without a loyal following she could accomplish little.


I am a teacher in a system that makes a big difference between salaries of men and women classroom instructors who have the same qualifications and experience. What is your opinion of such a practice?

I have long advocated equal pay for equal work. When a man has higher qualifications I think he is entitled to higher pay, but when the qualifications are equal I think teachers as well as all other workers generally should receive equal pay for equal work.


What do you think of first cousins getting married? They say that if there aren’t any physical or mental defects on either side of the family it is all right for them to have children.

I think this is a question that should be answered by anthropologists or doctors. I was brought up on the theory that first cousins should not marry because it mixes strains which are too closely allied; but ideas may have changed, and I would be unable to answer your question.


Recently my husband, who manages and partly owns a small business, has been threatened in an effort to stop him from shipping to a market which one of our national labor organizations is attempting to organize. Would you state your feelings about such tactics?

So many different situations present themselves in labor disputes that it is well to have the precise situation described before venturing an answer. There undoubtedly are situations in which unions are unreasonable. On the other hand, there are situations which too often are denounced as unreasonable when they are not unreasonable at all. Many businessmen realize that when unions refuse to handle products which are manufactured under low wages, long hours and poor working conditions, the decent employer is being helped. A good employer should not be subjected to competition by other employers who underprice him by reason of their exploitation of workers. The situation confronting your husband may be one in which his support of the union position would eventually result in his own profit.


Why hasn’t Truman ever officially proclaimed the end of the war?

Because we have never actually entered into peace treaties with Germany and Japan. Until we do that the war is not officially ended.


My husband made a will in my favor in 1913. Is it still valid, or should he make a new one?

As far as I know a will made when the person was of sound mind is entirely valid no matter how many years ago it was drawn, as long as no later will has been written. However, I am not a lawyer, and it might be wise for you to consult your own lawyer on this subject.


Why can’t a widow receive Social Security benefits at her husband’s death if she is working at the time and paying into Social Security?

I am told that if there are no minor children, and if the woman is under 65 years of age, she can receive a lump-sum death payment. If there are minor children, they receive monthly payments even though the widow may not be eligible for these payments because she is earning more than $14.99 in a month in an industry which is covered by Social Security. In other words, a widow who is earning more than the above-mentioned sum in an industry where she is covered by Social Security is not entitled to any monthly payments, though she can receive them for minor children.

[Charles F. Brannan] The Secretary of Agriculture asks “A great deal has been said about the importance of food in maintaining stable, peaceful conditions. President Truman’s Point 4 Program to assist in developing the productivity of backward areas would envision better-fed people in these areas. Would you care to comment on Point 4 as an aid to Peace?”

I think very few people understand the scope of the Point 4 Program, and yet on its success may depend much of our future well-being in this country. It is not relief, it is a program to help people help themselves. It is providing technical knowledge and American know-how so that people in underdeveloped, backward areas will grow more and better quality food, will learn to market their products so they can buy from us and from other countries and increase the trade in the world.

Poverty and starvation are good cradles for communism. It is significant, I think, that the leading democracy in the world is offering to peoples of backward countries not relief but the constructive help they need to start their people climbing upward on their own.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1950

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

McCall's, volume 77, August 1950

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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