If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1950


Were you ever alarmed at the dangerous structural deterioration of the White House when you were living there?

I am afraid we were unaware of any danger. We did know, as we renovated the plumbing and the kitchen, that many of the pipes had deteriorated and we were lucky that nobody had typhoid. Every time a board had to be taken up we marveled at the intricacies of the pipes running under the old house. The maintenance men were extraordinary, we remarked, to be able to keep everything in order as they usually did. The structural troubles were never brought to our attention.


What did your secretary, Miss Malvina Thompson, do before she became associated with you?

Miss Thompson worked for the American Red Cross during and after World War I, and then came to work in the women’s division of the Democratic State Committee when I first began to work there.


Why do the census people ask us about our incomes and what we do for a living? Do they give this information to the income-tax people?

I haven’t the remotest idea, but I suppose there is some good reason. The information is all supposed to be kept confidential. It is primarily to help the government get a picture of the economic condition of the country and the people. I doubt if it would be necessary for the census-takers to give any information to the income-tax people, since we do that ourselves every year when we file our income-tax returns, and we do it in greater detail than is required by the census.


What can be done to get government action to give our food surpluses to the starving in China? What government department would handle this? Is Congressional action first necessary?

It is a very complicated thing that you are asking, because it requires action by a good many government departments. Food surpluses are in the hands of the Department of Agriculture, but the decision as to where they should be distributed would be in the hands of the State Department, I imagine, in conjunction with the United Nations. In addition, how these food surpluses are to be paid for would be a question to be decided by a number of departments. Then there would be the question of transportation, and the cost of that would come under another department. You would have to have the consent of Congress, as Congress would have to appropriate the money. The answer to this question is not as simple as it would appear to be.


For a long time I have had one dream that repeats itself over and over again. Does this ever happen to you?

No. I am afraid I dream very rarely. I am usually so tired when I go to bed that I go to sleep immediately, and if I have a dream I rarely recollect it when I wake up.


Since the Post Office Department has cut down mail deliveries, won’t this increase unemployment by many thousands? It seems to me that the saving made by this cut in service will be largely counteracted by unemployment insurance and relief measures that may become necessary.

I cannot answer your question because I am not familiar with the budgets of the post offices throughout the country, but I cannot believe that Postmaster General would have ordered these cuts unless they were going to bring about real savings and not fictitious ones such as you suggest. With any kind of reorganization of the government there is bound to be a certain amount of unemployment, but I think it will be found that those who have a certain amount of training are better kept in the service, for in the long run they expedite the work.


Do you think anything of importance was accomplished by the Mosinee, Wisconsin, "Red Day," when the American Legion sponsored a mock Soviet invasion?

Unfortunately two deaths were caused that, I think, might have occurred under other circumstances, since both of them were heart patients. I doubt, however, if anyone learned anything about communism by this mock invasion which they could not have learned in other ways just as successfully.


I have read in "If You Ask Me" that you and Mr. Roosevelt were first cousins five times removed. Will you please explain how that could be and of the same generation?

My husband and I were not of the same generation. My husband was one generation older than I was. My father and my husband were of the same generation.

I can't help wondering how the children of prominent and/or royal families are helped to attain the posture and grace, among other things, which by their very birth is deemed a requisite.

They undergo very serious training. They are usually taught a great many of the physical things which lead to grace and good posture. They have much mental training. They not only go to school but at the same time have rather intensive tutoring in many subjects. They are also taught several languages, and if they have any taste for music it is developed. They are trained from early childhood in good manners and the social form of the circle in which they move. Royal children learn a sense of responsibility and to watch and understand certain things that affect their people. For instance, during the war I was taken by the king and queen of England over the whole bombed area in London where the workers had lived. They noticed the conditions and understood the hardships.

[Vincent Impellitteri] The acting mayor of New York asks “What in your opinion would be the most serious problems if New York City should suffer an atom-bomb attack?”

I do not think I know enough to answer this question, but, judging from what happened in Japan, I would think the organization of medical relief, fire fighting and the discovery and use of anything which would reduce radio activity would be the most urgent problems. After that would come the provision of food and shelter and the removal of people as far as possible from the radioactive areas.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1950

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

McCall's, volume 78, October 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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