If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1951


Which of the books about your husband do you feel gives the most accurate picture of him, and which the least accurate?

If you are interested in my husband’s labor record, Miss Frances Perkins’ book, The Roosevelt I Knew, is excellent. Roosevelt and Hopkins, by Mr. Robert Sherwood, gives an extraordinarily good picture of the general times. Perhaps my husband’s own letters, edited by my son Elliott, would give you a more intimate picture of his personality than anything else. The book I like least, and which is the least accurate, is John T. Flynn’s; but, of course, there are many books about my husband which I have not had time to read.


If you had your children to educate over again, would you send them to private or public schools?

I think I would send my children to public school and keep the boys at home until they were much older than mine were when it was a tradition in our family they should be sent to boarding school. I would let them choose their own college or university in the light of the interests they had developed and the work for which they wished to prepare.


Do you think Communist China should have a seat in the United Nations?

No, not at the present time. Communist China has been actively aiding aggression, and until the Korean question is settled it would be impossible to consider Communist China as a member of the United Nations. When peace is restored, then I think a report will have been made on the qualifications for membership, and in light of that report the United Nations members will have to vote on the admission of Communist China to the U.N.


We would like to serve your husband’s favorite menu at a dinner to open the polio drive and commemorate his birthday on January 30. Could you tell us some of his favorite dishes?

My husband was very fond of curried chicken. He also liked scrambled eggs, corned-beef hash or roast-beef hash, any kind of game and especially terrapin, Maryland style. Waffles with maple syrup was a favorite dessert.


How did you learn to speak French so well? And what is the best way, do you think, to learn a language, outside of living in the country itself?

My mother had a conviction that it was essential to study languages, so when I was a baby she had a French nurse for me, and I spoke French before I spoke English. My mother insisted that there should always be in the house a French-speaking person, and I also took lessons from a very good French teacher and spent three years in a French school in England, where we had to speak French exclusively.

The only ways I know of to learn to speak a foreign language are either to live in a foreign country or to be as much as possible with natives of that country and speak the language as frequently as possible. It helps to read a great deal in the language, and it is desirable to read aloud.


My husband and I plan a modest trip through France and Holland this spring. Could you suggest a good basic wardrobe?

I should think one thin wool suit, nylon underwear and nylon blouses would be good, as nylon can be washed and dried quickly and you will not need as large a supply. A simple print dress for afternoon or informal wear and a couple of wash dresses with a light coat would be all you would need. Shoes are always the heaviest part of one’s luggage, so if you can wear a good pair of walking shoes and take one pair of slippers and a pair of bedroom slippers, it does save on luggage.

Do not forget to take washcloths and soap, as few hotels supply either of these items.


What, if anything, has the United Nations Committee for Human Rights done about the 25,000 Greek children who were abducted by Communist guerrillas last year?

As a commission, the Human Rights Commission would not be able to take any action, since its work is to write a charter, which when accepted by the nations could be invoked in a case of this kind. There is nothing as yet that could be done except by individual members, and I am sure that every one of us has done what we could through our governments to bring about the return of these children to their homes.


What do you think is the greatest difference between American women and women you have encountered in other parts of the world?

It is difficult to generalize about women. Perhaps one could say the American woman expects her husband or father or brother to give her more consideration than women from other lands might expect from their menfolk. I think the American women are freer to live independent lives and that therefore many of them work outside the home; however, the status of women has changed in Europe and other parts of the world, largely due to World War II.


In your recent memoirs, you say that your two older sons suffered because they were cut off from family financial assistance as soon as they left school. How long do you feel one should help children financially?

I do not think one can answer categorically the question of when children should no longer be aided financially by their parents. In the case of our younger sons, it was quite obvious it should be carried on somewhat longer than with the older boys, who married young and whose wives had a certain amount of money of their own. One of the younger boys was continuing his professional education and the other beginning at the bottom in his work. When the time came when they might have been ready to be on their own both of them were in the war, and again they needed a small amount of help from their father to be able to do what they felt was adequate at home while they were in the service.

This is a question which must be decided by all parents in connection with the children involved, and there can be no rule set by anyone outside of the individuals involved.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1951

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

McCall's, volume 78, January 1951

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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