If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

April 1951


If you’re a guest in a house where a slurring remark is made about a minority group, do you protest or remain politely silent?

If I can possibly do so without being rude or making people uncomfortable, I try to pick up the remarks and reason them out. But if this cannot be done, I usually try to leave that particular house as soon as possible.


Have you ever thought of marrying again?



Your husband never wrote pointed personal letters, as President Truman does, but he certainly must have needed to let off steam at times. What kind of safety valve did he have in periods of terrible tension and pressure?

My husband disliked writing longhand letters, except for brief business or personal memos. Temperaments differ. He was very slow to anger, but when he was angry it shook him to the bottom of his soul and he was more apt to take his anger out in cold and never-to-be-forgotten words than in any impulsive way.

To the ordinary criticism affecting him and his family he rarely paid any attention. He taught us all to believe that it was better to ignore criticism. He lost respect for some writers and critics and then rarely read what they said, so, of course, they bothered him little. He also advised us to look with care for any constructive criticism, but if it became particularly carping to ignore it and never answer it.

His illness had given him extraordinary self-control in personal matters. When matters affecting affairs of the country were at stake, and in periods of tension and pressure, he practiced this same self-control. He suffered when things went wrong with the family, though those personal things were quickly swallowed up in the much more important things that touched the country as a whole.


Clubwomen take such a beating from the cartoonists and jokesters that I’m almost ashamed to admit that I am one. Do you think we bring this on ourselves?

Yes, very often. We are apt to behave unnaturally and a little pompously, and that is really what makes us a subject for the cartoonists.


The commanding officer of the Army camp where my husband is stationed is hated by almost every man in the outfit. They all feel that he abuses his power. Recently he issued an order that officers and enlisted men could leave camp only once every two weeks. Is there anything that soldiers or their wives can do about a situation like this?

I am afraid there is nothing that soldiers or their wives can do about the commanding officer of their own camp, but outsiders in the community can. If such conditions exist it ought to be possible for a prominent member of the community to protest, and that would undoubtedly bring about a change.


Have you ever dieted to lose weight? If so, could you tell me the basis of the diet?

Yes. I ate as little as possible, but enough fruit and vegetables to keep well. No bread or potatoes or sweets, and no alcoholic or soft drinks.


J. Edgar Hoover said that one reason for purging homosexuals out of the State Department is that they are open to blackmail. Isn’t this also true of a married man having an affair with another woman, or of any public figure whose personal life is subject to social disapproval? Why draw the line at homosexuals?

Yes. I suppose in public life any wrongdoing makes one vulnerable, as nobody wants to figure in a scandal. On the other hand, if one has the courage to acknowledge wrongdoing and makes amends as far as possible, one will find, I think, that an astonishing number of people are not so perfect themselves but they can understand and forgive others’ failings and weaknesses.

I imagine the reason J. Edgar Hoover picked homosexuality is that it is thought of as an abnormality, and people are usually much harder on anything that seems to them somewhat abnormal.


We are eager to get a college education for our two sons. Is it true they will be drafted from a state university much sooner than from a private college?

I cannot imagine that it would make the slightest difference. Your local draft board is the place for you to find out. They will tell you what the rules are.


I can’t see that women have derived any benefit at all from the right to vote. Do you think they have? If so, what?

I most certainly do. The benefit they have derived, from my point of view, is the fact that they can exert their direct influence and build up tremendous power because of their vote and that of other women, which can be cast for the things they really care about. Women wield the same power over their representatives that men do, and they carry equal responsibility. I prefer to do that myself rather than rely on persuading the men I happen to know to act as I think they should.


When did you first start writing for newspapers and magazines? Did you have any particular models among the columnists when you started?

In the late 1920s. I cannot remember that I had a model columnist. I admired the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson, and I had read widely as a young person, but I did not have any particular model.

< Previous Column 1951 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, April 1951

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

McCall's, volume 78, April 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
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052