If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

December 1951


How old were your children when they stopped believing in Santa Claus? What did you tell them at the time?

I do not remember the exact age when my children stopped believing in Santa Claus. What I told them was that of course there was a Santa Claus. He might not actually come down the chimney, nor perhaps have a sleigh drawn by reindeer, but I explained that in every home where the parents tried to give their children a happy time at this season of the year there was a Santa Claus. The old stories and legends were to be read and enjoyed and, if possible, preserved because they told of the different ideas and customs that had existed in many parts of the world.


Have you ever made a public statement which you feel was a serious mistake? What did you do about it?

Many years ago I made a hasty comment on a crime case which was actually in the courts at that time and when I was the wife of the President. The minute I had made it I realized that it was wrong, but I also realized that the collection of newspaper reporters who were around me were going to use what I had said, and therefore, as it was what I really felt, I made no attempt to deny it. I did state later that I was sorry I made any comment, as I realized one should not do so when a case is in the process of being tried.


I understand that Mayor Impellitteri wants to rename Union Square in New York City after William Randolph Hearst. As a resident of New York do I have any say in this matter?

As a resident of New York City you can protest to the mayor on anything you do not like. I remember that Mayor LaGuardia renamed Sixth Avenue the "Avenue of the Americas." I do not know that anyone protested, but they had a right to do so, and you also have the right to protest and to organize groups to protest if you feel strongly enough about it.


What books did you read your children when they were little? There's so much trash on the market today, I simply don't know how to choose. My little boy is seven, and my girl is three.

We read a great many books to our children when they were small, beginning with Peter Rabbit and going on through Shakespeare's plays, Ivanhoe, The Old Curiosity Shop and many of Kipling's and Stevenson's stories. For the three-year-old I should think some of the picture books on farms and trains and the like would be both stimulating and interesting. For the seven-year-old I should think you might subscribe to a children's book club. In this way you will get a good assortment of books that will begin to give the child an interest in owning his own library.


Are you financially dependent on what you make from magazines, radio, etc., or do you have a private income?

I have a private income. I would, however, have to live very differently from the way I live at present, and cut out doing a great many things that I now do, if I were not earning money. Therefore, as long as I can work I shall continue to do so and earn money, as I enjoy being able to give away some money and to keep open house and to serve in various organizations. I especially like to be able to travel. All these preferences of mine are expensive preferences, but I have the security of knowing that I can live on my income when I have to do so, even though my style of living will be much more restricted.


My daughter-in-law calls me by my first name. Has this ever happened to you, and do you think I have a right to ask her to call me "Mother"?

No, I do not think any of my daughters-in-law ever used my first name. Some of them call me "Mrs. Roosevelt" or "Mrs. R." The question of whether your daughter-in-law should call you "Mother" is complicated, of course, if her own mother is living. In that case, if she has a mother, she probably would not want to call you that. I called my mother-in-law "Mama," though my mother had been dead for years.

I do not think I would mind if my daughter-in-law called me by my fist name, however, because it would mean that she had a warm and friendly feeling, and that, after all, is the important thing.


Is there anyone you turn to for advice on political or economic questions which you feel are out of your grasp?

There are many people whom I consult on things of which I think they have made a considerable study. They are not always very well-known people, but I choose them because I think they have good judgment and wide knowledge. On economic questions I have often consulted Mr. Bernard M. Baruch, but I would never rely wholly on any one person. I would always feel that if you want to get an all-around point of view you have to talk to a number of people who have looked at a subject from a number of different backgrounds.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, December 1951

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

McCall's, volume 79, December 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