If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1952


Marion Davies told the press recently that William Randolph Hearst was a great admirer of yours. Did you ever have any inkling of this?

No, I never had any inkling that Mr. Hearst was an admirer of mine. I explain the statement by the fact that Marion Davies has always, when we have met, been extremely kind and she was probably trying to make it appear that Mr. Hearst's feelings were somewhat akin to hers.


My mother-in-law says that in her day it was not considered good etiquette to put intimate family photographs in the living room. I told her I'd abide by your decision in the matter, not hers, so I'd be grateful to know what you think.

I am quite sure that your mother-in-law is correct, though my mother-in-law always had photographs of the family in her living room in New York City and in Hyde Park. I never gave it a thought as to whether it was etiquette or not. I like to have photographs of my family around in all of my rooms, and so I am afraid I have just gone ahead and put them there and never really thought that it was a question with which etiquette concerned itself.


What characteristics do you feel are most important in the First Lady of our country?

I should say just the same characteristics that are important in anybody else—she should be herself, be kind, interested in the opportunities which the position affords her to help people and dispense White House hospitality with pleasure.


My husband says he has a right to have an affair with another woman when he's overseas. When I ask him if I have the same kind of rights he says no, I'm the mother of children and have to be respectable. It's not that I want an affair with another man, but I don't think his attitude is right. Do you?

Of course what your husband is trying to guard against is the feeling of guilt which comes to any man who has been physically unfaithful to the woman whom he really loves and does not want to lose. The act of being physically unfaithful seems much less important to the average man, and he finds it hard to understand why the woman he loves looks upon it as all-important. Yet, as you prove by your question to him, if a woman tries to take the same point of view a husband is quite horrified and turns to the old code of respectability on the woman's part for the sake of the children. How about respectability on the man's part being of value to the children?

There is something more, however, that should be said on this whole question, since physical faithfulness is perhaps more difficult for men than for women. I imagine your husband, who apparently does love you, is trying to make sure that you will not turn away from him if anything of the kind should happen while he is overseas. You and he will have to decide what is the right attitude to take. Nobody else can decide it for you.


Do you feel that your opinions ever changed your husband's political decisions?



On a television show recently Vice-President Barkley said that Dean Acheson was the most able Secretary of State we had ever had – with the possible exception of Charles Evans Hughes. What do you think of this statement?

I think Vice-President Barkley may well be right. Secretary Acheson, I feel, has been one of the very best Secretaries of State we have had. It has taken honest, able thinking and diplomacy to come through this trying period of history. To do so under a constant barrage of criticism requires an amount of character which few men possess.


How do you decide where you are going to give speeches? My brother's school tried to get you and you couldn't come, but I know of other schools where you have spoken.

I always try to cover a certain percentage of schools every year, and I take them as the invitations come in. I try not to go too often to the same area, and I try not to do only schools. I try also not to fill my calendar too full, because one must have some time for other things than speeches.


What kind of preparations have you or your family made for an atomic bombing?

Neither my family nor I have made any particular or private preparations for an atomic bombing beyond reading all the directions sent out by the Civilian Defense officials and preparing to obey them.


My doctor tells me that every woman over sixty takes some kind of medicine. Is this true of you?

From time to time I have had to take, for short periods, a small amount of thyroid, also at intervals some vitamin pills and pills containing garlic, which is supposed to be good for your memory.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1952

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

McCall's, volume 79, January 1952

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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