If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1952


I have an obviously Jewish name. My wife feels we should change it for the sake of our children. I am in a terrible state about this, not knowing if I should or shouldn't. I respect your judgment, Mrs. Roosevelt. Will you tell me what you think?

I would not trust my own judgment on this, so I asked one of my friends, who is a good American and has served in high positions in our government and whose name is unquestionably German-Jewish. He said he would certainly not change his name. That was my feeling, but I thought it only fair to ask someone who had been through circumstances similar to those which you and your wife and children are now facing.


What is the attitude of the Europeans you've talked to toward Senator Taft?

I have not directly asked any Europeans as to their attitude toward our 1952 elections. They generally express the hope that there will be no changes in our foreign policy that will jeopardize the work of a military and economic type that is being done in Europe and other parts of the world.


Can you recommend any book that will comfort a woman whose husband died last year and whose only son has just been killed in Korea?

I know of no other book but the Bible, in particular the Twenty-third Psalm, that I think might help. What a tragedy for a woman to go through! I hope she is able to work and that there is something she would be interested in doing. That would seem to me to be the one thing that may make life worth living to her again.


Did you have any of your children the natural-childbirth way? What do you think about the theory that you should try not to use anesthetics during childbirth?

When my children were born there was very little said about the “natural” way. They were all born in my own home. The nurse gave me an anesthetic, but I can remember each child's first cry, so perhaps it wasn't too different from what they now call natural childbirth. I do not think it is a question for you to decide, however, since your doctor will use an anesthetic if he thinks it necessary when the time comes.


My grandson says that the French attitude towards Negroes is completely different from ours. Have you found this to be true? If so, how do you explain it?

Your grandson is telling you the truth. There is no color line in Paris, and a Negro is received exactly as a white person. This is partly owing to the fact that for generations people from North Africa, India, Egypt and the Near East, all of whom have dark skins, have been frequent visitors and among these people there has been intermarriage.


Just tell me this: How does it happen that at 18 I'm considered old enough to fight for my country but not old enough to vote?

Some of us think that if you are old enough to fight for our country you are old enough to vote, and we have been saying so for some time. Perhaps in the early days it was thought that it took more judgment to be a citizen than a soldier in the army—and there was probably some truth to this—but in modern war it takes good judgment to be a soldier. Therefore, when we consider a young boy old enough to go to war we should also consider him old enough to take part in his government.


If you had a choice of spending your last years anywhere in the world, where would it be?

In my own home at Hyde Park in Duchess County, New York.


Anybody who knows anything about you knows that you are a religious woman in the most decent and humble Protestant tradition. Can you explain why certain people seem to go out of their way to try to prove that you are not religious?

I think it is probably because I do not always explain carefully enough what I mean when I say certain things. I take it for granted that people know I have certain beliefs, traditions and standards, and I fail to repeat that these exist, since I feel they are so much a part of myself that they do not need any explanation. However, I cannot blame people for having felt that I did not explain thoroughly, and each time I make a mistake like this I promise myself not to do it again—and then I find I am very apt to do the same thing!

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1952

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

McCall's, volume 79, May 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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