If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1952


How do you feel about having an American ambassador at the Vatican?

My personal feeling is that there may be value in having close contacts with the Pope. He is a great spiritual leader, and he has contacts in many parts of the world. But I do not see why we need an ambassador or minister. The personal representative with the rank of ambassador worked very well in one of the most difficult times in our history, and it seems to me on that basis we maintained a cordial and close relationship with the Pope himself.

Moreover it is my understanding that in any exchange of ambassadors with the Vatican a concordat must be signed and the representative of the Pope automatically becomes senior member of the Diplomatic Corps. (This is the reason, I believe, that the United Kingdom has a minister and not an ambassador.) In a Catholic country the status of the Pope’s ambassador presents no difficulties. In our country I think it would be difficult to observe this particular priority.


Do you ever take a real vacation where you have complete privacy?

No, not since the war. I did on a few occasions before World War II go off for a couple of weeks with a small group of friends and enjoyed a period of recreation with only a small amount of work. The mail was and still is a daily occupation.


What is your salary as a member of the United Nations?

We are paid on the basis of the number of days that we work. We are never paid for any time that we are not working. I don’t know what a basic day’s pay is, but I know I have never received a salary check except at the end of a period of work, and the checks that I have received have never been over $1,800 that I can remember, and sometimes well under $1,000. I have worked for the period of the General Assembly, which is about three months, and for the Human Rights Commission, which in the past has been in session for a period of from two to six weeks.


If you were sending a daughter away to college today, would you rather she went to a women’s college or a coeducational university?

I think on the whole I would prefer a women’s college, because there is less distraction for the studies we hope the girl is going to pursue—although that depends on the girl, of course. For some, however, it would be far preferable to be thrown in daily contact with boys. Therefore, I would leave this to the individual parents and the girl in question.


Friends ask me how I can admire the late President Roosevelt so much, when he played politics with the Hague and Kelly machines. How can I answer this?

When you are in politics you have to be realistic and deal with the people whom the voters of any area allow to represent them. Mayor Kelly and Mr. Hague controlled the Democratic machines in their respective areas because the people allowed them to do so. No President, no governor, representative or senator can ignore the heads of his own political party machine whom the people have allowed to gain positions of power. They may not like the machines nor the way they exercise their power, but somehow or other a political leader must try to get on with these bosses and still not lose sight of his own objectives.


Who designs your hats?

I am afraid I have no special person. I buy hats here and there, and sometimes some kind person like Sally Victor will send me a hat as a gift which suits me better than those I have gone out and chosen myself.


The Soviet Union brags so much about the status of its women. What is your impression of the Soviet delegates you’ve seen?

I do not happen to have seen a woman who had the status of delegate since the first meeting of the General Assembly in London. This particular woman was very intelligent and a pleasure to work with. There are women, however, in other positions on the Soviet delegation, and if the treatment meted out to them, as one casually observes it, is a sign of equality, it is not, from my point of view, what the women in the United States would like. I have seen a delegate hand his heavy briefcase to his wife to carry. I am sure that the Soviet delegates would give either a man or a woman only the consideration he or she could exact. From what the Russians say, however, I am sure that women receive equal treatment—on paper at any rate—with the men.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1952

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

McCall's, volume 79, June 1952

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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