If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1952


Could you tell me something about your husband's relationship with and feeling about Senator Taft?

I think my husband had very little real relationship with Senator Taft. I never heard him say anything one way or the other, except that he considered him isolationist and reactionary.


What did you find that the Indian and Arabic people like most about the United States? What do they like least?

One cannot lump together the Indian and Arabic people. The Indians, I think, like our generosity but dislike anything which savors of bragging about anything we do, because they are traditionally brought up with the idea that a gift is of value only when it is given with as little knowledge by others as possible. The Arabic people, I think, at the present moment are not very fond of any Western foreigners. They tie them up with the colonial domination which they have suffered from. They fear any kind of domination.


Have any of your sons taken advantage of the GI Bill of Rights?



In his autobiography, Whittaker Chambers says all his information about Alger Hiss went to the White House but your husband ignored it. Is this true?

I haven't the faintest idea. My husband never mentioned it to me, and it would not have been proper for him to do so. He undoubtedly forwarded the information to the State Department for their information and investigation.


What did you do with all the elegant gowns you owned when you were First Lady?

I gave one gown to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, as was customary, and the others I continued to wear until they were worn out.


How much actual housework do you do when you're in your own home?

Very little. When I am home I try to do the flowers. At times, when the house is full, I may make my own bed, but I have very little time to devote to housework. While I supervise my household with extreme care, I have so far been fortunate in having two very excellent servants.


What was your husband's opinion of Dean Acheson?

My husband had a very high opinion of Dean Acheson's ability and integrity.


Do you check each organization that wants to use your name as sponsor? How do you decide which groups can and cannot use it?

I used to be rather careless about checking organizations. If I saw names that I knew as sponsors and thought it sounded worthwhile I would give my name. Lately I have become more careful, since I have found: (1) that my name was used without authorization, and (2) I had agreed to let my name be used as a sponsoring member without really knowing anything about the organization. (When some question came up and I found out about the organization it turned out not to be a worthy one.) Now I try never to give my name to anything which I am not going to be able to work on and therefore able to be responsible for what they are actually doing.


I'd be interested to know whether you took gifts to your hosts in India and Pakistan. If so, what? Did you and Nehru exchange gifts?

No, I certainly did not take gifts. Now that I am home, if I can find appropriate things, I shall send them to many of the people who have been so kind to me. On the trips I have only written the usual thank-you notes that one sends to one's hosts. The prime minister and I certainly did not exchange gifts.


Do you feel that the candidate or the party is the more important issue in the coming election?

That is a very difficult question to answer. As a rule I feel that even a very fine man can do very little against the party that has a well-organized machinery and clear-cut objectives. Therefore, ordinarily I consider the party more important than the man. But this would not hold if the man were clearly incompetent or had some moral or mental quality that one disapproved of fundamentally.


Was Franklin Roosevelt your first girlhood sweetheart?

Of course not, unless you consider one's first girlhood sweetheart the first young man one ever knew. I imagine my husband was the first person I remember, since I met him when I was two and he was a little over three.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1952

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

McCall's, volume 79, August 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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