If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1954


You have said so many people in public life act scared today. I'd be more interested to have you name a few people who, in your opinion, are acting courageous in public life today.

I should say that Senator Herbert H. Lehman has always acted courageously and with great integrity. I also think President Eisenhower acts with courage and integrity, but I am inclined to feel that on occasion the President lets things drop when it would be better to put more power back of them. There are, of course, a great many other people acting with courage and integrity.

I would like to say that I have great admiration for people who are willing to state where they stand and who do not fall into the habit of using the methods of Fascists and Communists simply because they have heard that this is the only way to protect ourselves from Fascism or Communism.


Do you and your immediate family say grace before eating a meal? Could you tell us what you say?

No, we don't say grace except when a minister is present. Then I always invite him to say it.


In his memoirs the late Harold Ickes quotes your husband as follows: "My missus, unlike most women, hasn't any sense about money at all." Are there really any grounds for the President to have made such a statement?

I don't know. My husband felt when I earned money that I sometimes gave away too much of it and that it slipped through my fingers in some worthless extravagances. He was probably right, and I should have been more careful and saved some of it for the future, but I never did. As far as my husband's money was concerned I think I was always very careful, because he only allowed so much for running the house and for the things for which we paid on a fifty-fifty basis, and it would have been impossible for me to misuse his money.


In his book, The President Was My Boss, William Hassett indicates that the food was not up to par while you and your husband were in the White House. Was there any special reason for this?

I understand that Mr. Hassett believed this, and I know quite a number of my own family felt it was so. I imagine the real reason is that I do not know much about food. I have a good appetite, and I eat what is put before me. When my husband was young he used to feel the same way, though there were certain things he always liked, such as game and terrapin, and he used to be particular about how these were cooked. To be sufficiently fresh, it seemed to me, the wild duck was supposed to fly through the kitchen. I can't bear gory meat, and therefore I never ate it, but our wild duck was always cooked that way, and probably it was among the few things really done as a connoisseur would like it. I accept the criticism with regret and the realization that I should have done a better job.


To what person do you turn for help when you have a deep spiritual problem?

I don't think I turn to anyone. One must face things oneself. I have, of course, one or two friends with whom I talk things over occasionally, but if it is a personal decision of a spiritual nature I don't see how anyone could make it for one. This is a case where one must pray for guidance but decide for oneself.


I know you never wanted to be famous, but I get the feeling that celebrities can't help developing a taste for fame and would feel lost and lonely without it. Am I at all right about this in your case?

I really don't know, because I never thought about it. I have never felt famous. I have done whatever was offered me to do whenever I could, but if opportunities did not come I am quite sure I should not feel either lost or lonely. I would go about my own business, narrowing down to a more intimate, personal circle and in many ways, I imagine, being happier for this opportunity of deepening contacts rather than spreading them so thin.


Have you ever taken an I.Q. or similar intelligence test, and do you know how you came out?

No. In my younger days there were no such tests.


Do you agree with the idea that a woman can usually size up people better and faster than her husband can? I'd like to know whether this was the case with you and Mr. Roosevelt.

I do not think that all women are better at judging people than men. I know that certain women have very keen intuitions, but I have also known extremely intuitive men, so I think it is not really a question of sex but of the kind of person you happen to be.


Do you ever take sleeping pills?

No, I have never taken sleeping pills.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1954

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

McCall's, volume 81, May 1954

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