If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

June 1955

 

I should like to know how many servants you and your husband had when you were just living as private citizens and how many servants you have today.

Before my husband and I moved to Albany we had all our children living at home and they were still young. At that time we employed five servants, plus a nurse, a governess, and a laundress who came in by the day. Today in the winter I employ one person regularly. I also have a man to help out and a part time maid who does my wash all year round and in the summer works part time for me in the country. During the summer months I also have one extra maid in the country.

 

My son-in-law will never go into any restaurant or any store where there is a picket line. He says no good Democrat does this. Have you ever crossed a picket line?

Not knowingly. It is impossible for me to know the rights and wrongs of every labor dispute. Therefore, I would prefer not to take sides in a situation where I can't find out what is right and wrong.

 

Henry Cabot Lodge said in a magazine article recently that "from the standpoint of logic" the Soviet Union ought to be out of the United Nations. Don't you think this is a strange and rather irresponsible thing for our representative to the UN to say?

No, because a great many things may be true from the standpoint of logic but highly untrue from any other standpoint. Ambassador Lodge knows quite well that the Soviet Union alone can remove itself from the UN. As a founding member it has a veto and therefore can veto any suggestion for being removed. Incidentally, it would be highly unwise to remove the Soviet states. That is the only bridge we have where they may really feel the temper of the nations gathered together; and if we ever hope to reach understanding, it is through their membership in the UN that we can hope to achieve it.

 

What do you think of the idea of government-run nurseries to take care of the children of working mothers who can't afford help at home?

I think, on the whole, that instead of having government-run nurseries it is better to have cooperative nurseries where parents arrange to pay some small amount and have a say in how the nursery is run. If these nurseries need a subsidy, it should come from local organizations or government.

 

As a Jew I have been hurt deeply by the story that your husband once jokingly offered the King of Saudi Arabia the six million Jews in the U.S. Is there any basis for this anecdote?

I never heard this anecdote until I saw the newspaper clipping which you sent me. I would question whether there was any basis for it. If my husband said it, he must have known full well that what he was offering the King of Saudi Arabia was complete subjection. Six million Jews from the U.S. would have taken possession of Saudi Arabia and both my husband and the king knew that full well. So if it was said at all it was a wry joke which I feel sure the King realized was at his own expense.

 

The Irish writer Lord Dunsany says that modern poetry is "the slime and muck of obscenity." Do you agree with him?

I find much of the modern poetry difficult to understand. I was brought up in an era when the music of the words meant a good deal. Sometimes it seemed to mean even more than the content of the poem. However, I have read some modern poetry with a good deal of pleasure.

I think Lord Dunsany was probably reacting against a particular volume which had especially displeased him. It is permissible for the Irish to become irate, and people who become irate sometimes exaggerate slightly!

 

Our ninth grade would appreciate it very much if you would tell us what was your most thrilling experience at the United Nations.

My most thrilling experience was the final adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was the culmination of very hard work and I think an important step in international development.

 

Is there any part of the world you have never visited which you are still very eager to see?

Oh, yes, there are many parts of the world I have never visited which I am most eager to see. Africa, for instance—and China and Russia, if one is ever able to travel in these countries again.

 

Friends of mine from New York City who are always talking about the evils of segregation in the South amazed me recently by saying that they couldn't send their children to a certain Manhattan school because it was "so overrun with Puerto Ricans." I ask you, Mrs. Roosevelt, is there any difference between this attitude and the one they deplore in the South?

I am afraid there is no difference. I can well understand that it is difficult for people who come from very poor homes, as do some of the colored children in the South and some of our Puerto Ricans in New York, to live up to the standards of cleanliness and health with which we all desire to surround our children. The only remedy that I can think of is to work to the end that no human beings in our country have a standard of living that falls below decencies of life. When that happens, it will not matter whether our children go to school with children of another race or national background.

 

I was at a lecture of yours recently and was surprised that your hair looked blonde. I thought it was gray. May I ask, did you do something to it?

My hair is white but in some lights I suppose it might look blonde. I can only say that I do nothing but brush my hair and have it washed and set.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, June 1955

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

McCall's, volume 82, June 1955

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

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