If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

July 1955

 

Is it true, as your husband's physician, Admiral Mclntire, says, that Mr. Roosevelt was too "tight" to buy himself some new shirts and that's one reason he looked so bedraggled at Yalta?

I have no idea whether my husband looked "bedraggled" or not, but if he did I am quite sure it wasn't because he refused to buy new shirts. As a matter of fact, he never bought such routine things for himself. He would have bought first editions of books with joy, but not shirts! If he really looked bedraggled, it was my fault. I can't have gone over his clothes carefully enough with his valet before he left.

 

Are the majority of your close personal friends Jewish or Gentile?

I never have thought of classifying my friends either by race, religion or even color, so I have not the faintest idea whether they are Jew or Gentile in the majority. I have only a few very close and intimate friends, and these are of different nationalities and religions.

 

Are you or any of your family in the Social Register?

I think I am still in the Social Register and I think some of my family are too, though I have not looked for a long time.

 

Did your husband ever vote Republican that you know of?

Yes, I think he voted for Theodore Roosevelt when he ran on the Bull Moose ticket.

 

Do you agree with Republican Senator Aiken, who said recently that he thought you were "abused" while you were First Lady?

I have never thought in my whole life that I was abused. It seems to me that one must accept criticism, and being in the public eye leads to that. It does not mean that one must feel abused.

 

The members of the hymnology class in Westminster Choir College would be honored if you would tell us your favorite hymn and perhaps a reason for this choice.

I have always been very fond of "Lead, Kindly Light." I can't really tell you my reason except that I think it has meaning and I have liked it for a good many years.

 

I will be twelve August 3rd. Three years ago my mother's father died. As you know, my grandmother is a "widow." My mother says some widows are happy. What is your opinion? I always talk about my grandfather because he was good and I loved him. Do you think this is all right?

Of course it is right to talk about your grandfather. Remembering people whom we have loved and who have died is an important part of our lives, and it will make your grandmother happy.

Your mother, when she says your grandmother is happy, probably means that your grandmother has learned that happiness comes from within. It is not always the outside world which makes us happy or unhappy. We can be content if we have learned to be at peace with ourselves and accept life and the will of God.

 

You must know what the state of your husband's health was when he went to Yalta. Was he gravely ill, as some people say, or not?

We all felt that my husband was very far from strong at the beginning of the fourth term, but the doctors had assured us that fundamentally he was in good health and could continue his work as long as he followed certain rules. None of us felt apprehensive about his being able to stand the strain of the trip to Yalta.

 

A few of us, having a friendly discussion about you the other day, were wondering if you would be able to do your own housework if you had to. Some felt you wouldn't know how, but I said even if you didn't you were resourceful and would learn like any housewife. We'd like to know your reaction to our discussion.

I am amused by your discussion because many years ago I took a course in housework of all kinds. Skill depends on practice, however, for it is only with practice that one becomes good at anything. If I ever have to do my housework, I am sure I will manage. I should be sorry for any of my family or friends who might have to put up with my cooking for the first weeks, but I am sure I would manage in the end to keep alive anyone I fed. At the present time I am too busy to do any housework, but sometimes I think it might be fun.

 

In my day it was considered a sign of very poor breeding to call people by their first names unless you were close friends. Does all this first-name calling that goes on today offend you as much as it offends me?

No. It doesn't offend me at all. It is just a change in custom. Because of my age most people find it difficult to call me anything but "Mrs. Roosevelt," and sometimes I must say I am a little grieved at the formality that seems to surround me. I have become accustomed to hearing many people called by their first names and I do it myself frequently.

 

I am curious to know if you ever write to your Congressman, and about what.

Yes, I write to my Congressman and to various members of both Houses occasionally on matters of popular interest in which I am interested and feel informed enough to know what I am talking about. I have written most recently on the Indian question and the subject of national conservation.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, July 1955

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

McCall's, volume 82, July 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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