If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1956


Apart from Dwight Eisenhower, who of the eligible Republicans today would you find most tolerable as President of the United States? Who the least tolerable?

I do not like the words you have chosen and so I will change them.

Chief Justice Warren would be the best candidate. Richard M. Nixon would be the least attractive. These are the ones obviously before the public eye. There may be others I shall feel equally inclined to think good or bad as time goes on.

My son John tells me Mr. Nixon is an admirable man. I realize that my feeling about him is based chiefly on the type of campaign he waged when running for the Senate. I know that given great responsibility men sometimes change, but Mr. Nixon’s presidency would worry me.


Do you own or have a financial interest in any business enterprise at the present time?

I own stocks and bonds but I am not active in any personal business at the present time.


My girl friends and I just don’t believe you were the ugly duckling, wallflower type you claim you were when young. A brilliant, handsome young man like Franklin Roosevelt had lots of girls to pick from and it was your charm that won him. Are you just too modest to admit the qualities that attracted him?

No, I am not too modest to admit that I had certain qualities and abilities that attracted my husband, but there have been many times in my life when I realized I did not have all the attributes that one needed in a given situation.


My husband is stubborn as a mule about lending our children money once they get married. Reading somewhere that FDR felt likewise, I’m writing to ask, did you ever help your children out without his knowing?



In a recent page in McCall’s you mentioned Herbert Lehman, Speaker Rayburn and Harry Truman as well-educated men in public office. Just to even out the record, would you mind naming a few Republicans you also consider cultured and well educated?

Secretary of State Dulles, John Sherman Cooper, Senator Flanders, and of course Chief Justice Warren, and there are many more.


I read that another Eleanor Roosevelt and you keep getting confused. What kind of confusions do you have?

There are a number of Eleanor Roosevelts: Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Mrs. Harry Roosevelt and myself. Occasionally we get one another’s letters. Last year Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt was in the hospital and the rumor got around that it was I, but by and large I think it is surprising that there is not more confusion and that it is possible to keep us as much apart as people do.


Are you willing to admit that your expression of confidence in certain people in the past showed extremely poor judgment? I am thinking of Alger Hiss, Mayor O’Dwyer and others.

No. As I look back I think my judgment of them was probably approximately right at the time.


I’ve just finished the book Why Johnny Can’t Read and am wondering if anyone in your family has had a reading problem. Did you come to any conclusion about it?

Yes, among my grandchildren there are some who have had reading problems. I think reading has to be treated as an individual problem for each child. I have always thought that in education it was difficult to lay down hard and fast rules that cover everybody.


In his memoirs Harry Truman describes what you said and did when you told him the news of your husband’s death. He does not describe how he himself acted and what he said, however. Do you remember?

Yes. He immediately asked me what he could do to help us after his first shock at the news was over. At first, of course, he could not speak.


Do you still have the love letters written during your courtship? If so, would you consider publishing them?

No. I burned them some time ago. I would certainly never have published them.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, January 1956

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

McCall's, volume 83, January 1956

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