If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

December 1956


I know Adlai Stevenson and other important people have belonged to the Unitarian Church, but to me a Christian religion that does not admit the divinity of Christ just isn't a religion. It's certainly not much of a test of your faith, is it?

I have always had a great respect for Unitarians. My husband's mother was brought up a Unitarian and later became an Episcopalian, but there never was any question that she was a good Christian; and most of the Unitarians I have known have been extremely good Christians. The Trinity is not essential, evidently, to leading a Christian life, nor does it seem to detract from the reverence in which Christ is held.


Everybody has a favorite charity. What is yours?

My largest contribution goes to the American Association for the United Nations, and after that to the Wiltwyck School—a school for underprivileged boys from New York City.


What is the point of our government's refusing to let American newsmen go into Red China?

The point is, it is not very safe to go into Red China, since Americans still are being detained as prisoners. Also, the Communist Chinese have never withdrawn their troops from areas in Asia where they remain threats to the peace. So it is not wise, as long as we have no diplomatic relationship with these people, for our citizens to try to visit their country.


What comic strip do you like the best?

I am ashamed to tell you that I have never read a comic strip. This is probably a real defect in my education, but I think it is because I do not have the time.


Everybody makes such a terrible fuss about "rock ‘n' roll." Wasn't there just as big a fuss over things like the Charleston? Frankly, do you think rock ‘n' roll is any more shocking than the black bottom was in the twenties?

I know I am behind the times but I've never seen rock and roll, and I am sorry to say that I don't know what the black bottom was. However, the fad will probably pass just as many of the other excitements which have seized our youth at various times are now forgotten. I agree with you that we needn't take it too seriously.


How did you handle the subject of death with your children? My wife, who comes from another country, thinks it's terrible the way Americans try to pretend death doesn't happen. She had our six-year-old boy attend his grandmother's funeral and look in the coffin, and she talks to him very frankly about death.

I think I was perfectly frank with my children about death. I did not take them to funerals unless it was necessary and I certainly did not have them look into coffins, but we talked perfectly frankly about death. They knew what it was to have pets die, and it was an easy transition to human beings. The important thing is to keep children from being frightened by death. If they can accept it as part of life, then it is not such a problem.


I have two older sisters and I get all their clothes to wear, and I don't think it's very nice. Don't you think my mother should buy me some new dresses?

That is an old, old grief of younger sisters. Although I did not have a sister, I wore all my aunt's clothes for years. Your mother would probably be delighted to buy you new dresses, but she may not be able to or she may not feel she wants to waste good clothes. The best thing for you is to try to forget that your clothes are not new; they are new for you anyway.


Do you think that the fact that you were a "working mother" had a bad effect on your children?

I am afraid I can't claim ever to have been a working mother when my children were small. I even did very little of the usual serving on boards, and so forth. Most of my working time began when my children were much older. My really steady work can hardly be said to have begun until my youngest child was able to go to school, so I can't judge what bad effects a working mother would have on her children.


Did you curtsy when you met the King and Queen of England?

No, because my husband said that he and I represented the United States and he was the head of this country; the King and Queen represented Great Britain and they were the heads of their country. As representatives of sovereign states, we would stand as equals and neither one would make obeisance.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, December 1956

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

McCall's, volume 84, December 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
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