If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

April 1957


In answering a question about Unitarianism recently you stated: "The Trinity is not essential to leading a Christian life." Did you perhaps mean to leading a good life? Surely if you have read the Bible you know that anyone who denies the Trinity and therefore Christ, the Son of God, cannot be a Christian.

I would be willing to phrase my answer "a good life" if you find that more suitable, but I doubt if any life is good which is not based on Christian principles or their equivalent; so I would still say that whether one believes in the Trinity or fails to comprehend it completely, it does not of necessity mean that he can or cannot lead a Christian life.


Why do you lead such an exhausting, busy life when you don't have to?

Because I like to work and to feel that I am being useful. When I am not well enough to do so, I will have to stop. In the meantime I enjoy a busy life.


When I was in my teens I attended a meeting of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union at which you were the main speaker. Why have you changed your mind on the subject of drinking?

I am very much surprised to hear that I ever was a speaker at a meeting of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union because I never belonged to the organization. I have, however, known fine women who did belong, and I may have been there to address the audience on some subject that was not a temperance subject. I do believe in temperance but not absolute abstinence. I was for the experiment to do away by law with the drinking of hard liquor in this country, until I found we were becoming a nation of lawbreakers. I decided then we could not legislate morals, and it was better not to have a law when so many good people broke it but to trust to people to live up to their own standards and values.


I am inclined to think that the questions on your page in McCall's are made up and you do not write the answers yourself. I wonder if I'm right.

The questions on my page come from readers. Sometimes when a number are on the same subject a composite question will be made to cover all the letters. I always dictate the answers myself. It has never been my habit to put my name to something for which I did not take full responsibility.


Was one of your children your husband's favorite? I ask because, like you, we have four boys and a girl and the girl and my husband are inseparable.

I don't think my husband really was more devoted to any one child than to another, but it seems to me there is very often a special affinity between a girl and her father. This was certainly so between my husband and our daughter, Anna, who was our oldest child and only girl. He loved playing with her when she was a little girl and loved working with her when she grew older. There were things he enjoyed doing exclusively with the boys too, however. He would take them all off on a sailing cruise and have a wonderful time. Two of them enjoyed the water more than the others, but all of them would go with him. The two who did not like the water so much particularly enjoyed horses, and that my husband understood very well. It gave him a great deal of pleasure to see their horsemanship develop. My daughter also enjoyed horses and was an extremely good horsewoman. At one point she trained her own horse and my husband took a great deal of interest in this. I don't think any of the boys felt their father was partial to Anna, though they all knew that she was able to do certain things for and with him better than they could.


Don't you think the sex crazied younger generation is a greater threat to civilization than the most powerful atomic bomb?

I am afraid I don't come in contact with a younger generation which is "sex crazied." I find that the vast majority of our younger generation are fine boys and girls. They are young, of course, and make mistakes (so do we all), but I love and admire them; and I must say that I think I would compare them with the good that I hope can come out of the peacetime development of atomic power but certainly not with its destructive power.


I have been told that your husband's personal library was not the library of a cultivated man, that it contained chiefly detective novels and books about boats and battles. Is this true?

I spent many years browsing about among the books which were in my husband's library. They were, of course, not all his own collection. His father and his grandfathers had also collected books for many years. My husband's great interest lay in the Navy and in Naval history, and he had many books covering this subject. He also had a great many biographies. The library contained all the standard works of the great novelists, many modern books, books on philosophy, and a number of first editions and collections along lines that interested my husband particularly. As far as I can remember, the detective novels were immediately sent away after being read, so I doubt if many of them remained in the library; but you can corroborate this by writing Mr. Herman Kahn at the Memorial Library at Hyde Park. He can tell you much more than I can from memory, since I have not lived in the big house at Hyde Park since 1945.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, April 1957

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

McCall's, volume 84, April 1957

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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