If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1959


At the time of the repeal of Prohibition, you made a statement that "our young women will have to learn to take their liquor like ladies." How do you feel about the situation now that the United States has the highest number of women alcoholics in the world?

As a matter of fact, I never made that statement. During the days of Prohibition, I was asked on the radio about youngsters', particularly girls', drinking. I said I thought it wiser for families to let their young people see wine and liquor at home, and before they let them go out with other young people, it was well for a girl to know how much she could drink—otherwise, she might get into real trouble. I happen to have been one of the people who rejoiced when Prohibition came in. I felt that if liquor was not available, many weak people would be saved. But I found, as time went on, that people were getting just as much, if not more, liquor, and that much of it was far more dangerous than the original liquor had been. What seemed to me even more serious was that our very best citizens were becoming lawbreakers. It seemed to me that no law ignored by such a large percentage of the people should be kept on the books. I am deeply sad and ashamed that we in our country have more women alcoholics than any other nation in the world. I did not know this, and I am appalled, because I think that women are, if anything, more unattractive than men when they have had too much to drink. To have our women unable to control an appetite such as that for liquor is a very bad influence in our homes.


Recently, the book "Lady Chatterley's Lover," by D. H. Lawrence, was temporarily banned from the United States mails. Do you think this kind of censorship is a good thing? On what grounds do you think books should be banned?

I don't think any book should be banned by a censor. We should try to educate the public so that it will not buy books that have no literary value. Immorality is a fact. We cannot deny its existence, but if a book becomes distasteful because of the way immorality is depicted, then people should refuse to buy it. I think an educated public is quite capable of doing its own censoring.


I'm sure you often receive letters from people who feel they have been victimized by the law—people whose property has been appropriated for highways, people committed to mental institutions, people who have not received benefits they think they're entitled to under the Veterans Administration, Social Security, and so on. Do you ever intercede personally?

I never intercede by asking that something difficult be done. I frequently send letters to the proper person, who may investigate and find out whether anything should be done. I never make any requests beyond enclosing the letter and saying I hope it will be possible to look into the situation.


When interests conflict, do you think a woman's first obligation is to her husband or to her children?

I think a woman's obligation is always to her husband. But if she is a wise woman, she will make her children feel that they, too, have an obligation to their father. Then there will be no conflicts, because they will be one family with mutual interests all of them respect.


Do you feel the Senate was justified in rejecting Lewis Strauss as Secretary of Commerce and, if so, on what grounds?

I feel that the Senate has a right to use its discretionary power as regards any appointment the President is required to send it for confirmation. But I regret the situation in which the Senate felt it necessary to deny the President his choice for a member of his cabinet. The President is choosing a member of his official family, and I think he is entitled to have people he trusts and believes in. Whether the rest of us do or do not agree with the President's choice should not, I believe, carry weight.


According to the latest statistics, the average age of brides is eighteen and likely to become even lower in the future. Please tell us what you think about this trend.

If we look back on the early days of our history, we will find that many girls married at fifteen or sixteen. Their duties were arduous, and they often lived where they had few people to help them through difficulties. Yet they met life and lived it and helped their husbands settle a great country. If a girl is ready for marriage at eighteen, then I think it is quite all right for her to be married.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, October 1959

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

McCall's, volume 87, October 1959

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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