If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

September 1960


Have you ever served on a jury? In states where jury duty is optional for women, do you think it's their duty to serve?

I have never served on a jury, because I have never been called. But I do think it is the duty of women to serve unless they happen to be in a position where they can't leave home.


What is your opinion of Eisenhower's "open skies" proposal?

I feel this proposal should be discussed in the UN. No proposal will be accepted out of hand. There is a book, written by Mrs. Elvira Fradkin and representing many years of study, in which a UN air police patrol, somewhat along the same lines, is discussed. It is quite evident that until we come to some kind of agreement on inspection by air and on the ground, there will be no good excuse for stopping espionage and no security for the world against surprise attack.


I've heard people talk about fear of resurging militarism in West Germany. Do you think there has been any basic change in the attitudes of the German people, or would they once again respond to the appeal of Nazism if they were given the chance?

I cannot see that there has been much basic change in the groups of people who were once the Nazi element. Since these are the leaders, I doubt if we can count on very much change of attitude among the rest of the people. There might again be the desire for power shown under the Nazis, so I hope we never again permit military power to grow in West Germany.


In recent years, women have come to be accepted on an almost equal footing with men in many professions. Why do you suppose it is, then, that there are so conspicuously few women among the active, preaching clergy? Are women, by temperament, unfitted for this work, or do the churches or perhaps the congregations discriminate against them?

I do not think women are unfitted by temperament for any profession. Some denominations have not yet been willing to accept women into their ministries; but perhaps a more valid explanation is that this is one of the areas women have not tried, in any great number, to enter. I am quite sure that, as time goes on, there will be much less feeling—both on the part of congregations and of various religious governing bodies—about accepting them.


Do you feel that capital punishment should be abolished? Why?

I certainly do feel it should be abolished. I have said many times that the reason for punishment is acting as a deterrent to crime. It is fairly well proved that capital punishment has not accomplished this end. Human justice is not infallible, and perhaps as human beings, we should allow the right to life or death to be decided by the Creator. It would be better, it seems to me, to condemn people to prison for life and to stipulate that, short of new evidence, people who commit certain crimes should not have their sentences shortened.


They say there are two kinds of people—Morning People, who wake up full of energy and enthusiasm, and Night People, who do their best work and are their most alive after dark. Which kind are you?

I don't really know. I can wake up and feel perfectly alert, and I can work till all hours of the night. I must be both kinds of people!


With such a big family, are you able to keep track of all the birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries? Do you send gifts or cards on all these occasions?

I keep a book in which I write them all down. At the first of every month, I go through the month and later send a gift or a note, as the occasion requires.


When you are writing your books and columns, do you type the material yourself, or do you dictate it?

I am a very poor typist. That is to say, I can type correctly but very slowly. So I dictate and correct the dictation.


Do you have a Social Security number? Have you ever received any benefits under Social Security?

Yes, I have a Social Security number. I have never collected any benefits, because when one receives a pension from the government, as I do under the bill granting pensions to the widows of Presidents, one cannot collect Social Security.


Is there any one thing you would particularly like to accomplish in the next few years?

I would like to do all I possibly could to increase the possibility of peace for the world.


Our town is building a development for older people. Now, before it's even finished, my parents and a lot of older people say they don't want to live there, because there won't be any young people around. I try to point out that such a development is a far cry from the old-fashioned Old People's Home, but they won't believe me. Have you ever visited such a development? If so, did you find that the residents were, on the whole, happy or unhappy in this setup?

I think it is a great mistake to build a development for old people alone. The most successful development I have ever seen was built around a square in Sweden. On one side were shops, with a little park in the center. It served as a playground for children, with benches around it so the older people could sit under the trees. There was one building with apartments for older people, geared in cost to the pensions they received. On another side of the square were apartments for young people and their families. Young mothers could leave their children playing in the park under the watchful eye of the older people, and at the same time, older people kept in touch with youth.


I feel sure you must have had many costumes designed for you by the famous designers of Paris. Which of these designers' clothes do you especially like?

No, I have not had any dresses designed for me by the famous Paris designers. When I was eighteen, my aunt, who brought me home after three years in school in England, bought me a few dresses because I was going to "come out" in society. I have bought dresses in Paris from time to time, though none designed for me personally.


Have you any feeling about the choice of Greer Garson to play the part of Eleanor Roosevelt in the movie version of "Campobello"?

No, I have no feeling. You do not remember what you yourself were like in different stages of your existence, and therefore, when you see someone act as you were supposed to have acted, you accept it as you would any other performance. I am quite sure the performance will be interesting and enjoyable, whatever Miss Garson makes of the part.


If, for some strange reason, you were obliged to live in a country other than this, which do you think you'd choose?

I hope I never have to make that choice, as I never want to live anywhere but in my own country.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, September 1960

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

McCall's, volume 87, September 1960

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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