If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

August 1961


We are constantly told that our teachers are underpaid. What, in actual figures, would you consider a fair pay scale for teachers?

Teachers require a number of years of preparation. Even after they begin teaching, they must have sufficient salary so that their holidays can be devoted to developing themselves and increasing their value to their profession. Their salaries, of course, should vary according to the cost of living in the area where they work; but I think a teacher's salary should begin at least one third above that of an industrial worker and there should be fixed increases according to increases in a teacher's capability and experience.


Have you ever spent a week or two completely alone? If not, do you think you would enjoy it?

My experience with solitude is very limited. I have never spent a week completely alone, but I have spent a week or so with only one other person in the house and that person in no mood for conversation. I did not find it difficult. In fact, I rather enjoyed it.


I have noticed so often that in labor negotiations one of the prime concerns appears to be reducing the number of hours union members work during the week, increasing the number of holidays, etc. As a person who, by her own admission, works most of the time, do you honestly believe that most people are better off as a result of this constantly increasing leisure? Or is this merely a device to spread X amount of work over twice as many workers, thus increasing the membership and the power of the union?

The unions want a shorter working week primarily to give members a little more leisure. When there is unemployment resulting from automation, a short week also serves to spread the work a little farther, so that more people have a chance to earn their living. Of course a union wants more members, and of course as it gets members, it gains power. But when you talk to leaders in labor unions, you find their objective is not so much to increase their membership as to distribute work more widely.


Who are the people in various countries who are staging these peace marches? Is there an international organization behind them? Might they be Communist-inspired?

The people and the principles behind peace marches vary. When the Quakers gathered in Times Square for a prayer vigil and then marched to the UN, they were simply following the dictates of their religion, and they were certainly not Communist-inspired. An enormous crowd such as the one that marched in London against nuclear war may have had some Communists. Communists often join a movement of this kind. I know of no international organization backing such demonstrations. What the Quakers did seems to me constructive; but I do not believe, generally, in mobs, because they are likely to be such a mixed group that you cannot be sure how much sound or real thinking has gone into their formation and activities.


Now, honestly, aren't the miniature taxicabs impossible to get into and out of in comfort? How could the riding public do something about this?

I am afraid I don't agree with you. I find it quite easy to get in and out of the small cabs. All one has to do is sit down and swing one's legs in and later swing them out. But if the majority of the people do not approve of the cabs, then they can refuse to take them, and a change will soon be made.


The British Commonwealth of Nations condemned the policy of apartheid but still extends preferential trade treatment to South Africa. Don't you think the Commonwealth made a rather hollow moral gesture with one hand, while extending an economic benediction with the other?

If preferential trade treatment had come to an end, it probably would have hurt the Commonwealth as well as South Africa. Being outside the Commonwealth, however, will have many disadvantages for South Africa. Though it may take a little while for the full effect to be evident, it will be felt, and painfully.


Have you ever had any experience with the stock market that would be helpful to young couples who wish to invest wisely for the future? Do you yourself own any stocks and bonds?

I have never gambled in the stock market, and I think young people would be wise not to speculate. If they are seeking sound investment, the best way is to get advice from an investment counsel. Such firms furnish lists of safe stocks and bonds. Or your bank will advise you. I own a few stocks and bonds, recommended by my bank.


Would you let a fifteen-year-old daughter travel around Europe by herself, or with a friend but unchaperoned?

No, I would not.


If the efforts to attract European tourists to the United States are successful, don't you think some preparation for playing host is indicated? I suspect our citizens need a little education in putting a best foot forward. What would you suggest?

I would suggest that we learn as much as we can about the likes and dislikes of our visitors and that we remember to treat them with courtesy and make them feel welcome.


When your children were young, what kind of summer vacation did they spend? Did the family do something together, or did the youngsters go to camp or off on individual trips and visits?

We were very fortunate in that we always spent the spring and autumn with Mrs. James Roosevelt, my husband's mother, at Hyde Park. My husband felt that there the children had their home and their roots. They had their pets; they rode and swam and played games. There were not many young people in the neighborhood, but they loved the life. In midsummer, we had a cottage next to my mother-in-law's on Campobello Island, opposite Eastport, Maine. When we were at Hyde Park, my husband would come for weekends and occasionally for longer visits. I would stay with him and journey up and down to New York, Albany, or Washington; but at Campobello, I stayed with the children, and he spent his long holiday there. As the children grew older, some of them went to camp or on individual trips; but these summer homes were always in the background, ready for them to return to from wherever they might have been.


Is there no way to force payment from nations like France and the Soviet Union, who promised financial aid to the UN Congo operation and then reneged?

The Congo operation, along with certain other UN activities, depends on volunteer contributions. Assessment for the regular expenses, of course, cannot remain unpaid for more than two years without the loss of the right to vote.


A hard core of some five million unemployed seems likely to continue, even if economic conditions improve. If this is the case, would you favor reinstituting some form of the old Works Projects Administration, to put these people to work, at government expense?

No. But I favor every effort's being made to keep our unemployment down to the smallest possible percentage of our population.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, August 1961

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

McCall's, volume 88, August 1961

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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