If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

March 1962


Do you feel there is a double standard in politics? That is, are women candidates for office treated more gently by their opponents than men?

I have watched a great many women in political life, and I think there may be more reticence in bringing up certain types of accusation against a woman. I have an idea, however, that if accusations have some foundation in fact, they won't be left out of a political campaign. When anyone, man or woman, goes into politics, I believe one has to develop a pretty tough skin and take for granted one will be treated no more gently than any other candidate.


Today, how large a factor is divorce in determining a man's ability to be elected to high public office?

I think the American public is no longer very much influenced by the divorce of public officials unless a couple is going against its own religious beliefs or has seemingly been completely selfish in ignoring the possible damaging effect on any young children.


I have read that you receive many thousands of letters each year, and it would seem to me your mail would be a pretty good index to what Americans are concerned about. Would you tell us what are the questions you are most frequently asked?

Of course, innumerable people write to me about personal situations, which they often cloak in more or less impersonal and objective terms. For instance, I receive all kinds of suggestions for improving Social Security, which nearly always come down to some particular situation the individual is facing. However, the most frequent subject of general letters I receive is the threat of nuclear war and how to keep the peace.


Do you personally know a single person who has built a fallout shelter?



Do you agree with Chancellor Adenauer's statement that NATO forces should be allowed to use nuclear weapons at a minute's notice and without previous consent from the President of the United States?

No. I don't think that nuclear weapons should be used by NATO forces without the consent of all those concerned. We are trying to get agreement to wipe out nuclear testing and the use of nuclear weapons, because they are a danger to the whole human race. It seems to me that if we try to get this agreement on a worldwide basis, we should not give to the commanding officer of NATO the authority for the decision as to whether nuclear weapons should or should not be used.


It has long been recognized that one of the great burdens of aging is a feeling of uselessness. Have you any suggestions for ways in which an older woman of average health and resources can make herself the most useful to her family and to her community?

I think an older woman living alone has a great opportunity for usefulness to her family and to her community. She can offer experienced help with children in time of illness. She can work as a volunteer or even as a paid worker in many community activities, with both young and old. She has the time and experience that are needed to work in organizations, and if she has the health and enough money to live on, she can give herself freely. There are many things that need to be done in any community, if all you are asking for is to be useful.


Do you think teachers should be unionized, with the right to strike?

I think it right that they should be unionized, and if we pay so little attention to their interests that they are obliged to strike, it is the fault of the community and not of the teacher. I know that there has often been a feeling against the unionization of professional people; but it is increasingly obvious that such people can often not get proper attention, because they do not have bargaining power. It is evident that when the health or well-being of any section of the population is concerned, the right to strike has some limitations. There might be some qualifications necessary in the case of teachers; but I firmly believe that if you take away certain rights, you have to give greater protection in return.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, March 1962

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

McCall's, volume 89, March 1962

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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