The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Friday—Yesterday afternoon I visited Gallinger Hospital. This is the hospital in the District of Columbia which is supposed to take care of those who cannot afford to pay for medical treatment. Every new District institution which I see fills me with greater discouragement.

Our forefathers may have had an idea that they were creating a good government for the District of Columbia, but I am afraid that it doesn't work out that way. Somehow or other, the people who live here do not seem to have as great a sense of responsibility as people in other parts of the country, as evidenced by the fact that their taxes are kept at a lower level than is the case for other cities of comparable population. Members of Congress, either because they have districts of their own which naturally come first in their interest, or because the District of Columbia is without a vote, do not show the interest which is needed to run a community.

I hardly know how to pick out things which will give you the clearest picture of what I saw yesterday afternoon. The most striking thing to me is the devotion of the doctors and the nurses who, in spite of almost insuperable handicaps, still manage to render a remarkable service. The impossible, however, cannot be accomplished and when the nursing of 40 or 50 patients, some 15 of whom are perhaps on the danger list, falls at night on one student nurse, it is obvious that no patient can receive adequate nursing care.

Even in the daytime there is not sufficient personnel to give more than half the nursing time per patient that should be given. From a physical standpoint, the food for some 936 patients, inmates of the hospital yesterday, was served from a kitchen which was designed for the original hospital of 260 beds. The cost per day must be kept so low that it is impossible to give many of the fresh foods which are considered desirable for convalescents and for certain illnesses.

The children's ward, in which I was particularly interested, has had to be moved from an old building to the second floor of the psychiatric building. Not a desirable grouping and not in any way suited to the care of children.

I write of this, because it seems to me that every citizen of the United States has an interest in making the Capital of the United States a model from every point of view. People who come here should see not only the government buildings, but if they have an interest in certain social questions they should be able to find the pattern here which they wish to develop at home. It will require the interest of the nation to achieve these results.

Quite a jump from Gallinger Hospital to the dinner for the Justices of the Supreme Court last night, followed by a delightful musicale. Mr. Erno Balogh made the beautiful new piano in the White House bring forth its best tones, and Miss Marjorie Lawrence sang two groups of songs which gave every one much pleasure.


(Copyright, 1939, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Washington (D.C., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 21, 1939

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Published with permission from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.