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

[This column has emendations. View original version]


NEW YORK—I had a sad letter the other day and one which points out one of the big problems that the people of the United States are facing today.

I am quoting it for that reason. “In 1944 I married a young Chinese woman who had come to the United States in 1938 with her B.A. from Yenching University seeking higher education. She received her M.A. from Mills College in 1940, and it was in the fall of that year that I met her when she came to the University of California to work for a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. She is a most beautiful young woman, beloved by all who know her. After a great deal of soul-searching we were finally married—while I was a junior medical student.

“....When we were married we were entirely conscious of the shape of general social reaction in the United States, most particularly in the west, against mixed marriage. Indeed California has a statue against miscegenation which made it necessary for us to be married in Washington. Nevertheless, until recently we have not encountered any direct evidence of this traditional hospitality. Our recent encounter has been, as you might surmise, in the field of housing accommodations. Recently I have taken a position in the Donner Laboratory of Medical Physics at this university where research is being conducted in the medical use of the products of nuclear reactions, particularly of the uranium pile. I can only hope as one among millions that it is in this peaceful type of use that the incredible force loosened by man's genius will find its future application. In order to function effectively in this new job it was necessary for us to move to Berkeley. I arranged for an exchange of apartments from San Francisco to Berkeley, and we moved in. I did not tell the manager that my wife was Chinese. I did not and do not feel that I had any moral obligation to give such information. By present rental and housing rules of the O.P.A. we are quite secure in our new home. The unpleasant experience that precipitates my writing was a conversation the manager and wife, just held after a month's tenancy, in which I was reproached for not informing them of the fact of my wife's nationality. Tempers were not lost, but the significance of their adverse criticism was insulting. In due respect to their position they were expressing the owner's attitude, although one cannot doubt that their own feelings were also involved. Had they known, we should not have been accepted as tenants.

“....I am writing for my many Oriental friends, whom I know through my marriage and through residence at the Berkeley International House where I met my wife, for my Negro friends, for my Filipino and Mexican friends, and for the host of all these races whom I can only know as they are symbolized in my friends.”

If this exists in our own land it seems to me that we deny the spirit of the religions to which we all belong, for all religions recognize the equality of the human being before God. We deny the spirit of our own Constitution and Government which our forefathers fought to establish in this land, we make future goodwill and peace an impossibility for no United Nations organization can succeed when peoples of one race approach those of other races in a spirit of contempt.

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 8, 1946

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.

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a draft version of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. Transcribed from a My Day column draft dated March 7, 1946, FDR Library, Hyde Park, NY
TMsd, 7 March 1946, AERP, FDRL