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

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PARIS, Sunday—We spent the whole morning Friday having amendments presented to Article Number One of the Proposed Declaration of Human Rights. Article Number Two has been under discussion in our commission for two years, and the wording finally reached is as follows: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed by nature with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood." This of course is not a statement of rights but a framework to express the spirit of the Declaration which is to follow.

Some eight or more amendments have been presented, running all the way from suggesting that this article be included in the preamble to an entirely new and much longer wording. The simplest amendments have come from people who have worked two years on the commission—one from Belgium, which suggests that we leave out the words "by nature" and simply say, "They are endowed with reason and conscience. This leaves each person free to say he is endowed divinely or by nature or in any way he chooses to phrase it. The delegate from China, by way of even greater simplification, agreed with this amendment and added that the word "born" in the first line be eliminated, which would leave it simply: "All human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights."

What will eventually come out of this multitude of amendments we will know, I hope, by the end of another session. I can only say that I am more than ever confirmed in the belief that when a group has worked over something for more than two years, it is very difficult to make any except minor drafting changes without actually beginning again at the beginning and doing the work all over again in the larger group.

* * *

After lunch I held an hour's press conference in French, primarily for the convenience of the French press. The Americans present who were not sure they had understood all that had been said were given the necessary information by Robert Pell, of our delegation staff.

Some of the questions were interesting, but when it came to being asked what I thought of the new long dresses I was stumped, not having had time to give them any thought. The only new thing I have bought since I came over here is a black hat, and that was made for me very quickly because I had only one hat with me. Before I left home I had been aware of the fact that dresses had to be longer, but as a matter of fact they are just returning to the length with which I was familiar many years ago, so perhaps that is why I have not given them as much thought as I should.

* * *

In a very personal way the other afternoon I realized what present hardships have meant to the middle class—the class of people here with small fixed incomes derived from investments or pensions. A very charming elderly French lady with whose family I had lived when I was a student here and with whom I had seen much of Paris—a really fine musician and a highly educated person—described to me the way people in her position are being forced to live. One room is shared with another elderly friend, and every minute is utilized. If you can do nothing else, you knit articles for sale, and by never spending an idle moment or an extra penny you might be able to pay the rent for your share of the little room and for the very inadequate table d'hote.

But the gallant French spirit is still there. As she said, "My piano is in storage and I cannot reach my books. We keep our clothes in boxes, as there is no room to keep them any other way. But we must laugh—otherwise it would become a real tragedy. My mother thought security for her children would be found in an income of a few hundred francs a year—today it means nothing. I give a few lessons when I have a chance, and I do anything that comes my way."

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Pell, Robert [ index ]
         American diplomat
  • Paris (France) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics
  • Press
         [ LC | FAST ]
  • Wars--legacies of

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 11, 1948

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
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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.