My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark—On Friday evening our Ambassador had the Prime Minister and his secretary to dinner. It is on such an occasion as this, and others similar, that amusing side lights on the question of a woman ambassador keep on presenting themselves. It was mentioned again Friday night. It appears that at first some of the older diplomats were quite troubled by such an innovation. (Evidently they have forgotten that we once had a very successful minister here, Mrs. Ruth Bryan Rohde, and another in Norway, Mrs. J. Borden Harriman.) Now however, everyone is perfectly enchanted with our lady Ambassador which shows that Mrs. Anderson has been tactful and done her job extremely well.

Saturday morning we drove out to see the Folk school. I have always wanted to understand how these schools are run, and I am glad to have had this opportunity. Mr. Axelsen Drejer, who is head of the farm cooperative s, accompanied us. He explained to me that these were not state run schools. The individual headmaster is in charge and he might own the school, or a cooperative , or some other association might back it.

These schools do, however, receive a small subsidy from the state and the students come on an entirely voluntary basis. If students need financial assistance for their period of attendance, the state will pay up to 50 percent of the total costs. They do no work towards the running of the school. Girls spend three months, May, June and July, and the boys spend five months, from November to April. The object is to awaken them intellectually and broaden their outlook. They are given Danish history, literature, civics and plenty of calisthentics . Many of the girls become leaders in this type of activity in their own communities. They do a great deal of sewing, embroidery, knitting and weaving. These activities they like but, some of the intellectual programs, which include lectures and discussions with their teachers, are not always so popular. The whole idea is based on a religious conception of learning to live a better life, and of developing a type of Christianity that will guide their everyday existence and not limit it to going to church on Sunday.

Bishop Grundtvig, a Dane was the originator. He was a great preacher and inspired many of the first teachers to start these schools. Anyone can start a school and run it along the lines he thinks most important for the development of spiritual and intellectual life. There are no entrance examinations, neither do they take any examinations at the end of the course, so they have nothing to show that will provide them with a better job. But, the idea simply is that they will become better Danish citizens and better Christian individuals.

On the way home we drove around the castle of Frederiksborg which is surrounded by a moat, and very picturesque. Finally, we stopped at the Infantile Paralysis Institute where they are doing very interesting research and therapy work. I was glad to learn that they are collaborating with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in the U.S.A.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Copenhagen (Denmark) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 20, 1950

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