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

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GENEVA, Thursday—We are now more than half way through our third week in Geneva. We had the afternoon off on Tuesday because the First of May is celebrated as the worker's holiday over here. I suppose we could call Labor Day our worker's holiday and I know that we would not be anxious to work at home on this day because it would break up a long weekend which is always precious to us in those early September days.

For those of us, however, who are beginning to worry about the completion of our work in the Human Rights Commission, this half-holiday seemed only to make it more difficult to achieve our goal. Most of us, of course, really want a covenant that will benefit not only the workers of the world but the peoples of the world.

Here in Geneva the First of May carries with it a delightful custom. As we went out on the street that morning we found many people selling bunches of lilies of the valley. They must have been forced in greenhouses, for while tulips and pansies are everywhere I have seen no lilies growing anywhere. And when I got into my car after going to the office, my Swiss chauffeur had a bunch awaiting me and explained that on May 1 they carried good luck.

Rene Cassin, the French delegate, seemed familiar with the tradition, for he had brought little bunches to give to every lady on the commission. Lilies of the valley grown outside are more fragrant than those grown in greenhouses, and M. Cassin was careful to draw our attention to the fact that his were grown out-of-doors.

It seemed to me on Tuesday morning that our chairman was beginning to get worried over the prospect of our not finishing our task. He announced that beginning next week we probably will have to have night meetings. This brought an immediate protest from the delegate from Egypt and a suggestion that we limit to five minutes all speeches that did not bear directly on the subject we were discussing. That meant that anyone attacking another nation, or answering an attack, would be limited to five minutes.

This, of course, would hamper the Soviet delegate more than anyone else, since it seems hard for him to say anything in a limited period of time. Nevertheless, the commission voted to limit speeches from Wednesday morning on, and I think it will mean we shall get more accomplished. I am afraid, however, that we will still have to have evening meetings toward the end of this session.

We voted one article on Tuesday morning, which said everyone has the right to social security. In the discussion, the main point of difference made by the Soviet Union was that either the government or the employer should pay the whole contribution to social security, with the worker contributing nothing.

I have been brought up on the theory that social security applies to us all and therefore we all share in building the fund from which benefits are paid. I carry a social security card just as does my secretary and my cook. We all join with the government and whoever employs us to put in our share toward whatever type of social service all of us are receiving. The Soviet system seems paternalistic and not truly democratic.

I do realize, however, that there is always room for review and negotiation as to the proper share of those who have to cooperate to bring about a successful economic situation.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Geneva (Switzerland) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 4, 1951

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.