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

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GENEVA, Friday—When I mentioned my trip to London the other day I don't think I told you anything about the television program I did.

It was a particularly interesting one because Sir Hartley Shawcross was on it and he is a member of the Cabinet. It is most unusual for a member of the British Cabinet to appear on a television show. He told me they practically had a Cabinet meeting on the subject of his appearance, but I do not think anything we discussed will embarrass him. This is such a different attitude from the one we have at home that it rather surprised me.

Sir Hartley is one of the brilliant legal minds of Great Britain. He has been made president of the Board of Trade, with Cabinet rank, but he has had to step down from his other position as Attorney-General which meant a sacrifice in income. In fact, my other guest on the program, Miss Rebecca West, remarked that members of the government gain only one slight concession—they are given a natty red leather briefcase in which to carry their papers.

Miss West is very much in earnest and her opinions are voiced clearly and with great feeling. Her husband told me that she is delicate, but she felt so strongly her obligation to keep women informed that she practically never refuses to speak to a women's group. I have always liked her very much and I think the book she wrote on the British treason trials cast a great deal of light on the different way that Great Britain handles the problem of subversive activities in the government.

She explained that she thought one had to understand that the Soviet Union had made an appeal to a great many of the young and intellectual groups because Russia claimed its great desire was to do away with poverty and a class society. That appealed to a great many idealists and when they were told that all they were doing when they furnished information was to hasten this goal, many of them believed it. They felt they were actually showing their loyalty to humanity, even if they failed in their loyalty to their own country.

Miss West said, of course, the sad part of the whole thing was that many were geniuses capable of making remarkable discoveries in the scientific world. When you talked to them about ordinary, everyday affairs, sometimes they showed that their maturity was that of a 12-year-old child. They were as gullible and unreliable in their reactions as any child.

She also said that for many of them, having never grown up, the secrecy and spying had an attraction. It was a type of adventure and they acted in much the way a small boy who steals something in school might behave and who feels that he is a real adventurer. I enjoyed talking to Miss West both in the interview and as we waited around in the preparatory time.

It has been amusing to me to put on television make-up and to see the other guests, both men and women, being made up in France and in England. We were all given much heavier make-up in France and the lights must have been warmer there because the bald-headed gentlemen were watched over by a pretty little make-up girl who ran out in the intervals between filming to wipe off their heads and powder them again.

In London the make-up was even lighter than at home. I asked a young woman who did mine whether she did not get a little weary putting stuff on people's faces. She said she didn't, that every face was different and it was something like creating a new picture each time.

The last two nights we have been doing radio interviews here in Geneva. Elliott and I have been doing our questions and answers on things which have come up here and it has been fun seeing the different methods used. The first night there was a break in the tape or something. Anyway, suddenly the lights began to flicker and the strangest noises came out of the loudspeaker and it sounded as if an irate little animal would shortly land in the middle of the table.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Geneva (Switzerland) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 5, 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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.