My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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BOMBAY, India, Tuesday—In New Delhi I visited an enormous new building project that houses, in part, refugees and a number of other people needing shelter since the housing shortage there is great. One little section is reserved for widows with children and for orphans. The orphans are cared for in what is really a little boarding house, and the youngsters range in age from babies to their early teens.

The widows have their own quarters and have their children at home with them. The children go to school on the premises while the women are given work in various shops. They do tailoring, weaving, and embroidery of various kinds. This really only supplements their income, as the prices they get are very small for the work which takes a long time. But as the government pays them a pension and gives them their housing free and some of their essential food ration as well as medical care, this little extra earned money seems adequate for their needs.

We lunched with Prime Minister Nehru and his family on Friday, and I was invited to address a meeting of Parliament in the afternoon. I understand I was the first woman without an official mission of any kind to be asked to address Parliament, and I realize perfectly the honor was extended to me only because of the feeling the Indians have for my husband and of the gratitude they feel for American aid.

Nevertheless, it was quite a responsibility and I approached the experience with a good deal of trepidation. I was welcomed both by the Speaker and the Prime Minister and when I got up words somehow did come.

I have a feeling that this is a country of great potential resources and its problems seem not unfamiliar, for they are, in part, much like those which we struggled with in the early thirties but multiplied over and over again in size because so many people are involved.

Two spiritual forces seem constantly at work: one, the great influence which Gandhi had, and the other the devotion of the Indian people to their present Prime Minister and their belief that India has a spiritual destiny that must be fulfilled.

One starts, of course, with the great masses of people who thrive at lower level materially than we fell to even in the depression. But these are a deeply religious people and somehow one feels a little humble before them.

Three million people died of famine in Punjab a little over a year ago and yet they don't despair. They seem to have confidence that help will come and when it does come, whether from America or anywhere else, it will still fundamentally have to come from the Lord under whatever particular name they worship him.

After the talk in Parliament we all had tea in the inner courtyard and it was a pretty scene. Then I went to the Lady Irwin Women's College where a number of women's organizations greeted me. On getting back to the Prime Minister's house I had the pleasure of a visit with the Minister of Health, whom I had met in the United Nations. Her work is so tremendous that one is in awe of anyone who has the courage to undertake it.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Bombay (India) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 5, 1952

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.