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

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NEW YORK—In Leningrad I visited a school of medicine which emphasizes pediatrics. There, it was explained to me, a general medical course is given, although students who come to this institute from 10- year school are more interested in pediatrics than in any other phase of medicine. Therefore, the emphasis is put on children's diseases.

The institute has 2,200 students, 40 professors and 250 teachers, and there is a clinic with 170 doctors and a hospital with a thousand beds and 500 nurses. The director of the institute also is director of the clinic and the chief doctor.

Leningrad has eight more clinics—three for surgery, three for therapy, one for diseases of the nervous system and one polyclinic for preventive medicine.

In an interesting experiment in the institute, 32 children without homes were taken from the lying-in hospital at birth. The institute was attempting to find out if it could rear these children in such a way as to have them as advanced and as normal as they would have been in a home with parents. When the children were three years old, they would be adopted.

Treatment of these children seemed to me to be based on the theories of Ivan Pavlov, famous Russian physiologist. A baby six months old already seemed to understand what was expected of him when given his exercises, which began at the age of two months. And at the age of 18 months the children went through their exercises without any direction and did them well.

Just what this conditioning of the children may mean in the future I am not quite sure, for it looked to me as though it might not encourage initiative and independence of thought. But it may well be that the leaders in the Kremlin are trying to develop a people trained in the kind of discipline their government prefers.

Institutes for research of all kinds are everywhere in the Soviet Union, for this is a government that understands the value of research.

I think I have given you an idea of the extensiveness of health work in the Soviet Union. What particularly impressed me was the preventive medical work done with mothers and babies and the large number of doctors being trained.

This year alone 26,000 doctors will be graduated in the Soviet Union while we in the United States, I believe, will graduate 6,500. The Soviets now try to train doctors in the areas in which they live so they will not have to be sent out of their home areas for their three years of work for the state.

While in Russia I visited two factories—one a candy factory run by a woman, the other a textile plant run by a man.

The textile mill, I thought, had fairly good health conditions, though there was a certain amount of lint floating about in some rooms. A large mill, it was spread over a broad area. It had a nursery, kindergarten, facilities for educational work and physical exercise as well as an extensive medical setup, including a hospital.

The thing that impresses any visitor to one of these factories is the effort made to raise production. I was told that as yet the Russian factory worker does not produce as rapidly as those in the U.S., but Nikita S. Khrushchev told me that in 15 years they certainly will have caught up with us.

I tried to find out if this difference in productivity was a matter of initiative, of not having as good machinery and tools, or of not being accustomed to using these tools. I think all three factors may have a bearing on this problem.

In entering a factory, and often in its rooms, I saw pictures of individual workers bearing their names in honor of their achievements in meeting production quotas or making suggestions for faster output. Divisions in the same factory compete with each other for increased production. The factory manager who makes a good showing also receives recognition.

The candy factory I visited was making excellent candy and packaging it attractively. The manager there seemed to know most of her workers personally and had won recognition for her factory's production.

Many Soviet women are rather stout. They have the build of peasants—stocky and strong, although they don't seem to be flabby but rather quite firm and hard. Most women, though, would not meet American standards for slimness any more than they would follow American taste in dress.

The extremely capable woman who ran the candy factory looked as though she could not always resist eating the products, even though she told me she was careful of her diet.

Everywhere in the factories there were signs which read, "Be grateful," which, I suppose, are to remind the workers of the "blessings" of socialism.

On the whole, I think the factory conditions, as far as I saw them, were rather good. Certainly the cleanliness, light and air in the candy factory made it a healthy place in which to work. And I was told that the factories are inspected twice a year to make sure the conditions are good and the workers are healthy.

It seems that if a system is really giving the people what they want, it should not find it necessary to impress them with the value of what they are receiving. However, it might be well for all of us to have this reminder before us more often, although the things for which we are grateful in the U.S. differ from those for which the Soviet Union urges its people to be grateful.


(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 16, 1957

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.