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

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HYDE PARK—A very interesting woman came to see me the other afternoon. Her name is Mrs. Welthy Fisher, and she has spent 10 years of her young life as a Methodist missionary in China. There she founded a girls' school in Nanchang and learned much of Chinese philosophy. Now I think her life is guided by an old Chinese proverb: "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness"

She married Frederick B. Fisher, the late bishop of the Methodist church in Calcutta and she worked with him in India. For the past 20 years she has been working alone in India, and she has travelled widely. It was some time ago that she discussed with Mahatma Gandhi the project for which she is now engaged in raising funds, and which she has established in India.

In early 1953 she started a literacy village, dedicated to help the people of India learn to read and write. Her idea is that until literacy is really prevalent it will be difficult to put through many of the other necessary reforms that the government is struggling with. So her project trains Indian teachers who move out into the various villages to teach the young adults. In five years almost 4,000 teachers have been trained in adult psychology, techniques of teaching, and how to approach the village.

I like Mrs. Fisher's own words in describing this training. "The teachers learn that you can't just go marching into a village." she said. "The villagers are sensitive and must be persuaded of our friendship."

What do you think she has found most useful in winning her villagers? Surprisingly, it is the puppet theatre.

She has puppets representing "the grand old man of literacy," the goddess of wisdom, and many others. Through the puppets she teaches new ideas and attitudes about science, sanitation, democracy, child care, cooking and community cooperation.

The reason she is training teachers for the young adults is because the government is trying to set up schools all over India for the primary education of the children, so she is not duplicating but cooperating with government plans.

On her present fund-raising trip she asks for help in her work, which is just one of the candles to light the world's darkness. There will need to be millions of these candles in many areas of the world.

The wisdom of Chinese philosophy often seems to me to be expressed in the proverbs that are known by the people, and the encouragement this story gives to the numerous people who ask, "What can I as an individual do?" seems to me valuable. For each of us can light a little candle in our own environment to help a bigger one somewhere else. And if this is done often enough we will soon have the millions of lights that are needed throughout the world.


(Copyright, 1958, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 15, 1958

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.