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

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NEW YORK—Our surpluses are again in the news. This time the method of buying and selling is under attack by Sen. Paul Douglas, Democrat of Illinois, who calls it a "scandalous waste."

Not only is our government burdened with the unsolved problem of our vast food surpluses. But, as Senator Douglas points out, the Army seems to acquire large quantities of such things as hammers, soldering irons and other tools and, when not needed, these items are disposed of at a fraction of their cost. Then another branch of the service buys similar items far above the disposal price of those that were on hand.

This is the kind of internal surplus that we ought to be able to control. But when we are as careless as we are about looking into what could be done with food, which affects the whole world, I am not surprised that we are careless about other things that are bought and sold here at home.

I am beginning to think that in every department of government economies could be effected by merely looking at expenditures and acquisitions the way you would look at them if they were your very own and were not being made by an impersonal thing called government.

It seems very difficult for us to realize that the government is ours, and that the money spent is ours. If waste and graft could be eliminated, think what we could do for our schools and for our health services here at home.

We are being told all the time that if we can ever give up nuclear tests and begin disarmament we can contribute in a big way to putting many nations on the road to helping themselves. It might be sensible to begin at home and put ourselves on the way to doing what we absolutely should do.

In connection with waste in this country it seems to me we should think a little more, too, about waste of human beings. We allow child workers to harvest crops with their parents under conditions that certainly in our country should never be permitted. Apparently there is no Federal law that protects such children.

The National Advisory Committee on Farm Labor has sent me an item about a 12-year-old girl, Christine Hayes, whose "scalp and most of her face were ripped off by a potato-digging machine while she and other child laborers were helping to harvest the potato crop on a farm near Blackfoot, Idaho."

Apparently the Fair Labor Standards Act passed by Congress in 1938 specificially exempted from its protection children working in agriculture. Of course, the Federal law forbids children under 14 years of age from working in industry, but the children of rural and migrant farm workers have no such protection. Therefore, there are, legally, hundreds of thousands of children between the ages of 10 and 13 who are permitted to work, and many, many more—some of them as young as six and seven years old—who are illegally employed.

This should be corrected by law immediately.


(Copyright, 1959, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 28, 1959

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