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

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NEW YORK.—As we watch the Presidential campaign unroll, I wonder how many have noticed one rather interesting change in the modern type of campaign. This was brought to my attention the other day when a young newspaper reporter said to me: "Do you really think that the decision as to a man's fitness for the office of President should depend, in part at least, on what kind of a President's wife his wife will be?"

I looked at her in surprise for a moment, because it had not dawned on me what changes had come about since Mr. Eisenhower's first campaign.

Apparently we have started on a new trend. I can't remember in my husband's campaign, nor in Mr. Truman's, that such a question could be asked. Some of the children or I would accompany my husband on the various campaign trips, and if we were around at railroad stops he would introduce us to the crowd in a rather casual manner. He often said, "My little boy, Jimmy," when Jimmy was as tall as he was!

My husband insisted always that a man stood on his own record. He did not bring his family in to be responsible in getting him votes or in taking the blame for his decisions. I think he sometimes found it amusing to let me do things just so as to find out what the reaction of the public would be. But nothing we did was ever calculated and thought out as part of the campaign in the way we feel that Mr. Nixon plans every appearance with his wife.

There must be times when the whole situation becomes practically unbearable, I would think, for the woman of the family. And I hope that we will return to the old and rather pleasanter way of looking upon White House families as people who have a right to their own lives.

The wives, of course, have certain official obligations, but they are certainly not responsible for their husband's policies. And they do not have to feel that sense of obligation at every point to uphold the ideas of the man of the family.

With so many people around a President who say "yes" to everything he says, it is fun sometimes for the family around him to say "no" just for the sake of devilment—but that should be a private family relaxation.

I have just returned from a day in West Virginia—certainly one state in our country that needs some really new thinking.

Whole towns are deserted because so many of the mines are no longer being operated.

On the other hand, in certain parts of the state other industries are being carried on and are doing fairly well. That one can succeed with a medium-sized business seems to be attested to by the success of a number of men who have two or three factories running in different parts of the state and who employ between 2,000 and 3,000 people. On the whole, however, unemployment in West Virginia is very, very high.

We have been accumulating ills in West Virginia for many years. Many of the coal mine owners have never lived in the state, and absentee ownership does not mean, as a rule, generous interest in the growth of the locality where some big firms have made fortunes.

I drove for about 200 miles in the state and, if one did not know what hardships and sorrows lay behind those beautiful hills, one could lend oneself completely to the thought of developing the countryside as Switzerland has developed many of its areas purely for recreational tourist purposes.

There have been many surveys of the state, but it is many years since I have read any report of the possibilities of development of West Virginia. It seems to me there are some assets in areas where baths and hot springs could be developed. In winter there is plenty of snow for long periods, so one could have all-year-round use of the land for recreational purposes. On the whole, this would be much nearer for certain areas of our country than flying to Colorado or Nevada resorts.

The rehabilitation of West Virginia will have to be thought through very carefully because when we want private enterprise, either small or large, to bear the burden of development, certain inducements will have to be offered. In the areas that are agricultural it may be possible to mix agriculture and industry, and have them serve each other.

But something like a big forest and tourist development will have to be arrived at, perhaps with the cooperation of the government in retraining people to new jobs.

It would surprise many people to know how few miners want to change jobs and get into another industry. Most of us might think that the miner must long to leave that horrible underground, which even today is dangerous at times. But this is not the case.

Miners have told me that they found even part-time agriculture was so difficult because they were not accustomed to the heat of the sun. To help a man adjust to a new situation, which he does not really like, is quite a difficult achievement.


(Copyright, 1960, 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 21, 1960

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.