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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches

Pan-American Union Address, Track 2

April 20, 1944


Speech to the Women of the Pan-American Union

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You see in North and South America, we are very fortunate people, because we have not suffered the kind of destruction which has come to so many countries during this war. We have not been under a conqueror's government. We've not had bombs dropped on our homes. We-if we're fortunate enough to go through the war in the way we have done so far-we will be among the few women in the world, who haven't known what it was like to live in a country where civilians suffered in much the same way that the armed forces suffered. We will not have seen our children starving. We will not have seen many of the cruel things which women and children have suffered in many other countries. For that reason, we will have resources, physical resources. We also will have other resources which are weakened when your physical resources are weakened. (1:53)We will have strength to do a great many things [tape cuts at 2:00], and are willing to work, to accomplish it. But of course, first we must know what it is we really want to do. I have an idea that all the women in our countries, if they were asked what the fundamental thing was that they hoped would come after the war, and that they hope now we were building day by day to accomplish, I have an idea it would be a more stable foundation for peace in the future. I think that would come first of all because to most women, war is synonymous with waste: waste of human lives, waste of materials. And therefore, we think that if we could establish a better foundation on which the coming generations could build for peace we would've done something of lasting service to the human race. How can we move? How can we begin to go, towards such a goal? Well it seems to me that the first thing we can do is to acknowledge that the world has become a small enough place so that what happens anywhere is of interest to people everywhere. And that in the future, we can no longer turn our heads away when we hear that conditions in this country or in that country are bad for the people of the country, that opportunities are lacking which should be there for all people. That con-economic conditions are such that people have no opportunity for education or for proper shelter and food. If we once acknowledge that that is a responsibility of all people, for all people, then we have a goal to work for. A better understanding, a better knowledge, and a search for ways and means by which [pause] everywhere, people begin to move towards minimum standards that make life worth living to every individual. Now we know that those standards won't be equal everywhere. We know that to some people life will have improved, under standards that to other people would seem almost impossible to live under. The point is that everywhere, everybody (5:58) should have hope, and should feel that they are moving forward. That I think, is one of the deep concerns of women, and we women in the Americas have so much to be grateful for, so much to be thankful for [pause] that perhaps we have a greater responsibility than any other women in the world today to actually do some work on laying these foundations. I hope that in every country, it will become a real concern of all the women that whenever there are meetings of international import, no matter what the subject may be, the women will want to have representatives there who can come back and tell them from the woman's point of view what was discussed, what were the things that we should know that are of importance to us in the future. I doubt if there is any country today in the United Nations where women could not be found that could sit on any international group and make a contribution. It used to be said that women could not be placed on these international groups because they did not have the background or the preparation. That can no longer be said because in all of our countries, we have some women who have the background and have the preparation. But there's an - something besides they must have. They must have a sense of responsibility to go back among the women of their own country and tell those women what is happening in the world, what is shaping the future, because the future is being shaped today! (8:41) And the future is going to be the atmosphere in which the young people who fight the war today are going to build either a peaceful world or another world war. And each time we seem to have a more terrible war, perhaps the next time it will be the Americas that will bear the brunt that will bear the worst devastation. I don't think we can look calmly at a continuation with ever-increasing scientific knowledge which can be used both for destruction and for preservation of human life. It can be used either way, but if we go on to destruction it becomes increasingly destructive each time. I don't think we can look upon that with indifference. Not if we hope that the young people of today, who do come back safely from the present war, will really have a better world to live in. So I think that we women, of these fortunate countries have a great obligation to get to know each other, to get to know what we really think, what we're willing to do to bring about the goals that all of us, I'm sure would agree, we wanted to achieve. But it isn't enough just to agree in words that you want to achieve them, it means that you have to do something, shape public opinion, go to work on things that perhaps you've never before considered were your sphere of activity. I remember very well a number of years ago being- talking with a very fine and charming woman from one of the countries in South America and she said to me, "In my country we are responsible for the charitable work, but we have nothing to do with government -- that is man's business." Well that has been said of course by many women, in many countries, but I wonder if anything is really exclusively man's business, because the results of whatever is done, whether it be done by men or by women, usually the results are felt by both men and women. (12:26) And so, that being the case, it would seem that the time had come to recognize the fact that men and women are partners, men and women work together, they complement each other. Both of them are needed, both of them have minds, both of them have capacities and the world today needs both their capacities, both their minds, because the world is going to be a sick world. You don't destroy at the rate that we've been destroying without having to build up again and today, you can't segregate destruction. The results reach out into all the countries, just as every one of our countries has felt the result of war.


Program Participants

  • : Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced


About this document

Pan-American Union Address, Track 2

April 20, 1944


Eleanor Roosevelt

Project Editors
  • National Endowment for the Humanities

Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches is a project and publication of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, Academic Building, Post Hall, Room 312, 2100 Foxhall Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007

Transcript Editors
  • : Lewis, Britanny
  • : Melvin, Melissa
  • : McGowen, Max
  • : Alhambra, Christopher   [ ORCID: 0000-0002-6299-793X | VIAF ]

Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27

Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library