Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (1942)

February 17, 1942

Washington, Monday –
Saturday and Sunday in New York City, I visited the Brooklyn Naval Hospital. I had, by this time, sampled all the ways of getting there as rapidly as possible, but somehow there seems to be no very quick way when you are in a hurry.

I did a number of errands, saw a great many people and, among other things, looked at quite a number of apartments, because someday I expect my husband to tell me that the houses in New York are sold before I have found a place in which to move. I have now, however, fairly well made up my mind as to an available spot, so that one thing is off my mind.

There still remains the dividing up, packing and shipping of all the things in the houses, which my mother-in-law and my husband have owned for so many years. There are moments when I wish we had always lived like birds, made our own nests and needed no furnishings!

Saturday evening, I took two people, whom I have long wanted to enjoy Claudia, to see this play. There is real quality to it, for one can see it over and over again and still laugh, and still be moved by the serious lines. Always, the phrase, “making friends with pain,” strikes me as something we should all remember. I have great admiration for the entire cast, which played the parts as freshly as when I first saw the play. The little, young wife, is very well cast and seems as natural to me as she did when I first saw her in this play.

I was distressed to learn that the author of Claudia, Miss Rose Franken, and her husband, had lost the barn on their summer place by fire last Friday or Saturday. I know they feel about their farm just as the man did in the play.

Sunday afternoon the news of Singapore’s capitulation came to a great many people as a tremendous shock. I had, talked with the President and he said resignedly that, of course, we had expected it, but I know a great many people did not. Perhaps it is good for us to have to face disaster, because we have been so optimistic and almost arrogant in our expectation of constant success. Now we shall have to find within us the courage to meet defeat and fight right on to victory.

That means a steadiness of purpose and of will, which is not one of our strong points. But, somehow, I think we shall harden physically and mentally as the days go by, take our difficulties cheerfully and win through smilingly.

I returned to Washington this morning and was delighted to find everything in the Office of Civilian Defense moving ahead on schedule.

February 18, 1942

Washington, Tuesday –
I had the pleasure yesterday of seeing Mrs. June Hamilton Rhodes, who came down from New York City to talk over some aspects of merchandising in Latin America, brought about by the recent South American Fair held in New York City. This was most successful and created tremendous interest. There is much more we can undoubtedly do along these lines.

In the evening, I went to speak to a small group called the Monday Evening Club. I found to my pleasure that Dr. Winifred Cullis, who has been speaking as a representative of the British Government, was the other speaker. She told of what had been done in England for the benefit of the civilian population. As she proceeded, it became evident that, without mentioning the Office of Civilian Defense, she was making a speech in favor of all the activities which dealt with volunteer participation or civilian mobilization, and which had little or nothing to do with civilian protection.

It became increasingly clear that England had discovered that civilian protection could not exist without civilian mobilization, which brought about well being in the communities and a sense of security in the people.

In reading the papers this morning, I could not help wondering how the displaced men feel in industries all over the country. They are anxious to get to work but, for the time being, must wait for industries to be converted to new uses. Members of Congress and Governors of States, talk about increasing the unemployment compensation to a possible $24.

People seem to forget that this unemployment compensation usually must cover the needs of families ranging from four to six members – rent, food, heat, light, clothing, recreation, education, medical care must all come out of this sum. Could the Congressmen do it on any less? Could the Governors do it on any less? We have a bad habit of not putting ourselves in the place of those we are trying to represent, and whose needs we are supposed to be considering.

On the other hand, I think people have been making a hue and cry over something which has never been quite well understood. Congress did not vote a pension to itself. It established a system of insurance, by which every person earning a salary in the Government would pay in a certain amount regularly and, after a given number of years of public service, would be entitled, according to the amount paid in, to a certain sum as a yearly pension.

This is nothing more than what we are trying to work out under the old age pension system. I think it is sound from the point of view of giving these people, during their working years, a chance to make provision for their retirement.

February 19, 1942

Washington, Wednesday –
Yesterday, because of lack of space, I could not go more fully into the question of the bill for Congressional pensions. It seems to me fairly obvious that the principle of this bill is good. The timing may be bad, so, perhaps, it should wait until this war is over. There may be amendments which are necessary in order to prevent people from getting a pension except on an insurance basis.

It may be embarrassing to vote yourself a pension, but who else can do it? And you are voting for the future as well as the present. I think it is important to have the principle of insurance for old age established for every group of citizens, and doubly important for the public servant to be secure and, therefore, beyond temptation or threat.

I want to add this to clarify the whole situation; so much that the people are discussing today is obscured for them by the press and radio, instead of being made simple and clear.

We had a most interesting dinner here last night at which Dr. Jerome Davis and Dr. Dri (Dri correct) Davis spoke for the YMCA work among the prisoners of war the world over. Mr. Harper Sibley presided admirably. If I may judge from my own feeling, everyone must have gone away inspired by a realization of the work which is being done, even though it may not cover the whole range of need.

The number of prisoners behind barbed wire all over the world today is quite appalling. It did not surprise me to have both Dr. Jerome Davis and Dr. Dri (Dri correct) Davis emphasize the fact there is such a thing called “barbed wire sickness.”

To have nothing to do mentally or physically, to know that those you love are anxious about you, to be anxious about them, and yet have no way of working towards your release, must be a horrible situation. Anything that we can do for our enemy prisoners seems to me to justify itself. We have a double incentive when our permission to help the Allied prisoners of war depends upon the work done with the enemy prisoners.

A morning of work at the Office of Civilian Defense and a most interesting talk with a young doctor in the District of Columbia, who is thinking along the lines of preventive medicine. By that I mean, that he believes that healthy people should have a health examination and check up every so often, so that they need not be treated as medical cases. By doing this we might easily prevent serious illness and find better habits of living will keep us in good health.

February 20, 1942

New York, Thursday –
Yesterday, at lunch, I enjoyed very much having an opportunity to talk briefly with Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Elmhirst. They have been on a very long trip through the South, up the West Coast and back through the central part of our country. They visited agricultural groups everywhere and told the story of conditions in England among similar people.

Dr. Adolph Keller, of Geneva, Switzerland, also came to lunch and told us something of his work with the church groups in the various European countries. I always marvel at what these men accomplish in war-torn countries and how they stand up under the strain. Somehow I expect to find them different, and only find them more human. They are, perhaps, a little more aware of the needs of human beings throughout the world, less troubled about the future, more resigned to sharing whatever may come with a their neighbors.

I have a feeling that, in this country, we are still largely in the stage of anxiety over a future which is certainly uncharted. Some of these people from the countries where the future is certainly more uncertain than it is here, have come to look upon it as an adventure and to accept the uncertainty, not only with stoicism, but with cheerful optimism.

After dinner, I took the night train to New York City and am spending some time today at the Brooklyn Naval Hospital with Franklin Jr. It is grand to see him recovering. Of course, with returning health, his annoyance at being in the hospital is making him very restless. I hope he will stay in the hospital as long as is necessary, for I know the minute he is out, it will be impossible to hold him down.

I have been visiting other friends and members of my family, and am returning by the night train to Washington.

I have just received from the USO office in Savannah, Ga., an account of what they call their “Adopted Son Plan.” I think the same thing might be done in other places. They found that the less aggressive among the service men, coming in from the Savannah Air Base, Fort Screven and Camp Stewart, made few personal contacts in the city. The USO staff is now recommending a boy to an individual family and for the time he is in camp nearby, that family becomes his family.

He may drop in whenever he wants without special invitation. This, of course, means that he is welcome to take potluck meals with the family, to get a bath, and to lounge around as he pleases. I think this must be a much prized type of hospitality.

February 21, 1942

Washington, Friday –
Last night, in New York City, I went to a movie, which I enjoyed very much, and then took the night train back here. This morning I have attended a final staff conference with Dean James Landis, and held my own final staff conference. It is certainly a grand feeling to work with people and, when you leave, to feel a real warmth of feeling and a sense of regret on their part as well as your own.

I am going back for a conference with Mr. Paul Kellogg of our Advisory Committee this afternoon, and shall then leave my desk in the Office of Civilian Defense for good.

Tonight I am having a party for all those who work in the Office of Civilian Defense and who care to come, as we have been doing every month since I went into the office. Mrs. Henry Morgenthau Jr. will receive with me, so it will be a chance for both of us to say a last good-bye to everyone. I could never have organized myself so successfully out of a job without the help of Mrs. Morgenthau, Justine Polier and Mrs. Lindley; all of whom have left, or are now leaving also.

This will be the end of all official connections with the Office of Civilian Defense, but I feel sure that I shall not lose personal touch with a great many people I have come to know through the last five months. I am including in this party tonight, the members of my own office staff at the White House.

Yesterday I had a chance to see Mrs. William Brown Meloney, and she gave me a quotation which ex-President Coolidge often used. It is so useful to every one of us today, that I pass it along to you. Ex-President Coolidge averred that there were four things which made New England great, and he added New York State and Pennsylvania as well. I’m sure he quoted the following from some New England mentor:

Eat it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Do without.

Four little sayings, but if we take them really to heart, what a difference they may make in our daily contribution to the winning of the war.

I have just received a request to mention to you that Saturday, February 21, has been designated as “Norway-Day” by Mrs. J. Borden Harriman, who is chairman of the “American Friends of Norway,” 36 East 48th Street, New York City. On this day they are making a special appeal to those who ski, asking that they give what they can to provide medical supplies for ski battalions of Norwegian expeditionary forces, now training in Iceland and Canada. Their object, of course, is the recapture of their native land from the Nazis.

February 23, 1942

Washington, Sunday –
Friday night, at our Office of Civilian Defense Party, I saw for the second time, the movie called Woman of The Year in which Katharine Hepburn plays a most amusing and delightful role. Every girl who has tried to keep house without training, will have sympathy with her struggles in separating the eggs, and those horribly rising waffles!

We spent a few serious moments and listened to Mr. Alexander Dreier tell a little about his experiences in Berlin, Germany, for he came out of that country more recently than anyone else I have seen. I think what he had to say made a very vivid picture for his listeners.

I was interested yesterday to find that my resignation from the Office of Civilian Defense rated front page stories in the New York Herald-Tribune and the New York Times, and an editorial in both papers. I am beginning to feel puffed up with importance!

Strange to say, this is the first time, that I have seen what I know is a valid criticism, not of the Office of Civilian Defense, but of my taking part in the organization. They both point out that the wife of any President cannot be looked upon as an individual by other people in the Government. She must always carry the reflection of influence or power beyond that of the usual government public servant.

I hoped that this was not true, but I have found out that it was. Therein lies the one really valid criticism against the wife of a President taking an executive job in the Government, even when that position is unpaid.

People can gradually be brought to understand that an individual, even if she is a President’s wife, may have independent views and must be allowed the expression of an opinion. But actual participation in the work of the Government, we are not yet able to accept.

The National Education Association has sent me a publication entitled A War Policy For American Schools, in which they set forth the need for changing “the education as usual” policy, and adopting “educational priorities.” Many of the things which they suggest are, of course, things which should be part of an educational program at all times.

I have a feeling that, perhaps, out of this crisis, we shall have a more intelligent approach, not only to education, but to many other phases of community life, particularly where health and recreation are concerned. If this is one of the benefits to youth brought about by a period of great stress, we may be thankful that something good comes out of so great an evil.

February 24, 1942

Washington, Monday –
Ordinarily, today would be celebrated as a holiday everywhere throughout the country, but the necessities of the present time will make many of us think more seriously of George Washington and his contribution to the founding of this country than any holiday of previous years.

The threat to our country today and to its freedom is more serious perhaps than it has ever been since the days when George Washington, by his calmness and staunch tenacity in the face of disaster, lead us in creating a nation. He believed in the ideals on which this nation was based and we must believe in them just as firmly to live through the present period triumphantly.

This is a particularly good time, I think, to read the article in Liberty Magazine of March 7. It is by John Gunther, and is entitled “Lessons From Inside London.” Much that he tells us points the way to the spirit which we must develop here today. He was back from six weeks in London when he wrote this article. It is all the more vivid because what he saw is still fresh in his mind.

He advises us to take bombings calmly, and I suggest that we underscore one sentence on that subject.

A greater enemy than bombs – I speak quite seriously – is boredom.

He suggests that we go about blackouts – real blackouts – with caution. I think all of us will agree with him, that once having learned how to put on a blackout, we should not live in an atmosphere of constant darkness at night.

We should take to heart his observations on the acceptance of Russia as an ally by the British. We should remember the following thought:

The lesson from England is nevertheless clear, striking and obvious – that sacrifice is necessary to wage war, that the need of sacrifice becomes more urgent as the war goes on. One striking phenomenon in England is what might be called equality of sacrifice.

I went to the civilian defense rally on Saturday night at Greenbelt, Md., the housing community which Mr. Rex Tugwell had the vision to promote. The meeting was in the schoolhouse, for they have there a real conception of community activity and work. Their Greenbelt Community Band gave a very good concert. They had good reports on the work they have done for civilian defense. Better than anything else, I had a sense of community spirit, which is what we must develop now everywhere in our country.

February 25, 1942

New York, Tuesday –
I had my first press conference back in the White House yesterday and, quite obviously, the girls asked me how I liked my return to private life! It made me add up what really has been different in the past few days. I discovered: 1, I have really spent several hours reading: 2, I walked for an hour Sunday morning: 3, I spent an hour in the National Art Gallery Sunday afternoon.

If you are in Washington, don’t fail to go this gallery. You can’t possibly see the 90 galleries all at once, but a little at a time refreshes the spirit. Most inspiring, is the fact that on a Sunday the place was crowded with men in uniform, young people, old people and children.

I took my cousin, Mrs. Joseph Alsop, to see the exhibits of drawings and paintings on defense subjects, and then we went through some of the Early Italian rooms. I found that she enjoyed the carving in wood of the Madonna kneeling before the Child, as much as I did.

We saw a few of the Early Dutch paintings also, and had a glimpse of the different courts with their display of flowers and fountains. I came away feeling a real gratitude that such a collection has been given to the nation, and that so many people seem to be enjoying it.

I still have a good many commitments made during the past few months for various speeches and engagements. There are a good many personal things, however, which I ought to have done and which I must now do, such as the distribution of belongings in the New York houses to various children. This means actually getting things packed and shipped in anticipation of the final disposal of these houses, in which we have lived for a good many years. On the whole, I do not think my new found leisure is going to be empty of occupation.

Last night I attended the annual dinner of the Democratic National Committee and listened with many others to the President’s speech. Following his directions, I kept a map in front of me, but the Committee had thoughtfully provided a large map for the dinner guests. I am sure that many of us are better informed and wiser than we were before.

As the President said, he obviously could not answer in one speech, all the questions which people have on their minds. Gradually, day by day, and week by week, these questions will be answered, if we ask our local defense councils to obtain the information for us.

February 26, 1942

Washington, Wednesday –
I had a busy day in New York City yesterday. First I spent an hour with a friend who has not been very well, and then I ordered some necessary spring clothes, though I must say the weather did not seem very spring-like. It was just about as cold and windy as it could possibly be, but I have to look ahead and be prepared for spring in Washington, which comes suddenly.

At 12:30, Mrs. Vanderbilt Webb and Mrs. Noyes came to see me and then I went to the Cosmopolitan Club to speak at the members’ lunch. I was glad to have a chance to explain what my successors in the Office of Civilian Defense are doing.

An hour or so at home, and then I started for Philadelphia. It was pleasant to have a little time for uninterrupted reading on the train, and then to be greeted by Judge and Mrs. Curtis Bok. They are the kindest hosts and took me at once to Judge Bok’s mother’s house, where I dressed for dinner. After this we all went to the performance given by the Philadelphia Opera Company at the Academy of Music. The building is one of the most delightful in which to hear music.

This is a young opera company and the orchestra and the singers are a most refreshing group. Their performance, given in English, was full of life. I discovered for the first time that Mozart’s Così fan tutte is really a comic opera, perhaps not quite Gilbert and Sullivan, but certainly full of amusing byplay.

The audience, as well as the actors, seemed to me remarkably young. Servicemen and students were all about us. Many of them, of course, probably grew to love music through the youth concerts which Mr. Stokowski gave, and which were always popular.

The young manager of the opera company, Mr. David Hocker, and all the people who work on the mechanics of this performance, are so enthusiastic, that I feel it must eventually be a real financial as well as an artistic success.

I caught an 11:43 train to Washington. It was an unbelievably long train and, being in the car at the end, we were almost in Washington before any heat reached my compartment. In spite of a certain amount of delay, I liked the trip and finished a book which I have enjoyed more than I can say. The characters in Ellen Chase’s Windswept accept life as it is, its sorrows and its joys, so completely, and live it without resentment. They make friends alike with joy and pain. This is a novel which I think will be a help to many of us at the present time.

February 27, 1942

New York, Thursday –
Yesterday was a rather leisurely day in Washington. A few friends came to lunch and, at 3:00, I went down to the Library of Congress. There, the Pan-American Coffee Bureau, presented to the division in charge of records, the recordings of my Sunday night broadcasts.

Back at the White House, I had a most interesting talk with Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Snow, who have been back from China for about a year. Mrs. Snow is deeply interested in the Chinese Cooperative Movement, which receives help from all those interested in industry in China. They are making their own machines and gradually working away from the entirely handmade products. It seems to be the best foundation on which to build a better standard of living for the people.

Later, a few people came to tea and to dinner. After dinner, I went to a meeting of the Washington Newspaper Guild. The bill, which is called “The War Secrets Bill,” came up for considerable discussion. Though I have never yet had an opportunity to read it in full, I hope it will be very clearly understood and carefully discussed before its final passage.

I took the night train to New York City and began my day with an hour and a half at the dentist. Then my aunt, Mrs. Stanley Mortimer, and three of my young cousins, whom I see rather rarely, lunched with me. It was a grand family reunion.

Several people came in during the afternoon, and I spoke in the evening at a meeting for the foreign born, sponsored by the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office, of which Mrs. Winthrop W. Aldrich is chairman.

I was interested to read in a little item this morning, that people may be asked to save their anti-freeze solutions from their cars when they drain them in the spring, since it will be impossible to buy solutions next year. By then, perhaps, both tires and oil will be so well rationed, that few people will use any vehicle except for absolutely necessary work. Even if we had to drain the water out of our cars every night, I imagine we could manage. I am not going to worry about anything so far away as next winter!

In some things, I think it will be wise for us not to look beyond the immediate needs. In others, I wish we could induce people to behave as though the war was going to last an indefinite period. They then would produce with increasing rapidity and forget the haunting fear of empty factories, closed down in the future. We would have more tanks, guns and planes, which are a prerequisite to the final ending of the war.

February 28, 1942

New York, Friday –
This morning I am going to speak for the United Jewish Appeal Campaign. Like every other charitable and civic group, no matter how well established, they find that a great many people do not associate the carrying on of their usual community activities with the winning of the war. In some cases, I am told, there is not only a tendency to lower the financial contributions, but a tendency to cut down on the amount of volunteer service which people usually have given.

Somehow, we have failed as yet quite to realize the fact, that part of winning the war is to strengthen our community services, civic and charitable, in every way possible, because the demands are greater than before. True, they may be different, for in many cases people are obtaining work. But there are still cases of unemployment for a variety of reasons, and many more cases of people whose men are in the services, and who are undergoing physical hardship and mental anguish.

I look at the present situation in the following way. First of all, so far as we are able, we should give a little more to every agency we have supported in the past. What we give in contributions to the war, such as increased Red Cross, USO, Army and Navy Relief, should be above and beyond what we have given in the past. Our investments in Defense Bonds and Stamps, should be regarded as investments, not as gifts, except where we buy them for charitable purposes and do not hold them ourselves.

Secondly, I think we should continue to give what time we have in the past to the organizations in which we have served. Our war contributions should be over and above our normal activities. This should be accomplished by better organization of our time, by planning to give less time to unimportant things and by remembering that leisure moments are a gift which few people can enjoy in times of stress.

I do not mean that we must not have some recreation and relaxation, but it must come after the work we are physically able to do, is done. Many people do not plan and so spend more hours doing things than is necessary. Busy days like the present are a challenge to our ability to organize ourselves, as well as the work we may be able to do in addition to our normal occupations.

March 2, 1942

Seattle, Sunday –
I was happy to have our son, Franklin Jr., and his wife lunch with me on Friday in New York City. He is still rather weak from his appendectomy, and the doctors tell me it will be a little while before he can return to his destroyer. Destroyer duty in winter requires great physical activity and, since he has not been home since sometime in October, we are rejoicing in having a chance to see him, even though one never likes to go through operations.

On Friday afternoon, I saw a number of people in New York City, and in the evening I started by air for Seattle, Washington. We seem to have an epidemic of appendix operations in the family, for I heard that our daughter, Anna, was to be operated on Monday morning.

I imagine every mother feels a particularly close tie with her daughters. Fortunately for me, my son-in-law and the children in his family have grown very close to me and we want to be together both in times of anxiety and happiness. I cannot help being tremendously grateful for the fact that I am able to go to my children when they need me. I know so many mothers who go through great anxiety when, for financial reasons very often, they can not bridge the space which lies between them and their children.

The only day on which I shall regret not being able to be home this week is the Fourth of March, for the President always feels that there is a spiritual significance attached to that day. Nevertheless I think that out here, and in every home in the country, we can think back to the Inauguration Day of 1933, and the difficulties which faced us then, and say a prayer in our hearts.

We have come through many difficulties and made some dent on the solution of the problems which faced us then. We will, I am sure, continue to have steadfastness and courage to go through this even greater crisis and meet the unknown future with undaunted determination to carry through to a happier era for mankind.

I never cross the continent by air without being grateful for this method of transportation, which makes space so insignificant. Travelling is always an opportunity for me, not only to read, which is a refreshing stimulant, but also to look at the vastness of our nation and reflect upon our tremendous opportunities, which we are not yet using to full advantage.

March 3, 1942

Seattle, Monday –
This has been an anxious day. No one, no matter how well disciplined, can sit and wait while someone one loves is undergoing an operation, and not suffer pangs of anxiety for all the things which may happen, but which, thank God, so rarely do.

While I am out here to see my daughter, Anna, who is having an appendectomy, I have been thinking about things which I have neglected to tell you. One of them is a little ceremony which occurred at our house in New York City last Thursday afternoon. I received then the first collection of red, white and blue flower seeds, and hope to plant them in the garden at the big house at Hyde Park and at my cottage. This presentation launched the British-American Ambulance Corps drive to raise, by the sale of these one-dollar packages, the money to buy ambulances for use abroad. Little Joan Manning, who belongs to Troop 213 of the Girl Scouts, presented me with a very patriotic red, white and blue, old-fashioned bouquet, showing what delightful flowers we can grow next summer.

There are not only flower seeds on sale, but vegetable seeds as well. These packages contain thirteen different varieties of vegetable seeds. Unfortunately, we cannot have patriotic colors in vegetables, but it is just as patriotic to grow them, because they will help to feed us the kind of food which we all need.

There is a method of increasing the sale of Defense Stamps and Bonds, which has been developed by Northwestern University. I find it is being followed in one way or another by various institutions and groups. The plan which Northwestern has started, offers its alumni the possibility of helping both the government and the University at the same time. Investment of the gifts they give, in Defense Bonds, will be a start in the fund to finance the University’s development through their century plan.

The Grand Lodge of the Massachusetts Order of the Sons of Italy in America, have sent me their magazine. I think they should be congratulated on their purchase of $50,000 worth of Defense Bonds. Their final goal is much greater than this, and shows a determination on their part to have civilians at home, by their sacrifices, support the Italian-American boys, who are fighting in our services everywhere in the world.

In this magazine, I enjoyed particularly the photographs of some of the Massachusetts boys with the little descriptions which they had sent in of their activities. I hope that many other groups are keeping this same type of record for the future.

March 4, 1942

Seattle, Tuesday –
I spent all day yesterday at the hospital. On returning there this morning, I was glad to find that all was going well with my daughter. No one feels very comfortable 24 hours after any operation, but when the doctor is satisfied, the family feels cheerful, even if the patient can’t rise to the same sense of satisfaction.

I wish very much that the children’s paintings, which I saw on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, could be sent to other cities throughout the country. The little refugees cared for by the Quakers in camps and schools in various parts of Europe, have done some very interesting work.

Some of their paintings are somber, a few reflect the war scenes these youngsters have lived through, but, considering the fact that so many of them have come from bombed cities in France or other parts of Europe; it is remarkable how cheerfully some of them paint their new surroundings. They seem to lose themselves in country joys.

If this exhibit, which closes March 18 in New York City, could be shown in different parts of the country, I think it might inspire in many people the realization of what may be accomplished by feeding, clothing and housing children away from the horrors of war. Just a little security and enough to eat can do so much for the next generation. So, whenever the opportunity comes to us, let us help those who help the children.

Yesterday, with the greatest interest, I read the Survey Graphic for March, entitled “Fitness For Freedom.” The opening article, entitled “Health Front In a People’s War,” by Dr. C. E. A. Winslow, should not be missed. I want to bring one quotation to you here:

There are those who tell us that long range planning is irrelevant to the present issue – that we should think at the moment of nothing but winning the war. There are others who see in the war emergency a golden opportunity to serve their own vested interests and to get rid – as they hope, for all time – of all this socialistic nonsense.

There have been wars in the past in which this happened. But this is not that kind of war. This is a war so arduous and difficult that it can only be won by a united people, by a people who know that the civilization for which they must be ready to die is, in truth, worth dying for.

The other article I was particularly interested in was by Dr. E. C. Lindeman, called “Pursuit of Happiness in Wartime.” This, too, I hope none of my readers will miss, for it deals with a subject we must not forget, no matter how many difficulties we have to meet.

March 5, 1942

Seattle, Wednesday –
I have very little information to give you today, because when one spends most of one’s time in a hospital not a great many things happen. I went in to see a young girl there, whose brother and sister telephoned to ask if I could not stop in because she had heard I was in the hospital. She is very ill, and they thought it might help her.

The child looked as though she had quite a high fever, and told me she was threatened with pneumonia. However, she seemed to be fairly strong, and I hope with all the modern treatments we have discovered for this disease, that she will come through it all right.

Yesterday, a young man rode up in the elevator with us. He told me that his mother had been in the hospital twelve weeks, and asked if I would stop in to see her. Twelve weeks is a long time to look at hospital walls, so I decided that almost any change would be welcome and knocked at her door late yesterday afternoon.

Her dressing table was covered with pictures of her grandchildren – perfectly lovely children – and so we had something in common to talk about at once. Then she showed me a picture of one son who is working with Ambassador Winant in London, and told me that her husband had been instrumental in founding the Swedish Hospital, and that her other son was now on the board of directors.

It always interests me to see people who have put down roots in the place where they live; who have actually done things, not for themselves alone, but for the community. Even a village can provide one with a gamut of human emotions and experience. It has always seemed to me that, unless one becomes some part of community life, there comes a day when life ceases to have much interest. There are many times when thinking only of one’s own affairs is so very dull.

I stole a little present, which had come to the President before I left Washington, and I must tell you about it. When Mr. Alexander Woollcott was staying with us this winter, he discovered that my husband liked Rudyard Kipling’s writings, which is, perhaps, an old-fashioned habit. Mr. Woollcott asked if the President had seen one of the last stories that Kipling had written, called Proofs of Holy Writ. My husband had not seen it, and when Mr. Woollcott tried to get it, he found it out of print.

But, the other day, he sent him one of the ten copies privately printed in February 1942, by Doubleday, Doran & Company. With it came a letter addressed to the President by Mr. Woollcott, telling the circumstances under which the story came to be written. The card accompanying the book is delightful. It reads:

With my compliments.

…and in the corner are a few pen lines, unmistakably Alexander Woollcott’s face.

March 6, 1942

Cleveland, Thursday –
I left Seattle at 4:30 p.m. yesterday. I hated to leave Anna, but all is going well. When I talked on the telephone to Washington yesterday, I heard that one of our children and his wife had just flown in. I’m sure he will not be there more than a short time, so I am anxious to see him before he leaves.

During the last day in Seattle, I read two most interesting articles in Harper’s Magazine for March – William Henry Chamberlain’s “America in World War, 1917-1942” and Peter F. Drucker’s “How To Pay For the War.” Both articles are extraordinarily interesting to anyone who looks with seriousness at the part this nation must play during the war period, and in the reconstruction afterward.

The last paragraph of Mr. Chamberlain’s article is one we cannot spread far enough, and so I quote it here:

We now represent the largest and strongest bastion of liberal civilization. Into our unworthy hands a great banner has been thrust. We must hold it up, even though there may come times when it may seem as heavy as the Cross of Calvary itself.

To those, and I am sure there are many, who worry daily, not only about how we are going to pay for the war, but about how we will help finance the reconstruction of the world of the future, I think Mr. Drucker’s article will hold many interesting suggestions. No one is more aware than I am of the differences in the economic theories of our best economists, but there were one or two points in this that seemed to me simple enough for the layman to evaluate.

It seems sensible that interest-bearing bonds at the end of the war should not be in the hands of the rich or semi-rich group of people, but in one way or another should have been distributed to the people of the nation as a whole. It also seems sensible that in an effort to curtail the buying of consumers’ goods, particularly such goods as are made in the factories which must be converted to war production, the people who buy the greater part of these goods must be induced to buy other kinds of commodities which are available even during this period, and to go without many things in the hope of having more in the future.

This can only be done by putting into their hands interest-bearing bonds, and making them realize that their sacrifices are patriotic and will bring them the things they really want, when they are available again. I realize most of this requires education, but both points seem to have good sense in back of them.

There also begins in this number, an autobiography of Albert Spaulding, called Boy With Violin, which is delightfully written. On this long flight across the country, I am reading Education for Death. I confess that it fills me with horror, and I am finding it hard to believe that such a system could exist.

March 7, 1942

Washington, Friday –
I was only a half an hour late in arriving in Washington from Seattle yesterday, which, considering the distance, is very remarkable. On both trips the weather was very smooth, and for this time of the year that means I really was very fortunate.

Last evening, after a quiet dinner with my husband and a few guests, I went to the opening session of the institute organized by the Washington Bureau of the International Student Service. Dr. Zook, of the American Council on Education, presided. Dr. Brown, also of the American Council on Education, who has been working with the Army and Navy on questions pertaining to the education of the young men in the services, as well as the preparation of youth in our colleges, spoke. He gave the young people a very good picture of the different plans made by the Army and Navy to obtain good material for officers and petty-officers, and to help the men already in the service to progress and improve themselves while they are on duty.

My mail is interesting reading these days. Yesterday, I came across a letter from a woman who is arranging free appearances for New York City actors and actresses, both on government request and for private organizations. She explained to me that there are a great many people who can adequately do what private groups want done, but that everyone seemed grieved if they were not offered someone whose name is known from coast to coast.

I realize, of course, that all groups want to make “their meeting” a great success, but I am afraid we cannot ask these ever-generous artists to be in more than one place at a time, or to do so much that they cannot do their regular work acceptably.

I have a very exciting letter from Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, of the Universal Pictures Co. Inc., in California. They are going to tour the nation’s theatres in the near future, and every penny of salary which they receive, will go toward the purchase of a bomber. That is a goodly sum for two people to earn. I wish them luck and know we shall be most grateful to them for whatever they accomplish.

Day by day people keep asking me for jobs. People I know, who have jobs, are always in demand to do some new one, or to take on a little more than they are already doing. I suppose this means that when one has proved his capacity, he is in constant demand. Very few of us have the courage to try a new person, which, perhaps, we had better begin to do.

March 9, 1942

Washington, Sunday –
Yesterday was a most gorgeous day. We could almost feel spring coming to Washington. One snatches at all these pleasures while one can, because it is difficult to avoid the thought that such days may also bring us many unpleasant experiences.

I went to the YWCA for a meeting of the Girl Reserves yesterday afternoon, and then to a reception at Mrs. Henry Morgenthau Jr.'s house. In the evening we all went to the last session of the institute sponsored by the International Student Service. Today I have been happy to see some of our friends at luncheon, tea and supper.

There is a bulletin from the College of the City of New York, which contains two interesting lists of books on the present crisis. They are entitled What We Are Fighting For and What We Are Fighting Against. These lists are prepared by Dr. William Bradley Otis, Professor of English, in an effort to provide an understanding of the present situation and are issued by the College’s civilian defense council.

They are certainly interesting lists. We can all keep busy for a long while if we undertake to read all the books mentioned, though there are a few with which we may already be familiar. Surprisingly enough, I find that those I know best are in the column of What We Are Fighting For, so I shall have to do some reading on What We Are Fighting Against.

The department stores in New York City, and I imagine others all over the country, are going to save us a great deal of trouble. I have a letter telling me they will put up packages, after consulting the authorities in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Forces, which will contain things needed by the men that they will really enjoy receiving.

The idea behind the drive is very practical, because we civilians sometimes forget that it is not just our most intimate family that we might now and then remember in camp. There are other boys whom we know only slightly, who might be glad to get a package and have the fun of a surprise. So, when you see these packages, remember they are put there for your use and, if you can do so, send one to some serviceman.

March 10, 1942

New York – (Monday)
We had some very interesting discussions yesterday afternoon at the White House on the subject of what the general attitude of the people should be during this war period. I’ve come to one very clear decision, namely, that all of us – men in the services, and men and women at home, should be drafted and told what is the job we are to do. It seems to me there should be immediately a freezing of prices, of profits and of wages. No one can be frozen without freezing all.

The only way I can see to get the maximum service out of our citizens, is to draft us all and to tell us all where we can be most useful and where our work is needed. So long as we are left to volunteer, we are bound to waste our capacities and to do things which are not necessary.

We are bound, quite thoughtlessly, to waste materials which we have wasted in the past, but which we no longer have a right to waste. I would be relieved beyond measure, and so would many people throughout the nation, if an authority greater than our own personal decision told us where we could be most useful. I realize that in the White House this is a more difficult question with which to cope, than it is outside. In the last war I ran a private home and complied with whatever the government asked of us. We were never sufficiently involved in the last war, either in a military or an economic way, to require much regulation beyond what could be obtained from people of goodwill on a volunteer basis.

We are in quite a different situation this time. I personally, am in a different situation in the White House because the President, as head of the nation, requires in his household certain things which would not be necessary in any private house. In private life, however, I should like to feel that I was complying with the wishes and doing the things which those in authority thought should be done.

In talking with someone this morning, I discovered I had not conveyed one point which I think important when I spoke over the air last Sunday. I want to emphasize it in this column – we wish to increase our production of foodstuffs. The large and well-managed, and often absentee-owned, farms in this country are already producing to the maximum.

Our great hope is to increase the production on the small farm. The Farm Security Administration, working with the lowest income farmers, has proved that this can be done through wise advice in management, small loans and assistance in marketing produce. Therefore, I believe it is a good investment to increase the use of Farm Security Administration methods.

March 11, 1942

Washington – (Tuesday)
Yesterday, in New York City, was a busy day spent almost entirely on personal things. I had an interesting talk with a young Korean woman, married to an American citizen, who has been promoting an organization among the women of her community which she thinks would be of value in many other communities.

Her hope was that I would head up this organization on a nationwide basis, but I feel very strongly that everything that is done should originate in a community need and, therefore, should enlist the interest and activity of the people in a particular community. National plans smack too much of something handed down from the top. Though I think it is well when something valuable is done in any community to have it given wide publicity so that other communities with the same needs may adopt it, I think it is a mistake to try to start any new national organizations at this time.

I was interested in an appeal which I received the other day. It was from one of the community organizations in my home state. They explained that they felt benefits and large mass meetings should be the methods used to raise money for the extraordinary war activities. That the usual community organizations, both charitable and civic, should obtain their support simply by reminding their subscribers of the need in the community. I think this theory is excellent and hope that we shall prove good enough citizens to put it into practice successfully.

I meant to find time to go to see an exhibition of paintings at the Grand Central Fifth Avenue Galleries in the Hotel Gotham yesterday, while in New York City. These are paintings of New England by Robert Strong Woodward. Since I know so much of the countryside he paints, I looked forward with great pleasure to seeing them. Unfortunately, I did not get there and the exhibition closes on the 14th of March, and I cannot be in New York City again until the 15th. This is a real disappointment and I hope he will hold another exhibition somewhere else before long.

We came back to Washington this morning by train in order to do as much work as possible on the way, and now I am about to keep a few appointments here.

If you do not subscribe to the Galesburg, Illinois Post, you may want to do so. One of the best war columns I’ve read was in it, written by Carl Sandburg.