Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (1944)

September 13, 1944

Québec City, Canada – (Tuesday)
By now all of my readers know that my husband and I left Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon and that we arrived in Québec just a few minutes before Prime Minister Churchill’s train pulled in.

The Prime Minister and Mrs. Churchill came over by ship, as you know, and some of the other passengers were our men who had been wounded in the Normandy fighting. Mrs. Churchill told me yesterday of going to visit them. She spoke with great admiration of the doctors and nurses and corpsmen who took care of them. There were only two nurses abroad, but she said they did a wonderful job, and that the spirit of the men seemed to her extraordinary.

With all the years of war behind her, however, Mrs. Churchill does not take wounded men for granted. She spoke with deep feeling, and I could see that blood and tears and future handicaps to overcome are still most poignant to her. Even the nurses to whom I talk do not seem to grow accustomed to the waste brought about by war.

I hope the women’s voices will be strong enough this time, and that they will range themselves on the side of those men who try to do the things in the future which seem to promise the surest basis for a permanent peace. I do not think there can be any peace in weakness; I am sure it lies in strength, but I think strength must be used in an understanding and cooperative spirit. Somehow, the selfishness of human beings must be controlled so that peace may be strengthened by justice and a sense of security throughout the world.

It was good to see both the Prime Minister and the President looking so well and greeting each other so warmly. The Governor General of Canada and Princess Alice and the Prime Minister of Canada, Mackenzie King, had all come abroad our train to greet us on our arrival, and so we stood together to greet Prime Minister and Mrs. Churchill. There is something boyish about the Prime Minister. Perhaps that is what makes him such a wonderful war leader; you feel his zest for life and his unbreakable spirit that can visualize only victory in the long run.

We drove straight to the Citadel. There is not only dignity, but great beauty in these massive stone walls, and the windows looking out on the St. Lawrence are deeper set than any windows in the White House. The walls look to me to be at least three feet thick. What was once a soldiers’ barracks with officers’ quarters is now a very comfortably appointed house, and the contrast of plain walls without and modern arrangements and settings inside is quite interesting.

I visited the kitchen this morning to thank the staff for all they are doing for us, and my eyes fell immediately on a little black dog who had no business to be there! Reluctantly Fala followed me upstairs to his master’s room.

September 14, 1944

Québec City, Canada – (Wednesday)
After we unpacked on Monday and were shown the various rooms, we had a small luncheon in the big living room that overlooks the St. Lawrence.

In that room you feel almost as though you were on the deck of a steamer, because you can look up and down and across to the far banks of the river. The talk at lunch went on for two hours, and Prime Minister Churchill twitted me about our differences of opinion on certain subjects. I assured him I had not changed, and neither had he, but we like each other, nevertheless.

It is a good thing to reach a point in life where you can agree with people on the things on which you can agree, and differ on those on which you disagree. I like and admire Mr. Churchill and recognize his great qualities, and am deeply grateful for the leadership without which much of the world might be a very different and a sadder place today.

The real work of the conference had not yet begun, of course, even though informal conversations were carried on throughout the day. The ladies have no work to do, so I spent an entirely frivolous Monday afternoon having my hair done. In the evening the Governor General and Princess Alice entertained the members of the conference and their staffs, our Ambassador and his wife, as well as many Québec officials.

The dinner was in the large room where the King and Queen, when they visited here, sat on a raised dais, and where their representatives sit when they receive at big receptions. Tall red candles in silver candelabra and a beautiful silver bowl made the table glitter. In spite of the necessary formality, the atmosphere was pleasant and easy, and the speeches, when they came, were simple and from the heart. The toasts to the King, the President, the Governor General and the Prime Minister were drunk with warmth by all those present.

Yesterday morning photographs were taken out on what is called the deck, a long open veranda on top of the parapet leading off from the big living room.

There was a haze which made it impossible actually to see the Isle d’Orléans or the bridge which lies beyond. I remembered both, however, and looked for them, for once, when I was here, we drove around this island in what happened to be the strawberry season. These strawberries are world famous, with a flavor which I have never tasted anywhere else, and I still remember buying them on that tour and eating them with great satisfaction.

One river bridge is noted for the illusion created when passing under it on a ship. Everyone always thinks the ship is going to strike its mast, but though you hold your breath, you never actually strike.

September 15, 1944

Québec City, Canada – (Thursday)
On Tuesday morning, Mrs. Churchill and I went for a short shopping trip without much success, for though clothes are not rationed here, there is a scarcity of all goods, even the homespun for which this area is well known.

Conferences had begun in earnest, and so yesterday afternoon the Governor General and Princess Alice took Mrs. Churchill and me on a short trip into the country. We had tea sitting on rugs in a field, with a lovely countryside all around us. Then we walked along a country road, stopping to talk with a farmer now and then, and passing a house where there had evidently been a wedding and where a car stood outside decorated with gay paper streamers. In the evening only the Chiefs of Staff dined here, and the Governor General and Princess Alice left on a trip to a nearby industrial center.

On Wednesday Lady Fiset, the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Québec, gave a luncheon at Spencerwood, which is their official residence. It is a lovely house with gardens going down to the river. The approach is through beautiful trees. Some sixty women had been gathered together to meet us, and after a delicious lunch both Mrs. Churchill and I were asked to say a few words to the assembled company.

In the early evening Mrs. Churchill and I made a short address over the radio, and at 9 o’clock we went to a party at the Château Frontenac, given by Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, for all the members of the conference. You will gather, from the way the ladies have been off on their own, that the gentlemen are now hard at work, and even mealtimes are used for conference purposes.

I had hoped to fly down to New York today, much as I would like to stay on in this delightful spot. But I think the weather is going to force us to go down by train this afternoon. I hope to visit a member of the family who is leaving on a journey, and then go to Hyde Park to pick up the threads of country life again, since there are still guests there who must feel somewhat neglected.

Several days ago, I received a letter from a Red Cross worker who has been back in this country from the Mediterranean area. She does not give me an address because she says she is leaving immediately, but she opens her letter thus: “I am not too sure just what prompts me to write you. I think because at the moment I am a bit exasperated.” And then she proceeds to tell me what she and the men who are fighting the war feel as they read our newspapers. She certainly does not mince words, and in substance expresses the conviction that the newspapers do not understand the soldiers’ feelings, and neither do the civilians at home. She at least pays me the compliment of thinking that I may understand her letter.

September 16, 1944

New York – (Friday)
In between showers, on the day before I left Québec, I went out to explore the walks that there might be on top of the Bastion. I was joined by my young Canadian Army aide, Capt. Cote, and together we climbed the steps and found ourselves near an old and now unused cannon. We progressed along the grassy top, getting glimpses of the river here and there, and finally reached a point which was plainly marked “out of bounds.” Here modern defenses, very much up-to-date, joined with the old wall.

All the Citadel gates, of course, were covered from various points where men could stand hidden and fire on the enemy. Incidentally, the walls, which I told you I thought were three feet thick, are actually five feet thick. I still marvel at the ingenuity which, so many years ago, laid out the tortuous passages and walls of this stronghold. There is a little brass gun on the lawn in front of the living quarters which was taken by the British at Bunker Hill in 1775. It looks like a pretty toy now, and one wonders how much damage it was ever able to inflict.

In the course of my walk, I visited a little chapel which has no windows, but which is composed of brick arches, whitewashed on the inside – a form of construction which I have rarely seen anywhere else, and which must be very strong.

I have just finished a book called Lebanon, by Caroline Miller, who wrote Lamb in His Bosom. The book had a great appeal for me. I do not know if it is based on real stories taken out of the past, or whether it was woven out of the author’s imagination, but the tale has a strange reality. Out of such hardships has this country been built, and out of such suffering our people have grown. Lebanon, the main character, was the product of her early environment. She had the wisdom and the knowledge that grew from those contacts, and, in addition, beauty and sweetness and courage. Life gave her adventure aplenty, but also some happiness and a chance to grow. She met the challenges with characteristic courage.

One wonders how people about her could have been so blind and so unkind, and yet in varying degrees we can see the same thing enacted about us, over and over again. Her neighbors could have known her for what she really was. Instead, they chose to weave strange tales about her, born of rumors and innuendoes and half-truths, primarily because she had some things her neighbors did not understand.

That happens somewhat frequently in life. Perhaps one of the most amusing examples of it is in a little book I have just been reading, called What Manner of Man, by Noel F. Busch. (This is a new book interpreting the life of the President. Ed.) Its innumerable factual inaccuracies, which one would think anyone could check, makes one wonder a little about the results of the author’s deductions. It is really dangerous to write about human beings except in fiction, for one is apt to create a truer picture through imagination than one can create out of inaccurate facts!

September 18, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Sunday)
The trip down by the night train from Québec was so peaceful, as far as we were concerned, that I was appalled, when we reached Washington Square Friday morning, to see the damage that the hurricane had brought about. Large trees in the Square lay uprooted, and the havoc was pitiful.

Trees always seem to me to have personality, and when a big one is blown over you almost feel that it must have hurt the spirit within the tree. Especially ignoble must it seem to have your branches down in the dust, and, in this case, the pavements!

In Long Island, apparently, not only trees suffered, but houses and telephone and electric wires were all put out of commission. Our daughter-in-law could not be reached by telephone, and when I finally saw her in the late afternoon, I found that she and the children were not only without a telephone, but also with no means of cooking. Long ago I discovered that one could get along very nicely in primitive conditions, but to be primitive surrounded by modern inventions is extremely difficult. Our ancestors kept their milk and butter down the well, but now when the electric icebox goes off there is no well to keep things cool! Like many of her neighbors, my daughter-in-law spent the afternoon trying to find enough ice to keep the children’s milk from going sour.

Fortunately, her house was unhurt, and my real sympathy went to another young woman of my acquaintance whose house, a summer cottage, was completely flattened by the gale. Her children luckily were not there at the time, but she still has not been able to find out whether any of her belongings were salvaged.

On Saturday I did a little shopping, and got back here in the early afternoon. Little damage was done here, except for some branches that were blown down in the woods.

That was an extraordinarily courageous thing those young scientists did when they flew straight into the teeth of the storm to find out about the currents of wind. Their exploit will make it safer for fliers in the future, but I always marvel at the courage which makes people willingly risk their lives to ascertain scientific facts.

September 19, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Monday)
Yesterday we had a picnic lunch, and I was reminded of a trip many years ago, when I spent a week on an island up in the Adirondacks. We cooked entirely out-of-doors, our stove being some stones conveniently arranged to shelter a fire and support our pots and pans. Somehow our food seemed better than food usually does when cooked in the most convenient of kitchens. Perhaps it was because we had to row two miles for our supplies: by the time we had them and rowed back, and had done other chores around our little island and its tents, whatever we had to eat tasted like food for the gods. Here our picnics are pretty simple to arrange, with a built-in grill and everything conveniently at hand.

Sleeping on a porch in comfortable beds certainly can’t compare, either, with gathering pine boughs and spreading out one’s sleeping bag under a tree. There is always the chance of rain during the night, of course, but otherwise there isn’t any more comfortable bed in the world. Nor is there any more delicious smell than the odor of pine under you in the woods, when you wake up at night and look straight into the sky with the stars gleaming.

Last evening some of our friends, who had to be at work in the city early in the morning, went back to town after an early supper.

I have just received a letter which reminds me that one of the war needs most difficult to fill, in all large cities, is lodging for the families of officers and men. They may be only a few days in a city, but hotels and boarding houses are crowded. Washington and New York have each handled this problem very efficiently, I think. Chicago has a really delightful officers’ club, and they boast with pride that they have never let an officer, his wife, mother, children or girlfriend be compelled to sit up all night. Somehow, they find accommodations.

The director wrote me an especially nice story about an incident at this club. It seems a bearded veteran walked into the lounge one evening, went right up to a big bouquet of flowers and, waving everyone aside, said: “Just let me sit here and smell the flowers!”

September 20, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Tuesday)
I wonder if many of my readers saw the recent story about the Helen Keller Medal and cash awards given by the Jewish Braille Institute of America, in the Spanish section of their 1943 literary competition. The presentation was made by Dr. Charles Henry Stevens, who is the American cultural relations attache in Mexico. These competitions for the blind have been carried on for three years, not only in the United States, but in the British Empire and throughout the Latin American countries.

The three Spanish section prizes were won by residents of the Escuela Nacional de Ciegas. Their names are Pablo Calderon, Antonio Chavez Garcia and Pedro Morales y Morales. One boy won honorable mention. His name is Rafael Guillermo Sarria, and his home is in Puerto Rico.

They characterize this occasion as a “bond of light” between the residents of the United States and the Republic of Mexico, and I think that is a very charming way to increase the bonds which draw our two countries closer together.

Helen Keller, of course, is a great inspiration to all those who are similarly afflicted. The spirit which has enabled her to develop her own capacities to the limit has also given them greater courage. Yet I think her cheerfulness and the serenity which one feels in her presence are probably the greatest gift to those who are similarly handicapped. I know that Miss Keller frequently visits wounded servicemen in the hospitals, and I think her visits, next to the doctors’, are probably the most healing that can come to them.

I happened to see the other day that Dr. Martha Eliot, assistant chief of the Children’s Bureau, is urging more women to become doctors. It was a long fight before women were finally accepted into the Medical Corps of the Armed Forces, but they are now in. Here at home, the shortage of doctors has given women a chance to practice in a broader field than they would have had an opportunity to enter before. The war quotas which formerly held down the number of women admitted to medical schools have been eliminated, and the whole outlook for women in medicine is more favorable.

One particular phase of medical care, I think, will be benefited above all others if the number of women doctors is increased. In rural communities it has always been difficult to obtain good doctors. If scholarships could be given to women, with the understanding that they would then serve a few years in rural areas, I think we could greatly improve the standards of health throughout this section of our population.

September 21, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Wednesday)
A very interesting letter came to me the other day, discussing the question of how we should mark the day when the glad news comes that Germany has been defeated, and that peace has at last come again to war-torn Europe.

My correspondent felt that a wild celebration, such as marked Armistice Day at the end of World War I, would be utterly inappropriate. He pointed out that even if a certain portion of our armed forces are through with fighting in Europe, the war will still be going on over the whole Pacific area. Large numbers of our boys are there now, of course, and some from the European area may be transferred before long.

I think I agree with the gentleman, for my heart would not feel free and joyous. I would be glad, however, that we had reached a milestone for which we had waited so long. Perhaps our bells might ring out. We might say a word of silent prayer and gratitude, and everyone of us might do an extra bit of work to signify our determination to bring the final close of the war as near as possible. My correspondent suggests that everyone, everywhere, give an extra hour of work that day – in the factory, on the farm, in the office and in the home. I do not know how practical such a plan would prove, but there is something each of us can do, and I hope we will feel the need to do it on that day.

I have little sympathy with those who have begun to shift from essential to non-essential jobs. There is still so much needed to fulfill the requirements of war. On the other hand, I do think that we should begin working out the necessary methods whereby every worker will be assured of a job when his war work comes to an end. It is bred in our bones that our first duty is to look after our families. If there is danger that they are going to be left destitute because we may not have work, then it is almost too much to expect of human nature to stick at a job which we know will come to an end when the war emergency is over.

I have been enjoying these last September days, which seem almost perfect after the recent storm. It is in fact hard to believe that nature could ever be anything but kind. The air is soft, the sun is warm and the flowers are still blooming. My loosestrife has completely faded out. But the goldenrod and the black-eyed Susans still bloom along the road.

September 22, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Thursday)
Tuesday evening I went with Mrs. Henry Morgenthau Jr. to Syracuse, where we spent the night. In the morning Mr. Joseph Smart called for us, and we went to Oswego to visit the refugee shelter where the United States is temporarily offering hospitality to 982 refugees from concentration camps in Italy. Our army there was glad to have them come to this country, and since Fort Ontario is not being used at present, they are housed there in soldiers’ barracks. Partitions have been put up, affording them some privacy, but only the absolute necessities of life are being provided.

Forty-five cents a day per person is what is allowed for food. Regular iron cots and springs with cotton mattresses, army blankets, an occasional bare table and a few stiff chairs – this is the furniture of what must be considered a temporary home. Restrictions are plentiful, and there is much work to be done around the place; but at least the menace of death is not ever-present. They have elected a committee of their own which decides on questions concerning camp organization and direction, and they work closely with the camp director, Mr. Smart.

Oswego has an advisory committee that works with theirs, and they have set up recreation, education and business sections, so that both the shelter and the city may profit by their contacts. Volunteers come out to teach English; but since most of the people in the shelter are professional people and frequently have many talents, they, too, have much to offer to the community. After lunch, for instance, an opera singer from Yugoslavia sang for us, and I have rarely enjoyed anything more.

I was much touched by the flowers which were given me, and especially by some of the gifts, for these, in the absence of money, represented work. One talented young woman had put a great deal of work into her temporary home. Although clothes have to be hung on hooks in the wall, she had covered them with a piece of unbleached muslin, and up above had painted and cut out figures of animals, stars and angels, which were placed all over the plain surface to become a decorative wall covering.

Brightly colored pictures from magazines and papers had been cut out and pasted elsewhere on the walls, and colorful covers had been made for their beds. The effort put into it speaks volumes for what these people have undergone, and for the character which has brought them through. Somehow you feel that if there is any compensation for suffering, it must someday bring them something beautiful in return for all the horrors they have lived through.

September 23, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Friday)
Beginning September 24, all the religious communities of America, regardless of faith or denomination, will cooperate with other local service organizations in a drive for the emergency collection of clothing for Europe.

As each new country is liberated, the military occupation must be supplemented by the governments of the liberated lands and by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration set up by the 44 United Nations. With winter coming on, there will be a great need for warm clothing in all these countries; and so this collection has been instituted in the hope of sending 15 million pounds of clothing to be distributed wherever the need is greatest.

Dr. Leslie B. Moss, executive secretary of the Church Committee on Overseas Relief and Reconstruction, Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, reported 120,593 churches, representing 21 Protestant denominations, are cooperating in this collection. Archbishop Mooney, chairman of the board of trustees, War Relief Services of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, reported that 16,000 Catholic charities have responded to the appeal. And Mrs. Joseph M. Welt, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, reported 3,728 temples and synagogues have pledged full cooperation.

The articles urgently needed for both winter and summer wear are infants’ clothing, especially knit goods; men’s and boy’s clothing, including work clothes and overalls; women’s and girl’s clothes; and blankets, sheets, pillowcases and quilts. This list would seem to give all of us a chance to donate something.

A violent thunderstorm last evening made it impossible to hear anything over the radio. This is always disappointing when speeches are being made during a campaign. I read both Governor Dewey’s and Vice President Wallace’s speeches today, and there is one thought in the latter’s speech which I think we should emphasize.

The Vice President said:

There shall never be a return to the normalcy of yesteryear – to normalcy for the few and subnormalcy for the many. We welcome – yes, we shall fight for something we have never had – the normalcy of the good life for everybody.

If we learned nothing else after the last war, we must have learned one thing – there is never any return to conditions of the past. We must be prepared to meet new conditions in new ways.

September 25, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Sunday)
In Oswego, New York, the other day, a local newspaper publisher told us with some pride about the rumor clinic which his paper had established there.

As he described it, the clinic works out very well. For example, when cigarettes are hard to buy in town, and someone begins to ask whether the shortage is due to the fact that they are all being bought by the refugees at Fort Ontario, this item is published in the paper and the real answer is given. The real answer, of course, is that the cigarette shortage exists almost everywhere, and is not due to any local condition!

The Oswego advisory committee feels that the newspaper clinic has stopped many rumors which might have caused friction between the people of the city and the people living in the refugee shelter.

I can’t help thinking that something of this kind in every community in the United States might be wonderfully useful. For instance, a friend of mine who is traveling around the country tells me that people come up to him constantly and say: “We know that you are a Democrat. You must be so concerned about the President’s health. We hear that he is desperately ill.”

When the President went on his recent trip, which took in Hawaii and the Aleutians, I accompanied him as far as San Diego. I had just returned, when I received a letter telling me that the writer heard the President had been very ill in San Diego, and had been taken on board a ship to be operated on!

For security reasons, at the time, I could say only that I knew this tale was untrue. Now that he has been to Québec and back, I hope everyone realizes that the people who spread these rumors are not really concerned about the President’s health. They are working to create an impression which they think will serve their interests.

Of course, I realize that it is easier to spread rumors now, when a certain amount of secrecy has to be maintained because of wartime conditions. But I think rumor clinics in every town and village would help to break us of the habit of repeating things which we are not really sure are true.

It is said that gossip is the vice of women. Yet I have lived nearly sixty years, during which I have spent a good part of my time with men, and I have not found that they are any less quick to repeat things about which they know little and which they have not verified. When it comes to gossip about people, I have often wondered if the curiosity of the male members of the family was not one of the real reasons why the ladies gather their little items of scandal to retail at home!

September 26, 1944

New York – (Monday)
While on the subject of rumor and gossip, I would like to mention one persistent rumor which has come to me in many different forms ever since early last summer. It has absolutely no foundation in fact.

The first I heard of it was when I received several letters saying that certain marines were writing home from the Pacific that they had heard that I advocated six months’ quarantine for them after the war, because they would not be fit to associate with the “workers” at home.

In a later version, the marines were changed to army men who had been out in the Pacific. When I went down to the Caribbean, last winter, I met this same story everywhere. Instead of being about the men in the Pacific, however, it was about men in the Caribbean. Now, lo and behold, it turns up in my mail again, this time about paratroopers in the European area. In this version, I am alleged to have said that all “paratroopers are beasts and will have to be reeducated for living!”

Obviously, of course, anyone who thought about this would realize that I would hardly want my own boys to be quarantined. I have my own boys and other friends in every branch of the services, and they have served in nearly every area, though none of them happens to be a paratrooper.

The story does me no harm, of course. The people who spread it are evidently too stupid to realize that my only concern would be that such a story would hurt the men themselves. If our boys think that here at home the wife of the President, or any other woman, says or writes such arrant nonsense, they must be made extremely unhappy by it.

The men who fight this war deserve our respect and admiration and gratitude, and I know of no one who does not want them home as soon as it is possible for them to get here.

I came down to New York this morning to speak at the luncheon given by the Women’s Division of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, and to try, during this week, to do a number of things which have accumulated while I have been in the country.

I have spent some pleasant hours lately reading a little book by Margaret Halsey, called Some of My Best Friends Are Soldiers. It will not take you long to read, and you will find many a chuckle as you progress through the letters that make up the book. You will also find some good, hard common-sense hidden in the fun, and some serious thoughts to reflect upon as you sit before your fire and try to plan for a happy future.

September 27, 1944

New York – (Tuesday)
At the luncheon yesterday of the Women’s Division of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, a very wise plea was made, urging that thought be given to the needs for the future. I could not help thinking that all of our planning should be done on this basis. If we are able to give a little more this year than last year, or a little more than we think we will be able to give next year, we should put it aside, or the charity to which we donate it should put it aside in a fund to use in the future, when the needs may be greater.

Our foresight, however, should not be limited to our charities. It seems to me that we should be preparing now for all the contingencies that we can possibly foresee. Preparation in our communities for the return of our men should begin now, because the men are already coming back. They need, at present, all the services which we so glibly talk about their having in the distant future.

Every one of us should find out in our community, through the Selective Service Board, whether the machinery has been set up and a community leader chosen who will run an information and advisory service for returning soldiers. This should be available to the displaced workers as well. Some workers have uprooted themselves and gone to work in different parts of the country. During the period of plant reconversion, or when their particular work comes to an end, they may want to return to their homes, or to see about a different kind of work. They may then need an information service quite as much as the returning soldier may need it.

My letters yesterday were interesting. One of them, describing Paris the day after its liberation, told how the Americans were mobbed by joyous Parisians wanting to give their liberators all they had.

Workers for UNRRA are already in foreign countries, and the following excerpt from a letter written by one of them gives a faint idea of one type of work which they are going to be called upon to do.

It reads:

The full moon was a great help in the removal of several hundred mothers and small children to a cooler place in the pre-dawn hours today. The self-control of these people, who have been through so many tragic separations, is wonderful. Those already loaded into the lorries sang their rather mournful folk-songs from the mountains, while waiting for the rest to be loaded. There seems to be a common and spontaneous impulse to sing. The beauty of the moonlight on the desert will now always bring back to me the swaying lorries lumbering over the hill.

September 28, 1944

New York – (Wednesday)
Yesterday afternoon I had the great pleasure of a brief visit from Lily Pons and Andre Kostelanetz, her husband. I had asked them to come and tell me about the trip which they made to entertain our troops in Italy and the Near East. The heat, they said, was very intense for part of the time. They traveled at night, because travel in the sunny daytime was out of the question. Sanitary conditions, except in our camps, were nonexistent, and so they ate army food, drank army water and lived as our soldiers live, and both of them told me they had never felt better in their lives.

Lily Pons said that she did all her own laundry and pressing, which any woman will appreciate is no easy thing when you travel and have to give several performances daily. They have come home, however, with the feeling that the audiences were among the best they have ever known, and they think the American soldier is a very wonderful individual!

I told them how grateful the whole nation feels for their efforts and those of the many other artists. They assured me that just being with the troops was a reward in itself, and they are anxious to go again.

Later, Mr. and Mrs. Quentin Reynolds came in for a few minutes. I was delighted to meet Mrs. Reynolds, who knows some of my children, but whom I have never met before.

In the evening we went to see Song of Norway, which is an operetta based on the life of Edvard Grieg. It was altogether delightful and I enjoyed every minute of the evening.

I started my Christmas shopping in the morning, and though much still lies ahead of me, I could not help feeling very virtuous as I walked along, feeling quite warm and realizing how far away Christmas still is.

The Washington, DC, chairman of the “War Bonds for Babies” drive is Mrs. Nathan Hurwitz. She has set herself the task of trying to inspire the purchase of a bond for every child in every home in the District; and she hopes that other cities and rural districts all over the country will follow suit. A very attractive certificate is sent to each child bond-holder, decorated with all the favorite characters in the Walt Disney movies. As the babies grow, these bonds will grow in value. They are really a very good investment, and someday they may serve to remind some child, who has almost forgotten, that wars have been fought to give him a peaceful world and that these bonds were once part of the price gladly paid for the preservation of freedom.

September 29, 1944

New York – (Thursday)
I was reading a letter the other day from an army boy in England. He had been there only a short time, and he was noticing the shortages in food and the fact that women on the streets were poorly dressed. He was a little critical at first, until someone reminded him that England has been at war for quite a number of years, and that he would find even worse conditions in some of the other countries of Europe and Asia.

To be sure, some people always seem to come through any situation comparatively comfortably. They are usually the exceptions – like the lady who told me she impressed the sentry on the border between France and Spain so effectively that, even after the occupation, she was able to leave with 36 trunks! That certainly must have been an impressive eye she cast on the sentry.

For the most part, however, the people who have been through several years of this war are going to show signs of wear and tear. Complaints about civilian hardships in the United States must sound like luxury to the people who have been closer to the war than we.

Even though we read in the papers of the great military successes we achieve, we must not forget that they are achieved at a heavy cost. The men who are actually doing the fighting must sometimes wonder why we talk about looking for peacetime jobs, when there are still people needed in wartime occupations.

A letter came to me the other day explaining that a recent announcement stated that it would shortly be possible to release two to four million people for civilian production. When this time comes, we hope that the materials needed will be available, and that jobs in civilian production will be found by them through the U.S. Employment Offices. In the meantime, in this same communication, I read that 200,000 people are needed immediately for specific and urgent war jobs, requiring special qualifications. The articles to be made are needed by the armed forces, and at once. The U.S. Employment Offices will know what the requirements are, and before anyone looks for a job in civilian industry, he should be sure to find out if he can fill any of these requirements.

Directives have been issued by James F. Byrnes, Director of War Mobilization, and I am sure everyone will willingly cooperate. We know that men’s lives are saved today by having an abundance of superior war weapons, and we in this country care greatly that as many lives as can be saved, shall be saved. Every worker at his wartime job knows that he is contributing to the safety of some soldier when he expedites the making of better war material.

September 30, 1944

New York – (Friday)
Yesterday I called upon Madame Chiang Kai-shek, who is back in this country and, I am sorry to say, far from well. It is sad to see someone who has been through so many years of anxiety and is now suffering from the results. I hope that our climate will be beneficial to her. She tells me that in Brazil everyone was more than kind, but she did not seem to progress. Now she is back near the doctors who helped her before, and she hopes for rapid improvement.

Mrs. Rose L. Brown, national chairman of press and publicity for the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, has an editorial in the last issue of the Missouri Clubwoman which I think deserves the consideration of every woman. After every war in the past, monuments have been erected as memorials to the men who have died. Sometimes these memorials are beautiful, and we are glad to have them as a reminder of the service which our men have rendered in the past. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs suggests, however, that national parkways be built as memorial highways. In this way, communities would have a perpetually useful memorial which the living can use and enjoy, thereby really keeping alive the memory of the men who sacrificed that the rest of us could have a better world in which to live.

Last night I enjoyed attending the radio performance of the sailor’s play which won third prize in John Golden’s competition. There were a number of sailors and soldiers in the audience at Radio City, and they seemed to enjoy the half hour of entertainment.

Afterward, I went to Brownsville, Brooklyn, to a packed auditorium where they were holding a nonpartisan registration meeting, with many people standing in the streets outside. Brownsville has really done a grand job on block organization, and if their plans go through they should have almost 100 percent registration and voting. The women are largely responsible, and so the meeting last night was primarily for them. Various heads of organizations spoke, and they certainly gave convincing talks. No one left the hall, I am sure, without knowing that it was his duty not only to register and vote himself, but to see that his neighbors did likewise.

The other night I went to see Anna Lucasta, a play by Philip Yordon. They tell me that before it came to Broadway, it had a sad ending. To me, it is a sad play all through, and the new, pleasant ending seemed too unreal to have any connection with what had gone before. But it was well acted throughout, and afforded an interesting evening.

October 2, 1944

Hyde Park, New York – (Sunday)
Friday morning in New York City I visited two studios to see portraits of my husband. The first portrait, done by J. W. De R. Quistgaard, seemed to me very interesting. It had been painted entirely from photographs, but the artist explained to me that he had not tried to do a factual likeness; rather, he had tried to give the impression of the man as he thought of him. On the whole, the likeness was excellent, though the President’s face is more heavily lined today.

The other artist, Andre Durenceau, is a mural painter, but his portrait was a very small one. Also done from photographs, it was not quite so good a likeness, though a very interesting painting.

In the afternoon I went up to the Jules Laurents Studios at 2291 Broadway, to see an exhibition of war paintings done by men in the Army, and lent by the War Department to the Treasury Department. The Treasury Department plans to send this exhibition to moving picture theaters all over the country so that we Americans may see what the artists in our Armed Forces have seen and recorded. These paintings are a record of history – history which our boys are still making day by day. These paintings will help future generations to know what war is like. I think they will also mean a great deal to our own generation, since we at home need all the help we can get to understand what war is really like.

In this collection of paintings and drawings, I think the painting which meant the most to me was that of a soldier sleeping, done by Sgt. Albert Gold in England between May 1943 and February 1944. The utter weariness of the figure, the boy’s face in repose so sensitive, all drive home to you that there are many hardships in war besides the periods of actual battle.

I was, of course, particularly interested in the watercolors by Sgt. Olin Dows. They were done in England too, and I especially liked Crossing the Stream by Rope Bridge, which was done in the early period, and some done in the second period between March and June 1944. You may remember having read that Sgt. Dows not only paints, but brought in 50 prisoners single-handed not long ago in France. He is 40 years old, and is one of our neighbors here in the country. His murals in the post offices in Hyde Park and Rhinebeck are of historical interest, and add enormously to the charm of the small stone buildings where we collect our mail.

I came back to the country Friday night, and am sorry that I must leave here this afternoon.

October 3, 1944

New York – (Monday)
The captain of the WAC recruiting group in Poughkeepsie, New York, brought some of her staff to see the President’s library yesterday, and they had a picnic lunch with us on the lawn at the cottage.

They were such nice young people and the day was such a beautiful day, I could not help thinking how much we people here at home have for which to be thankful. No robot bombs to sail through the sky and make us wonder where they will strike, no hostile airplanes to watch. I wonder how anyone can complain because he cannot get butter, or the particular meat he wants. I do not happen to know where black markets exist, but if I did know, I would feel disloyal to the boys fighting for us in the far parts of the world, and to the young men and women serving here, if I bought anything in that way.

Early this morning a young man whom I saw at Walter Reed Hospital, last winter, came to see me. He is now working in Washington Square Park and he looks well and strong, but his ears will probably never be entirely well. He has one brother in the Pacific, and another in France. He showed me with pride a letter from the one in France. It was extremely well written, and showed that an infantryman can fight from hedgerow to hedgerow, and still see the country around him and understand the people whom he is helping to liberate.

The boy’s sisters have their husbands in the Army, too – one in the Air Force, and one who for nearly three years has been in the Pacific. This is just an ordinary American family; but what a wonderful record, and how much we civilians owe to these men who have met the call of their country so magnificently!

Someday in the near future, we hope an armistice will be signed and peace will come to the bloodstained continent of Europe. Many people here are worried that on that day we will forget our war is only half won, and that while American boys are fighting and dying in the Pacific, we can have no great celebrations. Many people are meeting, therefore, to discuss what shall be done on V-E Day. One of my friends, who is a well-known theatrical producer and who has written many songs which are household favorites, has written a jingle to keep us steady on our jobs. It goes as follows:

It’s not a time for booze and bar,
This coming V-E Day;
Just make a church of where you are,
And kneel right down and pray.

October 4, 1944

Washington – (Tuesday)
I spent most of yesterday at Mitchel Field, visiting the debarkation hospital, having lunch at the hospital mess, and attending and speaking at the show which is given every Monday afternoon in the Red Cross room.

Men from the European theater are being flown back here as quickly as possible when it becomes apparent that they cannot be restored in a short time to duty. A story in the New York Times yesterday showed one of our hospital camps in England where men who have been only slightly wounded are being reconditioned for service. No one can go to Mitchel Field and not come away with a deep sense of pride in the men themselves, and also of gratitude to the doctors and nurses who do such a magnificent job.

It is, of course, a satisfaction to them to feel that they can alleviate the suffering which is the result of war. Nevertheless, I often wonder how they bear the constant strain of human tragedies which they have to be in touch with day in and day out. Just walking along the street the other day, I passed a theater where the crowd was streaming in, and there stood a group of sailors. Among them was a boy with a cane and his hand on another boy’s arm. His face had that sad, blank look of a recently blinded person, and it has haunted me ever since. I know they say that once the blind are taught, they become very independent and are, on the whole, happier than the deaf; but it is a comparison which I find hard to make. If you are young and face a long life with either handicap, it seems to me that it requires a tremendous amount of courage.

I attended a meeting last evening, then took the night train to Washington. This marks my real return to Washington for the winter season. The summer in the country has been a very busy one, with approximately eight children to keep me company a good part of the time, and a very important gentleman coming frequently, and no inconsiderable number of other guests. Life has been different from life here, but never dull or unoccupied.

Today is filled with appointments. I am always surprised at the number of people one can see during the course of a single day, and of course, I have met with my press conference. The mail is taking on quite monumental proportions, and Miss Thompson and I, wherever we go, find ourselves with several hours of work on our hands just attending to the daily mail. If the days are filled with seeing people, long hours of the night have to be put in on reading and deciding what to do with letters; so it is good to have had time in the country, because you do come back to an ever busier city life with added zest!

October 5, 1944

Washington – (Wednesday)
I have spent the entire morning at a session of the Conference on Rural Education, which is being held here in the White House, and I am afraid that as these sessions take place both morning and afternoon, my column will have to deal largely with this subject.

Two outstanding speeches were made this morning, one by Howard A. Dawson, director of Rural Service, National Education Association, and one by Murray D. Lincoln, president of the Cooperative League of the United States, and executive secretary, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

The problems of rural education are, of course, many. One basic point is the fact that 48 percent of our children live and are educated in rural areas, while the income in those areas is usually lower than in urban areas. There are still 108,000 one-room schools in this country, and 25,000 two-room schools. Teachers in these schools should be far better trained, and therefore receive higher salaries, than teachers in city areas, because they teach a variety of ages and subjects. Instead, they are usually poorly paid, and so have less training. The average teacher’s salary in places where the population is more than 2,500 is approximately $1,900 a year. The average for rural schools throughout the country is under $1,000 a year, sometimes sinking as low as $300 a year for certain minority groups.

The war situation has closed many rural schools, because teachers are unobtainable. In addition, the number of teachers now being trained is greatly reduced. It has meant, in many cases, the granting of emergency certificates to people who are unqualified. Frequently, in the poorer paid schools, the educational level of the teachers is limited by the fact that they have not gone beyond high school, and sometimes not beyond grade school.

The organization of school administration throughout the nation, moreover, should be changed, and many state laws which at present put a premium on poor organization should be altered. For instance, in some places the school districts are poor, and therefore get state aid. If several poor districts consolidate, however, they are rated differently and get less state aid. As a result, there is no incentive to consolidate and get better teachers and a better school.

I think one important point was made by the editor of one of the farm papers. He said: “If what is being said at this conference could go out to farm communities, in understandable language, in their own papers, it would be more effective than all the pamphlets sent out by educational groups, or those many articles in metropolitan papers.” I am convinced of this; but farm papers and country weeklies are governed largely by what the people want to read, just as the larger papers are. I think the point to be remembered, therefore, is that this material must be in the form which will appeal to farm people as interesting reading.