Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (1945)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1, 1945

WASHINGTON (New Year’s Eve, 1944) – This is New Year’s Eve. In a press conference some time ago, I was asked what was my wish for this New Year’s Day and, like every other person in this country and in many other countries in the world, I said: “That the war may end soon.”

None of us will be thinking of anything else, but perhaps we can think primarily of how we can do our part better in helping the war effort – perhaps by not complaining if things seem to us a little trying at times, and we do not quite see the reason why certain things are as they are; perhaps by working a little harder at whatever our jobs may be; perhaps by thinking a little more of the men who have already done their service in the war and are coming back into civilian life.

January 2, 1945

Washington – (Monday)
Our New Year’s Eve party was a rather small one, and practically no one here at the White House was without some people at the front in whom they had a very deep concern. So at dinner and again at midnight, we drank a toast to all the men in the services anywhere in the world, and specifically to those whom we, as friends gathered together on this New Year’s Eve, held constantly in our thoughts.

After dinner we saw the film based on Maj. Ted Lawson’s book, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. The picture follows the book very closely and is, I think, a very good film. I am afraid there were very few dry eyes in the audience when it came to an end.

I missed part of it, as I had to go to two USO parties, but I was gone only a short time. First I visited the Uline Arena where, under the auspices of the USO-NCCS Clubs, a tremendous party for servicemen was being held. The Navy furnished the music, and I went up on the band stand to say a few words to the crowd of boys in uniform and the girls gathered there. It seemed to me that most of them were not in a very carefree mood, and so I hope that my rather serious words did not strike a jarring note. One simply cannot be merry just now! I could at least wish wholeheartedly with them for a happier New Year.

After leaving there I went to the colored USO on Georgia Avenue, and spent a few minutes with them. I hope very much that the year to come for all our servicemen will see such advances that next year they can truly be home in greater numbers and see the day of peace actually dawning.

So little has the New Year spirit entered into me that I have actually forgotten to say happy New Year to many of the people I have seen this morning. Nevertheless, I am really hopeful that the coming year will be met by all of us in a spirit of such determination to devote ourselves to the winning of the war that we will earn from our fighting forces great respect for what is achieved on the home front.

Yesterday, in the New York Times magazine section, there were two very excellent articles. One told of the improved care given our wounded men in hospitals. The percentage of recovery for those who reach hospitals is very encouraging. I think every mother and wife will get some comfort from this article, and I thought it ought to increase our sense of gratitude and appreciation of the courage and skill of our medical services. The other one was an article by Drew Middleton on the attitudes of the soldiers themselves and is, I think, very interesting. Taken with the articles coming out in PM by Alexander Uhl and Roi Ottley, it gives one a very good picture of the thinking of the man who is spending so many years of his young life away from his country under battle conditions.

January 3, 1945

Washington – (Tuesday)
From my mail I gather that a number of people are afraid that we will lose sight of the main objective for which we and our allies are today fighting – namely, winning the war against Germany and Japan. I think it is well for us to remind ourselves in every one of the Allied countries that that is our main objective, and that everything else can wait.

We knew when we joined our allies that we had different backgrounds and different philosophies on a number of subjects because of our different historical backgrounds and the different conditions in our various countries. We in this country, however, knew that if we didn’t join with our present allies there might come a day when we would be fighting here on our own land against the Germans and the Japanese; and so, to prevent the destruction of our own homes, we entered the war. We should discourage action anywhere on the part of any of our allies which leads to diverting our strength or thought from our main objectives.

Boundaries can wait for the future. Governments anywhere should be only provisional, and questions which have no real importance to any of us at the present time should be left for settlement until after the war. Until our enemies, the Germans and Japanese, are beaten once and for all, the emphasis should be entirely on what we fight for together, not on what our future aims may be.

Awaking this morning to a clear, bright sunny day, after all the recent rain and fog, made me feel I must get out for a walk early, even though it was so cold I hated to get up! There were not many people walking along the streets when I did get out, about 9:30. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how quickly everybody was moving along. There was no dawdling, and I found myself taking deep breaths on the theory that that was the best way to keep warm. Even the cold could not prevent one gentleman, however, from living up to what I am sure is a daily habit. He stood with bare hands coaxing a squirrel to take something from his fingers. I marveled at his patience, because over and over again the squirrel would almost reach up and then retire; but the gentleman kept right on until, as I was passing out of sight, I saw the squirrel actually take the nut.

Last night we played a foolish game of cards with the children, at which two of us were consistent losers. I cannot say that I have much luck at any kind of games. In fact, if I win it is really quite an occasion. But my daughter remarked that this was an occasion anyway, because it was the first time this winter that I had played with them for an hour after dinner. I suddenly realized that it was the first time I had not had to work on the mail, having been free all afternoon and able to finish before dinner!

January 4, 1945

Washington – (Wednesday)
We had a real treat yesterday. A young man now in the Army had written to me about some writing which he hoped to do in the future, and sent me copies of the camp paper he is editing. As he was home on furlough, I invited him to lunch.

In the course of conversation, it turned out that he had worked with Paderewski, and so we asked if he would like to see the piano on which this great artist practiced when he stayed here. Afterward I asked our young man to play on the piano in the East Room, which is so rarely used nowadays since we no longer have musicales or evening entertainments. It was really a treat, and was much enjoyed by one of my other guests, a boy back from the Pacific who brought the President a war club which was a gift from the head of one of the villages in British Samoa.

In the evening, young Col. Hoover, who is one of our son Elliott’s pilots, brought his new wife to dine with us. The colonel had not gone back with the rest of the crew because he decided to get married, but he will follow them after a brief leave. Out of the whole crew, only one enlisted man and one officer went back unmarried, which shows, I think, the urge that the men who go overseas have to leave someone waiting just for them on this side of the ocean.

A group of student veterans of World War II, who are at present studying at George Washington University under the vocational rehabilitation and the G.I. Bill of Rights programs, came in at 7 o’clock to see a movie. Afterward they came up to the State Dining Room for refreshments, and we all sat around and talked for a while.

After an early lunch today, Mrs. Henry Morgenthau Jr. and I are going to New York City. Tonight, we are going to the play, but I will tell you more about that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I want to tell you about a very lovely Christmas card from the Rev. Frederick Brown Harris, pastor of one of our Washington churches. The first two paragraphs struck me as something we might all find comforting in these days, so I pass them along to you:

In the year 1809, with Napoleon on the march, men’s feverish thoughts were on the latest news of the war. And all the while, in their own homes, babies were being born. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking of battles.

In that very year, in the birth lists, were written the names of Gladstone and Tennyson and Oliver Wendell Holmes and Darwin and Abraham Lincoln and Chopin and Mendelssohn and Samuel Morley and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But nobody thought of babies. Everybody was thinking of battles.

January 5, 1945

New York – (Thursday)
This morning I visited the Metropolitan Vocational High School. An old acquaintance, Franklin J. Keller, is the principal of this school, which is pioneering in maritime education. The boys who leave this school are prepared to serve in the merchant marine, and during the war they are also acceptable to the navy.

After graduation they may go from here to the Merchant Marine Academy. But they may also go to college, and if they wish they may go immediately to work on shipboard. Many of the graduates have already made names for themselves as heroes on merchant ships in various parts of the world, and many others are working in occupations on land connected with shipping.

At 1 o’clock I reached Mrs. William Sporborg’s for a lunch given in honor of Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt. To those of us interested in international affairs, Mrs. Catt is still an inspiration and a leader, and many of the women doing active work today can look back upon the first steps undertaken under her guidance.

I can remember very well how proud I was to be included with her as one of the people whom Mrs. Elizabeth Dilling considered dangerous a good many years ago, when her book, The Red Network, first appeared! I had not yet learned in those days that one’s enemies may be a great asset, but I felt quite sure that if I shared mention with Mrs. Catt, even if it was meant to be derogatory, it must be a privilege and an honor.

I am happy to have been included as one of Mrs. Catt’s friends at this lunch, and just seeing her will make me go back to Washington full of the desire to work on some of the things which she still feels are important.

Last night, Mrs. Morgenthau and I saw A Bell for Adano. This is the play by Paul Osborn based on John Hersey’s novel, with Frederic March as Maj. Joppolo and Margo as Tina, the charming daughter of the old fisherman who has to be made to believe in democracy before he will go fishing again. I thought all the parts were very well taken, and the play improved as it went along. In the first act I felt that there might not be enough in the story to tie it together and keep a sustained interest, but I was wrong. The play is good drama, and even the little speeches on democracy, which one might think would be difficult to make impressive, brought applause from the audience.

I liked the book so much that I was afraid the play would be a disappointment. I can report that it is good entertainment, and I think it is something no American can afford to miss.

January 6, 1945

Washington – (Friday)
I was sent a clipping today which criticized the fact that any civilians, such as members of Congress or others, were being allowed to visit near the fighting fronts. (This was doubtless meant for me.) Only entertainers were omitted. The writer was particularly harsh on Mrs. Luce.

It seems to me that this type of criticism is foolish. Nothing can be more valuable for us in this country, on whose soil the war is not being fought, than to have people whom we trust bring us first-hand information as to the conditions of the soldiers at the front and of civilian populations in liberated areas.

Members of Congress who deal with military affairs have a right and an obligation to see things at first hand. The only criticism that is valid, I believe, is a suggestion as to the way in which these trips should be taken. Arrangements may be too comfortable, and yet the people who take the trips would often like to think that they were enduring some of the same hardships which the men endure. The blame, if there is any blame, attaches to those who arrange the trips and are anxious to provide special comforts. Naturally, no one interested in the conduct of the war wants to see anything diverted from war use. Most people would rather be uncomfortable.

If those who criticize so freely, however, would think of the value that might be derived from first-hand observation on the part of people who have the power to do certain things when they come home, I feel sure that the criticism would be more discriminating and the praise of those who are willing to go and see would be greater.

Yesterday afternoon at tea time I saw an acquaintance who is just back from Russia. She is a correspondent for one of our papers and traveled a good deal. I asked her particularly about the place which Russian women are taking, not only in the army and in the factories, but in executive and administrative work. She told me that except at the very highest level, where places are held almost entirely by military men, women are participating far more actively than they are in this country, and many women are represented in the Supreme Soviet from every part of the United Soviet Republics.

Russian women have been told that our women are not very active over here. I hope we can have more interchange of information. Life is very hard in Russia, and they do not reach perfection in their aims any more than we do in ours. Yet, having seen on their own soil what domination by Germany means, there is no weakening of determination to fight through to a complete victory.

January 8, 1945

Washington – (Sunday)
I was very much interested today in talking to Judge Anna Moskowitz Kross, who is to be chairman of the Committee on Youth Conservation of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The committee is not only going to study the whole situation of youth in this country which has led to increased juvenile delinquency, but is going to try to do something about it.

The consciences of American men and women seem really stirred. Shortly there will be held in New York City a conference sponsored by a number of agencies concerned with family welfare, where the best interests of the family will be discussed, having in mind, naturally, the best development of the child.

On Tuesday, January 9, the Public Education Association and the New York Times will hold the first of three meetings at Times Hall. At these meetings some of the country’s leading educators will discuss child educational problems growing out of the war and try to forecast some of the problems we may expect in the postwar period. Some of the speakers will be President Dodd of Princeton University; President Day of Cornell; U.S. Commissioner of Education, John Studebaker; President Johnson of Howard University; President Warren of Sarah Lawrence College; Dr. George Zook, president of the American Council of Education; and Senator Lister Hill.

These speakers seem to me to promise a discussion of some of the most difficult questions facing us in education today, and I am very glad that so many responsible organizations are focusing on the ways and means by which we can prevent juvenile delinquency. It is so much better to prevent it than to wait until it has come about and we have to try to cure it.

We have been hearing a good deal lately anent the sad tale of the matches. Good people, you are probably not going to be able to get “strike-on-the-box” matches, or the paper book matches for use here at home. One hundred percent of the former and 35 percent of the book matches will be going to our boys overseas in the next six months. Be calm, however; you will still have matches, and they will be the matches all of us who have reached the ripe age of 60 can remember using in the days when we were young. Men and women of America can certainly revert to the use of these matches, and there will be 200 billion or thereabouts available. They are known as “strike anywhere” matches or kitchen matches. We kept a box hanging near the fireplace and the stove when I was young, and there is one right this minute by my open fireplace in the sitting room of our New York apartment.

It is a little harder to carry them around, perhaps, but it will give us a chance to look up any pretty boxes which are the right size. Then we can tuck them away in our pockets or handbags – so this is one shortage we can all cheer up about.

January 9, 1945

Washington – (Monday)
We had a most delightful surprise yesterday. Dave Rubinoff, who is appearing at the Capitol Theatre for the second time in three months, telephoned over and offered to play for us in the evening. We happened to have a few people staying in the house. Everyone enjoyed hearing him, and I was very grateful.

It happened also yesterday that at luncheon we had the pleasure of having Mrs. Alice Rogers Hager, who has been for a few months in China for the magazine Skyways, and who had seen a good deal of my Red Cross friend, Miss Coletta Ryan. It was most interesting getting first-hand impressions and hearing of the little things in daily life which, as a rule, people do not consider important enough to write about.

In the evening another newspaper correspondent, Mrs. Ella Winter, who spent six months in Russia for the New York Post, dined with us and again gave us first-hand impressions which were most interesting.

Someone sent me an amusing clipping the other day on “What People Are Thinking,” by Elmo Roper of Public Opinion Survey fame. He tells some of the curious quirks which illustrate our lack of information or our complete misinformation on many things that most of us assume everybody knows about!

One of the items which Mr. Roper picks out is that 51 percent of our high school students, tested in one survey, were unable to name either of the U.S. Senators from their state. Curiously enough, I had a similar experience in teaching current events some years ago. I suggested that my class take a number of questions home dealing with their representatives in various branches of government, and find out the answers. Parents are obviously one of the first sources of information. In my rather small class of ten or twelve, only one child could tell me the names of her two U.S. Senators from New York State. Another child blandly told me she had been able to find the name of only one, and that was Senator Borah!

Senator Borah at that time was very much in the public press, and the fact that he was the U.S. Senator from Idaho was probably mentioned at least once a day.

There are many other obvious things cited by Mr. Roper which make one wonder whether the great majority of people really read their newspapers and whether, when they listen on the radio, they take in much of what they hear. Today this is rather serious, as the public questions to be decided on are going to affect each and every person in his daily life. If people make up their minds without adequate knowledge, prejudice which has come to them from former generations will many times be the only factor considered, and the chance of making an intelligent decision is pretty small.

Tomorrow I will quote from a letter which will illustrate this fact.

January 10, 1945

Washington – (Tuesday)
Here is the quotation I promised you yesterday, to illustrate the point I made about prejudices and lack of knowledge.

“Why not write a column on where the British troops are?” my correspondent asks. “Since they were given leave to go home to increase the English population, you hear no more about them. Is theirs permanent leaves? It sure seems like it! Why do our boys have to fight alone in this war the British got us into?”

The writer seems to have forgotten that the British had nothing to do with our going into the war. It was the Japanese attack on our islands at Pearl Harbor that took us into the war, and the Germans later declared war on us. The British have been fighting on every front with us steadily, and they have had fewer leaves for their troops considering the length of time they have been on various fronts. Even out in the Pacific, the Australians and New Zealanders are fighting side by side with us.

By now you would think there would be no one left in this country who thinks that the British got us into this war. In fact, you would think Pearl Harbor Day would settle that once and for all. But no one is so blind as a person who does not wish to see. As I said yesterday, prejudice inherited from our ancestors will often lead us by the nose if we do not make up our minds to face facts as they are and to obtain knowledge.

I think it has been desperately hard for our soldiers to fight for us so far away from their own shores. It is easier for men to fight on the ground which they love, for they can feel that, step by step, they are defending their own homeland. Yet while this has been harder for our men, it has made it infinitely easier for us here at home. It makes it possible for us to gripe about the little things because we do not know what the big things would be like.

The sooner we face up to the fact that this is our war, and that we owe our men more because they kept it away from our shores at a cost of greater hardship to themselves, the sooner we at home will do the job which other men and women civilians have done and are doing all over the world. They probably do not like it any better than we do; but they know what war on their own doorstep is like, and that makes it easier for them to face their own great hardships. No one can imagine the loss and suffering of those whose dear ones die or are wounded in combat, and that has come to many, many homes in this country. But as civilians in our daily lives, we are not enduring the hardships of nations nearer the war.

In case you have not seen it, there is a publication by the U.S. Camera Publishing Corporation which is worth your looking through. It is called Born Free and Equal, and the text and photographs are by Ansel Adams. It is one of the publications designed to temper one of our prejudices, and I think it does it very successfully.

January 11, 1945

Washington – (Wednesday)
I had the pleasure yesterday of having the Hon. Fred M. Vinson and the Hon. Marvin Jones lunch with me. This talk, together with explanations which OPA Administrator Chester Bowles has given me, helped me to understand not only some of the difficulties which confront them in getting us properly clothed and fed during the war period, but to understand some of the hard work which goes into the making of decisions.

They often disagree as to method, and over long months have to thresh out things which we look upon as being sudden and arbitrary decisions. Many actions have their roots in conditions which have been going on for weeks.

For instance, the recent cancellation of points was practically forced because there was such an accumulation of them out, and such a reduction in the actual supplies available. It worked hardship on thrifty housewives who perhaps planned and saved points to give the boys on furlough an extra feast, or to care for invalid diets or similar situations. Yet, sudden buying might have worked much greater hardship on a great many people in the country.

I think it is well for us all to know that the first thing done is to take out the army and navy needs from all of our supplies. Then come the things which must be provided on lend-lease. The remainder is allocated as fairly as possible to civilians at home. When I say as fairly as possible, I mean that a great deal of thought goes into what is rationed and what is left free, and what will really make it fairest for the largest number of people.

The accumulated points, of course, were largely in the hands of people who are working and who eat out – people who perhaps have only breakfast at home, with now and then a grand meal on a Sunday. Or, they were in the hands of farm people who grow most of their food and did not use their points.

Fortunately for our total supply, a great many people last year had Victory gardens and put up a great deal of food. That has been of inestimable help. However, with the best will in the world, human beings sometimes make mistakes. Everyone’s judgment at some time goes wrong. Every effort is being made not to let any food go to waste, but now and again it will happen. Then we want to remember, in the midst of our annoyance, that the men in charge are doing the very best they can and are working day and night over their problems.

Just as a light note to finish this rather solemn column, I’d like to urge upon you, if you haven’t seen it, to get a book called Babies and Puppies Are Fun!, by Becky Reyher, with drawings by Henry Stahlhut. I never before saw the similarity between the two so delightfully illustrated, and I don’t think you can look through the book and not have several good laughs – and who doesn’t want to laugh in these days?

January 12, 1945

Washington – (Thursday)
At luncheon yesterday, some of the people deeply interested in the nursing situation talked over the problems with a view to seeing exactly what the situation is.

It is apparently true that a number of girls in the cadet nursing service have not volunteered for work in the armed services. However, while these girls are in training they do relieve the shortage in our civilian hospitals, and it is hoped that a great many will continue to enroll. They help at home, in any case, and therefore release a certain number of registered nurses who may be able to leave home. The training does give every girl a profession and prepares her better for home life and child care in the future.

The general feeling seemed to be that the military needs will have to be filled very largely from among the nurses who are doing private duty. The number doing this type of work has gone up of late, because some people have bigger incomes today than they had in the past and can afford to have trained nurses where it might not have been possible some years ago. The hospitals are having a hard time and probably can furnish no more nurses to the armed services. But industries have come to realize in the last few years the value of employing nurses, and it may be possible to substitute women with less training for some of the work which nurses are now doing in industrial plants, offices and mercantile establishments.

Nurses who are drafted, of course, will begin as privates, whereas those who go in through the Red Cross as volunteers at once obtain a commission. There has been a change made also in the army rules. A nurse now has rank comparable to an officer, and not what was known as “relative rank,” which nobody can quite define! The navy now allows its nurses to marry. Of course, when the war is over all officers will go down in rank and so will the nurses, but many of them will want to return to private practice or to civilian hospitals or public health work.

I found that most of the women present at this lunch believed with me that a national service act which covered all women, as well as all men, would be preferable to drafting one group among the women. I wish, of course, we had done this at the very start of the war, and I hope very much that if such an act is passed the age limit will be 65 for women. I feel sure many women would like to feel that they are part of the war effort. Under a national service act, if they are told to continue keeping house or doing the work they are now engaged in doing, they will feel that they are essential, and that will be a satisfaction.

Last evening, some of us went to the National Symphony Orchestra concert. We heard Helen Jepson sing charmingly, and enjoyed every minute of the evening.

January 13, 1945

Washington – (Friday)
I spent all day yesterday – morning, afternoon and evening – at the meeting of the Southern Education Foundation, Inc. This is a group under which the Jeanes teachers work, and there is no group of teachers for whom I have a higher regard.

The Jeanes teachers rarely confine themselves to one school. They are concerned with the school and the community. Trained in home economics, they help the women in the home to raise the standard of living. Naturally, they have to know about the techniques of teaching and the methods that are considered best at the present time. But their conception of education is that the life of the whole community is affected by it, and that good education is not confined to the schoolroom, but includes religion, recreation, the home and the farm. Their work is in rural communities, and one lone Jeanes teacher in the Virgin Islands has been doing a yeoman’s job.

Their concern, of course, is Negro education in the South, but it is of value to the whole community, since no part of it can suffer without the whole community suffering. Similarly, if any part of the community climbs upward it must push or drag the rest of the community along.

In the evening, the Rev. Mr. C. M. Gallop gave a talk on the founder of the Slater Fund. John Slater, a resident of Norwich, Connecticut, not only left his mark upon the New England town where he lived, but Negro people all through the South are still profiting from his interest.

I forgot to tell you a couple of days ago that I had a visit from Staff Sgt. Jack Kreismer, creator of “Judy the Jeep Girl,” who has been pronounced the most active paper doll on the home front. She, too, came to call and I became very much interested in all of her various activities. If you watch for her, you will know all the things that we can undertake to help the war effort. Judy started on the West Coast, where she “sold” bonds, and travelled all the way East by jeep. At present stationed in the nation’s capital, she is working under the War Finance Division of the Treasury Department, and is frequently drafted for other worthy causes. You will find her urging on blood donors at Red Cross centers, recruiting trained nurses for the armed services, and nurses’ aides for the hospitals.

Sgt. Kreismer told me Judy had confided to him that during the next two weeks her greatest effort will be focused on the Mile of Dimes campaign. She will help to open the drive on Saturday, January 13, and her slogan is: “Everyone must help. We must stretch that mile longer than ever this year, and then the aid to human suffering can be stretched that much further.”

January 15, 1945

Washington – (Sunday)
Yesterday at 12:30, I went down to the Capitol Theatre to open the Mile of Dimes campaign. Two cadet nurses were with me, and Commissioner Russell Young, as he has done for so many years in the past, officiated at the opening ceremonies.

It was a gray and intermittently rainy day, clearing up now and then for a few minutes and pouring down upon us in between times. But nothing seems to dampen the ardor of movie-goers, and the line outside the Capitol Theatre began to show the dimes dropping in as people made their way into the theatre! Afterward I went over to the Lincoln Colonnade Theatre, where there was another opening ceremony for the Mile of Dimes campaign.

In the afternoon I had an opportunity to talk for a little while with a group of union women who are going to Great Britain on an exchange visit. I am very glad that these representatives are going to have a chance to see what their fellow workers in Great Britain are doing. I think they will come back, however, feeling that the British government, because of the greater need for women workers, is more alert than we are in providing the services which are essential for the family when the woman goes to work outside the home. For example, there is still very little done in providing adequate eating facilities at our plants, shipyards and factories. In fact, when there is a cafeteria where the workers get hot meals, it is always shown with great pride as though it were a tremendous achievement, when actually it is essential.

Incidentally, I was recently told that women workers in the textile mills in some parts of our country are expected to work a full eight hours with no time off for lunch. In such cases, there is not even a question of providing them with an opportunity for a hot meal; they are simply given no time to eat at all. Many excuses and reasons are given for this, but the basic reason must be that many of us have not yet learned that human beings are not machines.

On Saturday afternoon, Hallett Johnson, Ambassador to Costa Rica, and Mrs. Johnson came to tea, and later a couple of young people came in. In the evening I had a buffet supper for the executive committee members of a group of World War II veterans meeting here in Washington.

This group is in the process of getting organized, and it represents only one small segment of our veterans, who are gradually joining together in small organizations throughout the country. Their problems are many, and I doubt if they are very well able to cope with them as yet. But since no permanent organization can be formed until several months after the war, when the great mass of veterans will be home, I feel that this period may be used as an educational one. It will enable many of them to find out what they really want to do in the future, with whatever organization may evolve.

January 16, 1945

Washington – (Monday)
Yesterday afternoon I went over with Secretary and Mrs. Morgenthau to the Corcoran Gallery of Art to see the exhibition of triptychs for the armed forces.

The Citizens Committee for the Army and Navy, Inc., which organized these artists to do religious pictures for use in camps, with units in the field, and on-board ship, has really done a remarkable piece of work. Thomas Watson gave them a grant which allowed them to send to Seabee groups a very beautiful altar painting done with their particular work in mind.

The various armed services make requests through their chaplains or their commanding officers, and then the organization tries to find someone to donate the cost. Many have already been placed, and I am sure that many more will be given.

Later in the afternoon a group of men from Walter Reed Hospital came in. As it was not too large a group, it was possible to talk to everyone, and we really had a very pleasant hour.

The first thing I did this morning was to meet some grandchildren at the train. Then, at my press conference, I asked Mrs. Lilian Mowrer to come and talk about the drive which is just beginning to increase the membership of the Women’s Action Committee. This organization is an outgrowth of the old Cause and Cure of War group, founded by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt. Mrs. Catt believed if we could draw in more and more women’s organizations and educate them to the need for peace and the factors which bring about bad feeling among nations, the women could accomplish a great deal and be an influence in the nation. With the coming of war, this type of study ceased to have very much point, and the Women’s Action Committee was the next step. These women intend not only to be informed, but to take action by using their influence on their own individual representatives.

Perhaps one of the first things that women might do is to spread that story which appeared in one of the newspapers the other day, warning us not to believe everything we hear over the radio or read in the papers, and citing the fact that an English voice talked over a German radio and gave a fake broadcast. Of course, the servicemen at the fronts must be very familiar with this technique. They even get to know the voices of people who speak on German stations, just as the men in the Pacific get to know the voices that speak on the Tokyo radio.

But when these things are picked up by newspapers and are believed at home, it makes for unfortunate misunderstandings. Should any individual or group by chance like to create a little trouble, acceptance of some of the Nazi propaganda as factual instead of as pure propaganda can create much trouble very successfully.

January 17, 1945

Washington – (Tuesday)
Yesterday afternoon I had a very pleasant call from Mrs. Charles B. Gilberg, Mrs. L. V. Price and Mrs. James E. Mectum, who had been attending a Patriotic Women’s meeting here.

They passed a number of resolutions, but as I talked to them, I gathered they were not entirely convinced that the future would justify all the things which might seem necessary at present. At the same time, I could not help thinking that one of the great advantages of our form of government is that we can make changes easily. If we do things at one time because they seem necessary, there is no reason why we cannot change later on when conditions change.

I had this feeling of uncertainty about some of the things being done at the present time when I talked, the other day, with a group of World War II veterans which was meeting here. Some of the members present for this executive committee meeting, I should judge, had been discharged because of the age limit. Some of them, therefore, had not been able to go overseas, and it seemed to me quite obvious that whatever organization they attempted would have to be on a very provisional basis. They could hardly represent the real youth who have fought this war, and who are now coming out of hospitals back into civilian life or will return when the war is over to take their place in the active shaping of affairs in the nation.

People in this country who are familiar with the winter climate in France, Germany, Holland and Belgium, as well as Northern Italy, must read the daily stories of the hard fighting going on in all these areas with a very deep sense of gratitude to the infantrymen. I understand that sometimes the men feel their job is not very much appreciated. All of us know that on every front the final victory is never assured until the infantry marches in. Those of us who give it any thought know that in many ways the infantryman’s job is the hardest and the most discouraging. He sits in the mud, he marches on his own two feet, he carries much of his own equipment, he makes his shelter if he has any, and he meets the enemy face to face.

In all the other services, it seems to me, brief let-ups are more frequent. For the infantry it is just grind, grind, grind. At this time of year, when I know so well that everything which climate can bring by way of discomfort is added to his daily job, I want to turn our thoughts to him in gratitude and appreciation.

Today at noon I am speaking to the newly organized Washington chapter of the Chaplains’ Association of the Army and Navy of the United States. Then I leave for New York City, to fill some speaking engagements tomorrow.

January 18, 1945

New York – (Wednesday)
I came on from Washington yesterday afternoon and spent a quiet evening at the apartment, because today will be a busy day.

My most important engagement is to speak at the Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations, Inc., at the Hotel Astor. During the morning Mrs. Isaac Gilman, of the Red Cross home nursing section, will speak, and I hope she will be able to persuade many people to take the home nursing course – particularly, many young people.

When I was young, I was fortunate enough to have a very wonderful nurse from St. Luke’s Hospital, Miss Blanche Spring. She took me in hand when my first baby was born, and came back many times when we had serious illness in the family. Gradually she taught, me how to do most of the things that are necessary when you have a large family of children, who are apt to have most of the children’s diseases and most of the accidents that fall to the lot of the active youngster. I learned what it is to be medically and surgically clean; how to make a bed and bathe a child in it; and to recognize certain symptoms and not to be frightened just because I didn’t know what they meant.

At the present time, when hospitals are overcrowded and nurses are hard to get, this home nursing course gives us the answers to many problems, and makes it possible to do more for our own families than we might otherwise be able to do.

Miss Mildred McDonald, of the Children’s Service Committee of Wisconsin, sent me a pamphlet written in 1900 by a pioneer in child welfare work. If you happen to feel weary, just read the following excerpt:

The economy of time is a great study in this work. The district superintendent must be always saving time and money by making one journey accomplish several things. For instance: The writer this week, by previous arrangement, left home at 3:30 p.m. with a boy of two years. At a station 15 miles away, having 30 minutes to wait, visited and took papers of guardianship for a little girl of four years two blocks from the depot. At a station 40 miles away, during the wait for supper, visited a child previously placed in the family of the depot agent. At 60 miles, met a minister of the town at the station and fixed a date for the presentation of the Society’s work in that town.

At 85 miles, placed the two-year old boy in the arms of a foster mother, who had driven in from the country and was waiting to receive him. At 145 miles, reached the limit of the district and met a boy of eight, sent in on a midnight train; caught the return train at 1:00 a.m. and was home at 7:00 a.m. Meantime had written and mailed a letter to a family saying that the eight-year-old boy would be sent them the next day, and prepared a page of notes for the Home Finder while on the train. Few people put more work, less sleep and greater variety of human talents into use in 17 hours of time. It requires careful study to do it.

January 19, 1945

Washington – (Thursday)
I had a very troubled letter the other day on the subject of the sale of 28,000,000 first-aid dressings by the Treasury Procurement Division, and though I know it has already been explained, I think so many were troubled by it who are working in the Red Cross that it will do no harm to tell them again the exact facts about these particular bandages. The Treasury Department report says:

The dressings were bought by the Army in 1942 as a part of the stockpile of medical equipment built to meet anticipated lend-lease needs. In purchasing for the stockpile, the Army provided centralized procurement for various lend-lease countries and assured rapid delivery of essential supplies. Purchases for the stockpile were made on the basis of the best information available on war needs. Eighty percent of the total lend-lease requirements were satisfied from this stockpile.

After the bandages were acquired, the anticipated heavy requirements for this item from lend-lease did not develop. At the same time, the Army shifted from the use of white to a brown first-aid bandage, as a result of its combat experiences. In the Southwest Pacific, white first-aid bandages made wounded men a target for snipers. Because of this, brown dressings replaced white in kits issued to troops in all theatres of operation.

Unwrapping the white first-aid dressings, dyeing the outside bandage and rewrapping and repackaging proved more expensive than to buy the brown bandages new.

These bandages were machine-made and designed for one purpose only, and therefore had almost no hospital use. They are not to be confused with dressings made by the American Red Cross, which are folded by hand and which are used primarily in surgery. There is still an urgent need for Red Cross bandages.

I got back from New York City this morning. A group of dramatists met with me yesterday afternoon to discuss the ways in which writers in this field could be of help to the public and to returning servicemen.

Last evening before going to the midnight train, I took some young friends of mine to see The Seven Lively Arts. Mr. Rose has certainly put on a wonderful show and Beatrice Lillie was as amusing as ever. There are so many people of fame connected with this play that one can’t mention some for fear of leaving others out, but one could never leave out Miss Lillie.

January 20, 1945

Washington – (Friday)
I arrived back in Washington yesterday morning and plunged into a vortex of inauguration preparations. I went to meet some grandchildren I had not seen for a long time, but their train was late and so I went back to the White House to talk with Mrs. Nesbitt, the housekeeper, and to change my morning appointments in order to meet the children at a later hour. But the train got later and later and finally I had to send Mrs. John Roosevelt to meet the children, since I had a luncheon engagement. I came back to find the grandchildren still at lunch with “grandpa,” so all was well.

Some of the grandchildren had not seen each other since they were too young to remember, and some of them have never met before, and it is amusing to watch the whole group learn to get on together. It is a little, however, like organizing a school and a hotel combined. I think the household staff and the ushers and the housekeeper deserve all the credit that we can give them for the way in which they meet these periods of great activity even in wartime.

Few people know anything about what getting out the invitations and checking lists for an occasion like this means to the clerical staff and the secretaries in the White House. They work early and late. The telephones ring incessantly, adding names, making changes in addresses, or asking for duplicates where tickets have been lost. It is rather rare that the reward earned by the secretaries, at least, is anything but impatience and misunderstanding and, in some cases, real irritation over the telephone or by letter!

Yesterday afternoon Dr. F. D. Patterson, president of Tuskegee Institute, came to tell me how happy they are over the progress which has been accomplished by joint fundraising for the Negro colleges. I hope that in the coming year they will be even more successful than the last.

At 4:15 we all gathered in the diplomatic reception room for the broadcast which annually starts off the infantile paralysis campaign for funds. Mary Pickford, who was to have been here, was ill, much to our regret, so Basil O’Connor took her place. Mrs. Helen Gahagan Douglas also spoke. But the real star of the occasion was little Margaret O’Brien. She is a sweet little girl and my grandchildren sat spellbound on the floor watching her broadcast. Afterward, all of them went up into the dining room to see what they could find that was good to eat on the table. Then little Miss O’Brien was whisked off to look at the dogs, and I think they would have gladly added her to their family circle!

January 22, 1945

Washington – (Sunday)
Inauguration activities begin the day before inauguration, and so on Friday we had a buffet lunch at the White House for the people who worked at campaign headquarters or in some of the other campaign committees. Then at 3 o’clock I received for an hour, greeting people whom the Democratic National Committee thought would enjoy getting a glimpse of the White House.

At 4 o’clock I was at the Women’s National Democratic Club, which held open house for the women who are here for the inauguration. A little after 5 o’clock, I stopped for a few minutes at Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Ewing’s reception for the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Robert Hannegan, and Mrs. Hannegan.

I went home to greet some grandchildren who were coming down from New York City, and at 7 o’clock I went off to the electors’ dinner, leaving the older grandchildren at a gala dinner with their grandfather, and very pleased to have him all to themselves. The electors’ dinner seemed to me almost a pre-war entertainment. I found it difficult to adjust myself, because at the last inauguration clouds hung heavily over our heads, even though we had not actually faced the realities of war; and now that these are always in the back of one’s mind, I find it very hard to get away from them.

Saturday morning all the grandchildren – even the youngest, Nina, aged two – came to the religious services in the East Room. I think this service more nearly met the needs of the day than anything else that followed. This is certainly a time when any human being must long for strength beyond his own, and for vision and courage which one can only pray for.

At noon we were all on the South Portico, the grandchildren down on the steps and the audience out on the lawn surrounded by snow. The ceremonies were short – shorter than ever before, I think – but very solemn and impressive.

At one o’clock we had a very simple buffet lunch for many guests, and at 4:30 the electors were received by the President and myself. At 5 o’clock I had a tea which lasted into late afternoon. At all of these occasions, Mrs. Truman received with me.

We had a family dinner in the evening, including the older grandchildren, and that was the end of a busy day.

Even during the purely social features, one carries a constant sense of the solemnity of an occasion such as this, occurring as it does while we are in the midst of war. Knowing the constant anxiety which thousands of people are going through day by day, and the tremendous problems that lie ahead of us, one feels the need for dedication to his task on the part of every elected or appointed servant of the people serving in government during this period.

January 23, 1945

Washington – (Monday)
Yesterday afternoon I went to the cathedral for the service held under the auspices of the Federation of Churches of Christ in America, in collaboration with the cathedral. The service itself seemed to me a very fine and fitting one for the times in which we live, but the sermon made a particularly deep impression on me.

The clergyman, Dr. Peter Marshall, of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, told us, first, to face our shortcomings as a people: our complacency, our apathy, our pride in our own achievements. Then he reminded us that righteousness is always a prerequisite to peace, and humbleness is a necessary attribute without which there can be no righteousness. He added that we must have peace at home if we hoped to help bring peace in the world.

There is only one way to have peace at home, and that is for the individual who wants peace not just to think of it in the abstract, but to realize that the desire must translate itself into daily action. Peace must enter into our business life and influence our contacts with every individual in the community. The old democratic teaching of the value of the individual human being, regardless of race, creed or color, and the need for equality of opportunity will have to be accepted before peace will come at home or abroad. This is a hard lesson for us to accept, and yet it must be learned before we can hope to accomplish anything on a worldwide basis.

At this morning’s press conference, Miss Charl Williams told the story of the roster of American women, and answered questions about it. This roster or list was compiled as a result of a meeting held in the White House last June. It does not pretend to include all the women available, but simply is a list which will be at hand for the use of any department wishing to find a woman qualified to be of service in some particular field.

Mrs. Esther Brunauer and Miss Dorothy Fosdick, of the State Department, came to talk to the press conference women about the Dumbarton Oaks plan, and the effort which the State Department is making to acquaint the people of the nation with the meaning of these proposals. Whenever possible, members of the State Department staff are addressing groups of key people from various organizations in different parts of the country, explaining the proposals made under the Dumbarton Oaks agreement, and answering questions.

I was very glad to see that my old friend, Louis Ruppel, had done a very complete job of publicizing the discharged serviceman’s pin some days ago in his Chicago paper. I hope that all papers will do the same, and if any change is made in the pin, I hope that this, too, will be given wide publicity.