Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (April 1940)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

April 1, 1940

San Francisco, Sunday –
Yesterday was a nice day. Miss Thompson came in by train from Chicago. We had a birthday celebration at lunch with all who had been together a year before when Johnny Boettiger arrived in the world. He sat in his high chair next to his father and a cake with white icing, lighted candles and “Happy Birthday” written on it, was carried in and put before him. We drank his health and made wishes on his candles, which obediently blew out at the proper time. Then his father cut the cake and his mother handed him the first piece. It had been baked by Katie, who can make angel food cake that melts in your mouth. Johnny looked at it doubtfully for a minute, but after one taste he tried to put the whole piece in his mouth at once. It required a napkin and a bowl of water to wash him clean again afterwards, but Sis and Buzz and all of us had a splendid time watching him enjoy his first party.

Afterwards, Anna, Tommy and I took a walk and really enjoyed seeing the spring. Forsythia, cherry and apple blossoms, shrubs and little plants were flowering in the woods we walked through. We could look across the lake and see white capped mountains in the distance. It was the kind of day that made us feel that Seattle would be a perfect place in which to live.

An early dinner, and then all of us went to the opening of the home show, which is sponsored by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer with other civic and commercial organizations. It was a finer show than the one I saw last year and big crowds were on hand for the opening. I enjoyed it very much, for I am always interested in all the things which improve our homes.

Afterwards, I read an article about two Seattle boys who have established a research bureau of their own to look into employment possibilities, and was interested to find that some of the products which I noticed especially last night were spoken of as opportunities for new jobs.

The floods in northern California made us come as far as San Francisco by air this morning. When I looked down at the country I could see the great damage which these floods have done. In many cases trees and houses seem to be surrounded by lakes, and fields are completely hidden under water. They tell me that a plan is under way which will take this excess flow down into the San Joaquin Valley, where it is sorely needed. I hope the plan will soon be an accomplished fact.

We left our family regretfully and the skies wept with us. We could not grieve for long, however, for we were anxious to see how Miss Thompson would like her first flight in five years. Luckily, she enjoyed it. Now we are in San Francisco for a few hours and will resume our trip to Los Angeles by train this evening.

April 2, 1940

Beverly Hills, Calif., Monday –
Our trip on the way down here was uneventful. No floods to detain us. Except for one young boy, we had no visitors in our drawing room. He came in very diffidently and handed me a piece of silver wrapping which smelled strongly of the chocolate it had once contained, and asked if I would write on it because it was all he could find and his sister wanted an autograph.

While our berths were being made up, we went into the lounge car and a group of rather youngish men were evidently returning after the close of the State Legislature to their various districts and celebrating the end of their arduous labors on the way. One young man who passed us, returned to inquire if I was Mrs. Roosevelt, and we chatted for a few minutes about his first term in the legislature. His friends were very insistent that he return to them and I think they probably thought that two old ladies had coralled him and were trying to keep him from spending a pleasant evening.

By the morning papers I see that the Governor of California may call the legislature back in extra session because of the needs of the flooded regions, so perhaps they were celebrating their liberty too soon.

Jimmy’s car met us this morning at the station and we went straight to the Hotel Biltmore for breakfast in the coffee shop and then to the press room for a press conference. By 10:30, we were at Jimmy’s apartment and, sad to say, we found that he will not be able to join us here. I am still hoping to see him before I leave the West Coast, but in spite of being very comfortable I miss him as host in his own house.

Plenty of mail greeted us and we were kept busy for an hour making plans for the next three days and sorting out what mail awaited us. All the work I did was to sign letters which came from Washington and then I started out to do some errands which ended up in Olvera Street. I could not be here and not at least walk through that street, for I am always interested to see how people there are getting on.

It looked bright and prosperous. We stopped at one little stand, attracted by the pretty pottery jars and the different kinds of orange jelly and marmalade, of which I sent some home. Mrs. Sterling came to greet us and walk the rest of the way with us. Then we hurried back to write this column, for distances are magnificent in this country and we must file three hours ahead of our usual time – a fact which I keep forgetting. I shall not be surprised if I receive a reprimand any day.

April 3, 1940

Beverly Hills, Calif., Tuesday –
The newspapers were not pleasant reading yesterday. We rejoiced in the spring, and were shocked to see blazoned forth that the good weather made it possible to fly over the Western Front in Europe. The list of planes shot down which followed gave me an utter sense of futility. As I drove along the street, I saw a headline on one paper saying “A Peace Pledge To Be Demanded of Roosevelt on April 6.” How unnecessary. Peace pledges should be demanded of their leaders by the people of nations at war. What good does it do to demand it of a leader who is entirely willing to give it?

A friend came to tea with us yesterday afternoon and then we had the pleasure of hearing some songs rendered for us by a Negro Choral Group. At 6:45, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Benjamin called for us and took us to their home for a quiet family dinner before taking us to our lecture. The forum here is always a stimulating group before which to appear. The question period is most interesting to me revealing as it does, an absorbed and thoughtful audience.

This column is being written before I start at 7:15 a.m. with Mr. and Mrs. Melvyn Douglas for the airport on a trip to some of the farm security camps. I could not get back in time to tell you of this trip today, so that will have to wait until tomorrow, but I can assure you that it seems like a very early hour to be up and on my way.

While on planes and trains these last few days, I have been going through a number of articles and books which have been sent me to read before I left Washington. I am going to recommend one small book to you, for I think it should be read by all thoughtful people and it will be a useful handbook in families and study groups. This little book is called Schools For Democracy. It is published by the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and it was compiled by Miss Charl Ormond Williams and Mr. Frank W. Hubbard.

I have always been an advocate of community forums and study groups because I believe that communities must know their own problems and learn how to do something about them if democracy is to be a success. This book is designed to give us knowledge about one of our most cherished institutions – our public schools. It tells how schools are organized and what part non-school agencies play in our our scheme of education. It shows that larger participation by the federal government is necessary in order to equalize opportunities between the poorer and richer sections of our country for the education of our children. I have always believed this and was particularly interested in the clarity with which this is stated in this book.

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April 4, 1940

Beverly Hills, Calif., Wednesday –
How can I paint for you the picture of yesterday? I told you then that Mr. and Mrs. Melvyn Douglas called for me at 7:15 a.m. at my son’s apartment, we drove to the airport and, with Mr. Paul Mantz as pilot, climbed into a little four seater plane and were off over the California mountains on our way to the San Joaquin Valley.

We could see the snow on the tops of the mountains merged in the green hills, which are very green just now because of the abundance of rain. Then the rich land of the valley lay beneath us, and our half hour in the air landed us in Bakersfield with its hundreds of oil wells. What a rich country! The most marvelous land where alfalfa can be cut six or seven times a year and almost anything will grow when you have water. In addition to all this, there is oil from which many people have made fortunes.

We were met at Bakersfield by M. L. E. Hewes Jr., the regional director of the Farm Security Administration, and several of his staff. I was anxious to get as complete a picture as possible of the conditions under which migratory workers are living and so visited first some squatter camps and some privately owned camps. Squatters pay no rent and may be moved at any time. Private camps are large pieces of land leased by an individual, who then re-leases it into lots about big enough to hold a tent and a car.

Some members of three families with whom I talked in the first private camp, had been driven out of a squatters’ camp. They all came from Oklahoma and before that might have come from a New England village. There were young women with their children and women who looked old before their time. But it seemed to me that there was a universal effort to make life as decent as possible under appallingly difficult circumstances.

I think the best example I can give you is that in a narrow strip beside one of the tents, I spied a small flower garden which was evidently tended with loving care. Even the children playing about it had committed no vandalism on this one little effort to bring beauty into drab surroundings.

You pay $5 a month for your lot in this camp because you get an electric light in your tent, without it you pay only $3. There are two outside toilets for the use of the 50 or more families. There are some hydrants from which you may draw water.

Space will not permit me to tell you more today, so I shall leave the rest until tomorrow.

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April 5, 1940

San Francisco, Thursday –
Here we continue yesterday’s description of my day in the beautiful valley. We saw another type of migratory labor camp, where the individuals own whatever they put up on a small piece of land. Here each one has his own water pipe, but it is frequently immediately next to the outside toilet. The shelter put up by the individual is built of boxes, scraps of tin, even bags; in fact, anything which can be picked up for nothing is used. When one individual moves out, he has the right to sell this strange conglomeration to another. One young man, who was sweeping in his yard, told me that he had moved in the day before and had paid $27 for what I saw. He, his wife and three children were planning to live there and he had a job! The potato harvest is about to begin. Men have been out of work a long time but now digging potatoes offers work again.

We visited the Kern County camp where the county authorities take some responsibility. The land is free, they put in water and electricity and people are given sites on which to pitch their tents. In this camp, there is a recreation hall with a WPA worker in charge. An attempt is made to have a planned recreation program and to give some instruction in weaving and rug making. There are also some tubs and a washing machine installed by the county. There are more toilets and even a few showers, but the tents are pitched on the ground and in wet weather it is deep in mud.

Several people yesterday had to change their sites because they were flooded out. Their pitiful belongings were stacked up waiting to be moved. In hot weather, all these camps must be well nigh unbearable. This county camp, of course, is better, but even here living conditions are hardly what we call decent.

Outside of almost every little village and town, many of which look as though they had sprung up themselves in the last few years, you will find on the outskirts the type of private and squatters’ camps which I described in yesterday’s column.

We visited the Mineral King Ranch, which is a cooperative farm leased by thirteen families near Visalia. These families live in inexpensive houses. They do real farming and have a chance for a really worthwhile life, if they have the wisdom to stick together and believe in the goodwill of their advisers. Finally, I saw two government camps, one at Shafter and one at Visalia. For migratory workers, these camps indicate possible standards for decent existence. There is a nursery school for the youngsters, there are playing grounds for the elders, there are clinics and, in Shafter, a cooperative store. Above all, they are run by the people themselves so that democracy may be seen in action.

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April 6, 1940

San Francisco, Friday –
I am far behind in my regular diary but I must finish the impressions of last Tuesday, because that day will stand out in my mind for a long time as a vital human experience.

The people of California must be proud of this effort to find a way to meet the problem of the migratory worker, who must always be with us because he is needed to follow the crops. This problem exists in other parts of the country as well as in California, but here they are finding a solution to the question of how to make life possible for workers who must always travel to harvest the crops.

The second problem, that of the mass of people who have been uprooted from their old homes in the Midwest or in the Southwest, cannot be answered by these government camps. A permanent solution, somewhere, somehow, is needed. We must find land again for these families to settle down on, so they can again be self-respecting independent Americans. Above everything else, I carried away from my day in the migratory camps, a feeling of pride in our people and an admiration for the indomitable courage which can continue to have faith in the future when present conditions seem almost unbearable.

This is a heavy burden and difficult situation temporarily for California, but in the end, I cannot help feeling that people such as these must be an asset to any state when they are finally given an opportunity to work out their salvation. I must also take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the personnel in the Farm Security Administration Camps and in the Administration as a whole. From the architect, who plans the little farm home on the edge of the camps, to the camp managers and regional director, there was no one who was not vitally interested in the people and their welfare. When you deal with human beings who are living under great strain with many conflicting interests to complicate the situation, it requires an amount of wisdom and tact which is not often found for the price of a government salary. Therefore, one must conclude that much of this service is done for love, and the rest of us must take off our hats to those who do it.

On the way back to Los Angeles, we flew over the clouds and I think it was the most breathtakingly beautiful trip I have ever been on. Fields of snow and ice lay about us and billowed up into mountain peaks here and there. Every now and then, a rift through the clouds would give us a glimpse through a dark chasm of green mountain slopes beneath us. It was almost like some of the Wagner opera scenes, too beautiful for reality.

I was home on time and reached my lecture engagement at Long Beach just before 8 o’clock. There I had the pleasure of meeting the Mayor of Long Beach, the ladies of the committee, Mr. J. F. T. O’Connor, Mr. Orson Welles and Governor Olson, who was kind enough to introduce me.

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April 8, 1940

Yosemite, Calif., Sunday –
To continue this retroactive diary, on Wednesday last, I spent the morning in my son’s apartment attending to our much-neglected mail and seeing two National Youth Administration representatives, who told me of some of the projects in that area. They are having much success training boys for forestry work.

My grandmother’s old friend and companion, Mrs. Annie Winter, with one of her young friends, lunched with us. Mrs. Winter is a wonderful old lady with indomitable courage. She casually remarked that she was coming East this summer, because her sight is failing and she thought she would like to see her daughter again. There was no self-pity, however, and a real zest for life was apparent in every word of her conversation.

At 2:30, I started for Redlands, California, driven by a very charming young man. I enjoyed my drive and every minute of my visit here. The view from the house of the President of the University is one of the most beautiful mountain views I have seen anywhere. Everyone was kind and cordial and I had time for a glimpse of their lovely Lincoln Memorial Building, and also for a visit to a lady who is the moving spirit of their music association there, which gives free symphony concerts during the summer. She had planned for the lecture and then had broken her hip and lay unable to work or attend to any details. It was easy to see that she was a person whose influence inspired other people, for everyone thought of her and seemed to work eagerly to achieve the results which she had desired.

We arrived back in Los Angeles at a late hour, and I left by the 9:00 plane the next morning for San Francisco. My afternoon there was very pleasant. My friend, Miss Mayris Chaney, lunched with us and then we visited her hat shop, where I bought two hats which will be awaiting me in Washington on my return. Then, I visited some of my favorite Chinese shops and returned to my hotel to meet with the Women’s Board of the San Francisco Fair at 4:00. They are full of delightful plans for activities at the Fair that will give women visiting it a pleasanter time. I was happy to see Mrs. George Creel and my old friend Mrs. William Denman and many other familiar faces. I hope they will be able to carry out their ideas successfully, for the Fair was so lovely last year that I am hoping a great many more people will be able to see it this summer.

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April 9, 1940

Yosemite, Calif., Monday –
One of my most pleasant San Francisco experiences was 5:00 coffee with Mr. Alexander Woollcott. He is touring the West Coast in the play The Man Who Came To Dinner. I wish I could have seen the performance, but, unfortunately, we were rival performers during the evening hours. It was a privilege to see him and I spent a very happy hour with him.

Before the lecture, Mr. Paul Posz took us to the Chinese restaurant, Cathay, for a real Chinese dinner. What delicious food and what a quiet atmosphere the quiet, attentive Chinese hosts create for their guests.

On Friday morning, I breakfasted with Miss Chaney, climbing many outside steps through attractive little porch gardens, finally to reach her apartment, from which we had an unobstructed view of the bay. I know of no other city where such individual and unusual apartments may be found. After a brief visit to a Japanese shop, we returned to the hotel.

Miss Thompson, Miss Chaney and I attended a lunch at the San Francisco Press Club, where I received a silver life-membership card. I felt greatly honored as well as pleased. I hope to have occasions on which I can use my membership and to have an opportunity to talk to the gentleman of the fraternity, whom I found a most interesting group.

At 2:00, the Chief Ranger of the Yosemite National Park, Mr. Townsley, met us at the hotel and I was very happy to see him again. Six years ago, he gave me five perfect days of camping in the high country near Young Lakes and an unforgettable day in the valley. He has the kindliest face I know and the most humorous, yet the eyes look you so straight in the face that I should hate to meet him if I wished to hide anything. He gives you a sense of strength and confidence, one of those men you would like to have with you in a tight place. We stopped on the way out to see Billy Nelson, who is now retired but who was one of the rangers who had been most kind to me when I was here in 1934. The last part of the drive as we approached the hills was lovely, but the courthouse at Mariposa, the first building of its kind erected here in 1854, is a landmark to remember. It looks exactly like a New England meeting house.

Yesterday, we woke to a view of the sheer walls of rock which form the sides of the valley. There is plenty of green in the evergreen trees, but as yet the other trees are not even in bud, though a lovely pink flowering shrub appeared along our way yesterday. The waterfalls are beautiful, and the blue sky made our day in the open a great joy. Mariposa Grove, with its giant trees, was even more impressive than I remembered it.

In the afternoon, we celebrated the seventh anniversary of the founding of the CCC camps at Camp Wawona. The boys are largely from the South and so is their commanding officer, Mr. William Spencer Rockwell. This is a great opportunity for these boys and they are doing splendid work. Superintendent and Mrs. Merriam, Chief Ranger Townsley and some of the park rangers were with us. To them, we owe the planning of this delightful day.

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April 10, 1940

San Francisco, Tuesday –
Saturday evening, one of the ranger photographers and one of the naturalists showed us some marvelous colored pictures of the scenery, flowers and animals of Yosemite National Park, which we had observed during the day. They also ran off some movies of my trip in the park in 1934, which brought back pleasant memories.

We spent Sunday in the Yosemite Valley, catching up on our work in the morning and taking a walk before lunch. In the afternoon, we went with Superintendent and Mrs. Merriam to the museum and the Indian village and then to their home for tea.

We hated to leave on Monday, but were grateful for two glorious days. 7 o’clock Monday morning saw us on our way to San Mateo where we lunched with Mrs. Edward McCauley and several guests, among them the authors of An American Exodus, Dorothea Lange and Paul S. Taylor, whom I was particularly glad to meet. It seems to me that in the pictures and in the spirit, this book marks a high point in artistry and shows us what life means to some of our citizens.

We left at 3:00 and drove to Palo Alto. The press conference was extremely informal, attended by only one photographer, the acting mayor, two or three press representatives, together with Miss Gene Dulin, who represented the Theta Sigma Phi and Sigma Delta Chi.

A little later, my son, Jimmy, motored down from San Francisco and Miss Chaney also joined us with a friend, so we were a small party for dinner. We then proceeded to the lecture, after which there was a question period and a reception for the 20 or more young people representing the groups sponsoring the lecture. This is not a university responsibility, but a direct responsibility of the young people themselves. They seemed to me very efficient, for they told us their tickets were all sold, and they were very businesslike in all their arrangements.

A new and interesting activity in the field of aviation was drawn to my attention the other day by a gentleman who has been making a survey of the possibilities of establishing an organization to build model airplanes that will interest handicapped youngsters in crippled children’s hospitals, orphanages, and reform schools. This work will be privately financed. It appears to be a valuable hobby for both boys and girls, for it will teach them craftsmanship and patience and give them free play to the inventive instinct without involving much expense or any personal risk.

We are about to leave by car for Reno, Nevada, where I speak tonight. At last, my diary is caught up again, which is a considerable achievement.

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April 11, 1940

Carlin, Nev., aboard the Overland Limited, Wednesday –
We had a most beautiful trip today, stopping off for a few minutes to see some acquaintances in Sacramento, then proceeding on our way toward the mountains. We stopped for lunch just before we reached Colfax, California, in a little wayside restaurant frequented by skiers all winter long, and there we had a most delicious meal of fried chicken, Montana ham, sweet potatoes and peas. One can not help admiring a woman like our hostess who with her husband is making a success of a small restaurant. She is no mere girl and the work is hard, but she and her husband are doing it with cheerfulness and zest in the adventure. I have been over Donner Pass before, but to come over the top of the mountains and look down on the blue lake below is a lovely and stirring sight no matter how often you see it. The memorial to the Donner party, many of whom perished in crossing this pass, is an interesting landmark, but Donner Lake is a memory to carry away and dwell upon.

We turned off the direct road to Reno to get a view of Lake Tahoe, for Miss Thompson and I had never seen it before. It was well worth the extra miles we travelled. In certain lights along the shore, it is emerald green, merging into a deep purple and blue further out. Across from us, the snow covered mountains gleamed in the sun and the beauty of it was something to fortify the soul against the ugliness of much that is going on in the world today.

More small nations are being taken over by force. To be sure, the Berlin dispatches say Norway is being protected against the British. I wonder if history will not merely record what soldiers actually went into various countries, and pay little attention to the pronouncements given out by governments.

We reached Reno, Nevada, that curious city which is made up of people from all over the country of varying backgrounds, who come to live here for a short time, and of simple people who live their daily lives looking curiously at the visitors, but take no part in their somewhat feverish existence. A place of real sorrows and of sham ones, and in its midst the University of Nevada, the one university in the state, where youth, we hope, lives and learns from both the joys and sorrows that go on around it.

Both the Governor and the Mayor greeted me at the lecture. I think the questions asked me were as interesting as any that have come to me in any previous lecture on this trip. Then I shook hands with various people for about half an hour and was happy to get a glimpse of a few old friends. Miss Thompson and I returned to the hotel to pack and sleep for a very few hours and to rise again at 4:45 a.m. to take the 5:30 train! Now we are started on a long trip across the country.

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April 12, 1940

Denver, Thursday –
Last evening just before dinner, I happened to pick up a timetable and out of curiosity looked for the stations at which our train would stop. Then, and only then, did I discover that we arrived in Denver at 8:50 a.m. and that our car remained in the station until 4:50 in the afternoon! I had not known we would spend several hours in Denver. The itinerary furnished us by the lecture bureau only shows points of departure and points where we have to change trains, so on it was noted only the fact that we left Reno, Nevada, at 5:40 a.m. and arrived in Kansas City, changed trains there and would take another train for Fort Smith, Arkansas.

I was a little horrified at this discovery, for I had received a very kind invitation to attend a luncheon, given by a Democratic group, and had declined, thinking I was just passing through Denver and not making any stops. I now feel very apologetic to these would-be hosts of mine and want to tell them here how much I regret that I did not know I would be staying over. Actually, this is a very pleasant interlude, for it gives an opportunity to catch up on work which is easier to do on a table that does not move. Tables on trains, even when the roadbed is excellent and the trains are the best in the world, are of necessity less steady and the motion makes typing not quite as easy as it might be.

We crossed the Great Salt Lake yesterday afternoon just at sunset time. This lake, because of its marvelous blue color and surrounding white capped mountains, is always very beautiful, besides being of interest because of its high salt content which encrusts all the wood on the train trestle and acts as a preservative that gleams almost like piles of snow here and there along the shore. The reflection of the setting sun on the mountains gave us varied and interesting colors. I recalled a trip many years ago in the spring of 1915 when we were with the Vice President and Mrs. Marshall bound for the San Francisco Fair of that year. The Vice President was urged to sit on the back platform as we crossed this same lake to admire the scenery. With an honesty which few people have, he remarked:

Scenery means nothing to me and I wish people would not try to bring to my attention things which do not interest me.

I was still fairly young in those days and the Vice President filled me with awe, but I could appreciate his dry humor which made him say the most amusing things and keep his face so absolutely solemn that you wondered if he really meant you to laugh.

No one can think of anything but the war news, and even when people do not speak about it, you soon find that it is the one thing they are thinking about. No wonder, for what is a world going to be like which is ruled entirely by force? All the concepts of right and wrong we have been building up will cease to have any value, if force is to be the determining factor in every situation.

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April 13, 1940

On the train, en route Kansas City, Mo. to Fort Smith, Ark., Friday –
We left the sudden mid-winter that we brought to Denver yesterday, and found ourselves this morning in a fairly springlike Kansas City, Missouri. Though it is none too warm, everyone assured us in Denver that an April blizzard was unusual, but even in New York State, I have come to look upon such things as quite possible freaks in the weather. I could quite well believe the young radioman who told me that a few days ago, he was sitting in the sun in Denver with a sports shirt on. Somehow I got myself tangled up with the various radio companies yesterday and, before the day was over, I had spoken three times to the people in Denver over various stations, so I think they must have been a little weary of hearing my voice.

Quite a number of good Democrats, headed by Mr. Marsh, the Democratic National Committeeman, came in to greet me. I appreciated the Governor taking the time to come and I was very glad to see our old friend, ex-Governor Sweet. I had an opportunity to talk for a few minutes with Mrs. Costigan about the work of the National Youth Administration. They seem to have a very good program in Colorado. I was sorry not to find Miss Josephine Roche in Denver, but was glad to see the head of the local Young Democrats, and particularly pleased to have one of my young friends, who is travelling through the country, drop in for lunch with us. We found that Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Massey were in Denver on tour with Abe Lincoln In Illinois. They came in for a few minutes’ talk before they had to be on their way.

I am particularly happy to have Mr. Massey touring the country in this play, because Mr. Massey’s performance, with the excellent support given by the rest of the company and the very beautiful writing in the play itself, is an experience which as many Americans as possible should enjoy. By the time we took the train again in the afternoon, the snow had stopped and, cold as it was, quite a number of children with a few adults, came to the station in Limon, Colorado, to greet me. One enthusiastic lady reminded me that my husband and I had been there in 1920 for nearly an hour.

This morning, in Kansas City, a young girl who was for some time a patient in Warm Springs, Ga., came to the station with her mother to see me. She is very much upset because she has not been able to find a college within her means where it would be possible for a crippled youngster on crutches, to attend and get the proper assistance. Her solution would be a special college for crippled children, but I feel that the question should be studied a little more carefully and that facilities should be provided in state universities, so that handicapped young people may obtain college educations at the least possible expense but in normal surroundings.

We are now on our way to Fort Smith, Arkansas. A lecture tonight, and tomorrow a flight to Chicago and a few busy hours there.

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April 15, 1940

Battle Creek, Mich., Sunday –
The trip from Kansas City, Mo., to Fort Smith, Ark., on Friday was not through the apple blossom country which we had heard so much about, but partly in mining country with earth tossed up in heaps of gravel on which a few trees and shrubs had taken root here and there. Farming is going on in between the uplands, but the houses do not look very prosperous, many of them being entirely unpainted and more of them painted only in front.

The countryside did not, however, have the rows and rows of little company mining town houses. They may have been hidden from the train view, but I was glad not to see them for they give one a sense of complete dreariness.

At almost every station a few people, who had heard I was going through, had gathered and wanted to greet the President’s wife. At Joplin, Mo., they brought a group from the crippled children’s school, and the railroad officials told me they were particularly active in caring for these youngsters and sending them for treatment to Kansas City and St. Louis. In this work the Kansas City and Southern Railway cooperate, as do many other railroads, by carrying the patients free. At Sallisaw, Okla., near which there is a very old Indian school, a large group of Indians came to the train and presented me with a number of gifts.

We travelled on a very special train which makes the trip in record time and hits the curves at such speed that you have no desire to move around a great deal. If you do, you are apt to find yourself sitting down somewhat unexpectedly.

On this trip, I read a pamphlet by Mr. Louis Fisher on development of the Central European situation over the period of the past few years, and found it extremely interesting. His long years as a foreign war correspondent have given him an understanding of the history of various countries and an opportunity for personal observation of the men who are at present making history in the world. This gives what he writes an added significance.

It is universally true, I fear, that under the pressure of necessity, ideals and standards which have been built up through years of effort may be wiped out overnight. This is why I think it is important in studying peoples to look not only at specific occurrences in their history, but to get the trend of their behavior. We all fall below our best standards at times, but where nations are involved it is well to find out whether this means permanent changes in the people’s character, or whether there is something inherent in some people which makes them fight back after temporary lapses from professed standards and again try to achieve the ideals which they have built up.

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April 16, 1940

Chattanooga, Tenn., Monday –
In Fort Smith, Ark., we had the kind of parade which I connect entirely with visits paid by the President. I only hope that seeing the apple blossom queens was satisfaction enough for the people who stood so long in the cold. The queens were young and very charming and made me feel very grandmotherly when we were photographed together in one of the rooms at the hotel.

The Democratic ladies had decorated our rooms with the most beautiful flowers, which we enjoyed for all too brief a time. After the lecture and an informal reception, which I left reluctantly before I had the opportunity of shaking hands with all the people who were still thronging the hotel, we returned to the train and were on our way back to Kansas City. We made a hurried transfer in the morning from the station to the airport and reached Chicago a little after eleven.

At the hotel, we occupied a penthouse apartment, where I was shown a framed letter from the President who had stopped there when he was Governor. I signed the guestbook on the same page which bore my husband’s signature and our son, Jimmy’s. I could have spent a long time examining the prints which lined the walls along the stairs, but time in Chicago was at a premium. We were greeted with many envelopes of mail.

At 4:30, the committee from the American Communications Association called for me. After I gave a brief speech at their meeting, I was able to hear the closing summary of the work of their convention, given by the president, Mr. Mervyn Rathborn, who is an able and wise leader.

Back at the hotel with a very few minutes to spare before the committee from the Advisory Council of the Chicago Youth Congress, called to take me to the dinner given by them. The Chicago Youth Congress is fortunate in having such a wide and sympathetic group of older men and women interested in their work. From the dinner we went to the meeting in Orchestra Hall. I was interested in both the entertainment features and the speeches of the various young leaders and only hope that I contributed some food for thought before I left them and returned to the hotel to stop in for a brief moment at the American Legion Ball.

Then to the train again for Battle Creek, Michigan. Here we stayed at the sanitarium, which is a most interesting place. I spoke in the afternoon and we journeyed back to Chicago. Miss Thompson left for Washington at 10:00 p.m. and this morning I flew to Chattanooga, Tenn., for the Southern Human Welfare Conference.

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April 17, 1940

Washington, DC –
Here I am back in Washington! After I had filed my column yesterday in Chattanooga, Tenn., I started on a busy day. Judge Cummings would have liked to take me to see a rural school in north Georgia about which I had written him, and which he feels needs help. Fortunately, the “Save the Children Fund” in New York City, which is interested in mountain children, on hearing the difficulties of some of these rural schools, collected desks from all over the country and distributed them to many of these schools where they had none at all, or an insufficient number.

In spite of my interest, I felt that, having come for the Southern Conference for Human Welfare, I should attend that. So, Dr. Louise Charlton took me to the afternoon session, which was on “The Industrial South.” I heard ex-Senator Pope give a most interesting account of what the Tennessee Valley Authority had meant to the industrial development of the region. Incidentally, this has meant a good deal to the agricultural development too, for I was told the story of a woman of 65 who came to town to announce to her friends that the rural electrification project had reached her home and that for the first time in her life she had an opportunity really to lighten the homework which she had done for so many years. She said that she was going to buy every gadget possible and had already invested in an iron and a refrigerator and added that:

If they have something which will milk the cows by electricity, someday I’m going to have that too.

So, on every hand in this area, the TVA has meant a great deal. One finds the program being discussed and, from the figures given, the utility companies seem to have benefited too, for they report a rise in net profits of over $5,000,000 in the last few years.

After Senator Pope, Mr. Clark, who is an industrial adviser from Cleveland, Ohio, but who works with many firms in the South, gave a most interesting talk. He furnished me with some figures which I shall have to verify to make sure that I understand him correctly, for if I do, there is no question but what industry could well afford to help the youth of this nation to adjust itself to the proper jobs. He feels that much of the turnover in industry today is due to the fact that workers are not in the jobs which they are really fitted to perform, and he gave figures of the cost to industry of this maladjustment.

He was followed by the state head of the Alabama Mine Workers, who pointed out some of the difficulties which organized labor in the South has to face.

In the evening, I spoke on the panel which discussed children from the viewpoint of health and education, but I was only able to stay for part of the evening, because the Eastern Seaboard had foggy weather conditions and the airline decided that I had better leave from Nashville and tour the country on my way East, if I expected to arrive here this morning. I arrived in time to keep the day’s engagements.

April 18, 1940

Washington, Wednesday –
It is nice to be home again! From the cheerful sound of my husband’s voice when he greeted me, the pleasant smile on everybody’s face, I enjoyed the happy feeling of welcome, but I didn’t have long to dwell upon it. Arriving four hours late in the morning, meant hurrying to catch up most of the day. I started with a press conference at 11:00 and then went up to lunch with the Senate ladies. Once every year, they invite me with the ladies of the Cabinet to their weekly lunch. It is one of those affairs where the table is covered with good things to eat and one eats far more than one should.

The ladies of the Senate spend one morning a week sewing for the Red Cross and the amount which they have accomplished seems phenomenal. The report was read at luncheon yesterday and some of the work was on exhibition. I looked at it with interest, for the garments seemed to me much more attractive than the clothes I have seen made in the past.

Mrs. Morgenthau drove home with me, which gave me a chance to see her. When you have been as far as Miss Thompson and I have been in three weeks, one feels as though one hadn’t seen friends or family for an age and it is a joy to catch up again.

At 4:00, Mrs. Helm and I went up to the Home for Incurables, where a new wing was dedicated with simple ceremonies. Mrs. Helm is a member of the board and takes a great deal of interest in this always appealing charity. In Washington this home has done an extraordinary piece of work, for there are only two institutions where these unfortunates can be cared for. Afterward we stopped for a minute to say a word of greeting to Bishop and Mrs. Freeman, who were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, and then we looked in at the Wesley Hall Gallery on K Street where Naomi Lorne has an exhibition of paintings which will be open until the 23rd. She has a great feeling for the bare winter trees and some of her scenes of the winter woods are very delightful. So are her paintings of the rocks with a sea which looks just as I know it on the coast of Maine.

I returned to the White House and found Mlle. Curie, Mrs. Lewis Thompson and Dr. Miriam Van Waters all having tea. A brief talk with Mr. John Elliott and Mr. Bart Andress and then the pleasure of a dinner at home with a talk about all the happenings of the world. I think this is one of the things I miss most when I am away, that evening opportunity of discussing with the President and anyone else around the dinner table, the events of the day. It was good too, to telephone our son, Franklin Jr., and hear that Ethel would be home this weekend. Finally Mlle. Curie, Mrs. von Hesse and I went to Frank Wirth’s circus given for the benefit of the Children’s Hospital. Today I am going to Philadelphia to speak to the Democratic Women’s Club on the subject of “Youth Today.”

April 19, 1940

Washington, Thursday –
Life has been lived rather rapidly since my return. I suddenly realized today that I had forgotten to mention the riot of daffodils in the garden between the White House and the President’s office. The magnolia trees are out and the grass is beautifully green and, though we haven’t seen much sun, spring is really here.

The President, if nothing untoward happens, hopes to journey to Warm Springs, Ga., tonight where the air will be even balmier. He had intended to take this trip while I was away, but these days one can never tell from day to day what one may be doing. Now he hopes for a few days in Georgia to catch up on many of his interests there and to have a little rest, but I shall have to stay around here and fulfill a number of engagements which have been made. I shall, however, have time to go to Hyde Park and, though they tell me it is still winter there, I am going to think about the garden.

My trip to Philadelphia was rather a satisfactory experience. On the train, I drew all the checks for bills which have been piling up on my desk and reminding me that I must sometime have a little writing session. The luncheon was pleasant, for I saw a number of people whom I enjoyed seeing again. Then I went in for a minute to greet the Philadelphia Motion Picture Preview Study Group at their luncheon. I spent a half hour afterward with Mrs. Curtin Winsor and her two children. My grandson, Bill, is getting to be a big boy and in a year plans to take his little brother riding.

On the way back on the train, I started to read the manuscript of a book I hope I can finish within the next few days. I was home in plenty of time to prepare for dinner. Miss Thompson stayed here for the whole evening and left the results of her extra labors for me to cope with on my return from dinner, which meant a long period of work, but I had so much sleep on my trip that I haven’t yet felt the need of it here!

I went down this morning with Mrs. Morgenthau and Miss Hickok to see a preview of a March of Time movie. On the whole it is good. It deals with the situation of youth, which is perhaps the most difficult problem to show accurately, because it must run the gamut from complete despair to ever renewed hope.

We then visited the Unemployment Compensation Board and the Minimum Wage Board offices of the District of Columbia for the Democratic Digest. There is no District of Columbia Labor Department and it seems to be sadly needed. Sometimes I should like to be able to report that something I had seen in the District was absolutely perfect! Alas, I cannot do so yet, for there is a woeful lack of safety for workers in local industries, evidenced by the fact that the accident rates are much higher than for other similar occupations throughout the country.

April 20, 1940

Washington, Friday –
I had a delightful lunch yesterday with the ladies of the 75th Congress. They had asked me to tell them a little about today’s situation in the campaign carried on by the United States Department of Public Health, in conjunction with the state health departments, in its effort to stamp out venereal diseases. The appropriation granted by Congress is $2 million greater than last year, but even with that increase, the facilities for treatment are still inadequate and there is not sufficient educational work done among doctors, nurses and the general public. The laws requiring examination before marriage in certain states have greatly helped the situation and the whole picture already looks far better than it did two years ago. But that does not mean that the fight is won and that we can let up in our activities until there is a real victory.

In the afternoon, I saw a speech teacher who is particularly interested in the girls of the YWCA. She believes that she can tell a great deal about a person’s makeup from the voice and she proceeded to tell me that I was extremely nervous and excitable. This shows, I am afraid, that my voice is not well-coordinated with the rest of my body and character, for I think that everyone around me will bear witness to the fact that I am neither excitable nor nervous!

Mrs. Ruth Bryan Rohde brought a group of girls here in the afternoon from Monticello College. She is introducing them to the beauties of Washington and the intricacies of their government. I was interested to have them tell me that they were particularly impressed by the people they had met for, of course, it is something to learn in youth that government is dependent on human beings for its success or failure. The best theories in the world cannot become successful practices without some disinterested and able human beings to work them out.

Later, the annual party for the senior classes of various schools in Washington took place and I received 1,175 young people with their teachers. From 5:00 to 6:00, the heads of the state societies in Washington met with the officers of the Alliance for the Guidance of Rural Youth in the East Room to discuss whether their societies could be helpful to young people in rural districts at home and in the cities when they looked for work.

I took the plane for New York City at 6:30 and reached the dinner given at the Hotel Astor by the National Coat and Suit Industry Recovery Board to celebrate the distribution of the fund raised in the industry for work among the refugees, regardless of race or creed. This was a most inspiring dinner, not only because of the excellent speakers, Governor Lehman and Bishop Sheil among others, with the always able chairman, Mr. James McDonald presiding, but because this is the first instance where industry has taxed itself voluntarily to help suffering humanity.

I returned on the midnight train to find the gentle spring rain falling and many routine things to be done this morning.

April 22, 1940

Hyde Park, NY, Sunday –
Friday afternoon was really a big day for receiving people at the White House. The Daughters of the American Revolution with all their charming, young, white-clad pages, made the White House look very gay. We started in with a group of Children of the Revolution, but as some of these were very young there were really more grown people than children in the group. The tiniest little girl presented me with a basket of lovely flowers, so much bigger than she was that they completely hid her. I had about a half an hour between the children’s reception and that given their elders, who also brought me a beautiful old-fashioned bouquet, which later decorated the mantlepiece in the Blue Room. Afterwards, I took the plane for New York City and arrived a little late because it was a rainy day and planes were somewhat delayed.

However, I was in the apartment in time to greet my two dinner guests. Miss Thompson and I took the 10:00 train up here yesterday morning, but the rain still persisted. No sign of spring, so far as I can see, but certainly our water supply should be plentifully replenished. Some of us have almost forgotten that we did have a drought in these parts last summer and everybody was gloomy about filling up the springs last autumn.

There is an old tradition that it never freezes really hard until the springs have been replenished, but I saw many shaking heads last autumn. Now they are shaking again because we have too much rain and we shall never get our planting done. Nature never does perform according to the rule that we mortals like to lay down for her.

There was plenty to do in the house yesterday when I reached here, for there always is when you haven’t been home for a long time. There were books which I had sent up to decide on placing, and some new linen to be put away.

There are disadvantages in keeping one’s belongings in various places. I have searched high and low for certain things which seem to have completely disappeared. It was discouraging to wake up this morning to find the rain still coming down. No riding, and, even though I like to walk in the rain, unless it lets up a little, I doubt if any of us will feel like getting soaked.

Well, there is always work to be done and, though I had hoped for some exercise this weekend, I can at least appreciate the green of the young grass on the lawn and the fact that some of the shrubs show signs of coming to life. The weather is giving me a chance, too, to find out what has to be done in our cottage before we really move up for more frequent visits in the later spring and summer.

April 23, 1940

Washington, Monday –
I left Hyde Park this morning under skies still gray with a sprinkling of snow in the air. I worried all the way down in the train for fear that the planes would not fly, but I could have spared myself the trouble, because I arrived in Washington in ample time. A blue sky was just emerging, little patches showing here and there through the clouds, but I had not reckoned on the wind. It nearly blew me off my feet in the short walk from the plane to the car, and I marvelled that we had flown down with so few bumps. Here and there we had felt a little motion but the upper air often seems smoother than it is near the earth.

It was a great pleasure to have a number of New York City friends come to lunch today. Later I was able to drop in for a minute at a party which was being given for the benefit of the Committee on the Control of Cancer. This Committee is very active everywhere and has done a very remarkable piece of work in acquainting people with the fact that whenever anything seems to be wrong physically, it is best to consult a doctor. The National League of American Pen Women were received at 4:00 and at 5:00, a group of ladies from the Columbia University Alumnae Club. At 5:30, still another group came to tea, and this evening a group of Barnard students will come in from 8:30 till 9:00. I presume they will ask questions, for I think they come from the social science department and have probably been visiting various government agencies.

I think it is very valuable for these young people to visit Washington and to familiarize themselves with all the various activities of government. It will point the way to many activities in states and communities with which they should familiarize themselves and it may give them ideas on the kind of work they might like to do in civic positions or in private industry or the professions.

The news from abroad continues to be disheartening to the extreme. I think the situation which was found to exist in Norway has made many people in this country more suspicious of every kind of foreign influence. I am not surprised at this and in one way it is helpful, but I think we must be extremely careful, lest in our anxiety to protect ourselves, we do away with some of our precious liberties. The regularly constituted government agencies always have the check of the courts, before which they must bring any accused person and present proof of guilt. This necessity of proving any suspicions should never be relaxed for a minute, because if we once begin to neglect any of our carefully built-up protections, we are leaning toward the solution arrived at by dictatorships to protect the dictator and not the public. Here, in the United States, we are interested in protecting the public.

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