Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (Dec. 1939)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

December 1, 1939

Washington, Thursday –
I must confess to being somewhat embarrassed last night at the 135th anniversary dinner of The Churchman. Both the speeches and the actual presentation of the award, made me feel somehow a bit unreal. When you sit and hear people whom you admire and respect, say things which might well apply to somebody else, but can’t apply to you, and find that you have to get up and accept all this – well, it’s disconcerting. It would be idle, however, not to acknowledge that it is pleasant to be well spoken of, and that it does give one courage to keep on trying to be more worthy of all that has been said.

I went to the station after the dinner, just in time to catch the 12:50 a.m. train, and found there a group of young people whom I know, members of the American Youth Congress and other organizations. Mr. Will Hinckley, who was chairman of the American Youth Congress some three years ago, was subpoenaed to appear before the Dies Committee in November, but that date was postponed. Between 4:30 and 5:00 yesterday afternoon, a wire was received stating that Mr. Hinckley would be given an opportunity to be heard before the Committee at 10:00 this morning.

It is usual, of course, when one appears before as important a committee as a Congressional committee, to have information and all material that may be called for near at hand. Of necessity, this group of young people, none of whom are affluent, had to do some tall hustling to get anything together and be in Washington this morning, particularly as Mr. Hinckley had been ill for several days and was just out of bed. Some of the group went down on the train with me, some of them sat up all night in a day coach on the next train, because Pullman berths cost money. Youth is remarkably resilient, however, and when I went into the committee hearing this morning, they all looked to me quite wide awake. They were, however, not testifying and I listened for an hour to a rather able witness who, however, told me nothing new.

I have two real interests in this situation. One is that as far as is humanly possible, I give to young people whom I know and trust, the feeling that in any situation, particularly a difficult one, they may count on my assistance. My second interest is a desire to observe to what extent the Government is not only striving to uncover un-American activities, but is giving to youth the assurance that their government does not look upon them with suspicion until they are proved guilty, and is anxious to help them in every way to build up the faith and trust in democracy which should be the heritage of every youngster in the United States.

A number of people lunched with me and I am now going back to the committee room in the hope of hearing testimony given by Mr. Hinckley, the former chairman of the American Youth Congress.

December 2, 1939

Washington, DC, Friday –
We seem to be living in an era when little countries have no rights. We must now weep for Finland!

I feel as though I had done little the last 24 hours except sit in the caucus room in the old House Office Building and listen to a Congressional hearing! However, we did have a pleasant interlude last night, when Mr. and Mrs. Melvyn Douglas from Hollywood, Cal., dined with us and spent the night. They are a charming couple and it is most interesting to find two people using their gifts for such constructive, social purposes.

And now I must tell you about these hearings, for I have nothing else to relate to you. At 4:00 p.m. yesterday, Mr. Hinckley was called for his testimony before the Dies Committee and was allowed to have Mr. Joseph Cadden and Mr. Jack McMichael testify with him, since they are more closely connected with the recent management of the American Youth Congress. Both the counsel of the committee, Mr. Rhea Whitley, who asked the majority of the questions, and the members of the committee, were courteous and helpful and in every way attempted to inspire confidence and bring out the truth. It was an extremely heartening exhibition of government operating helpfully.

I went down again this morning to hear Joseph Lash’s testimony as executive secretary of the American Student Union. He received his telegram granting him the opportunity to be heard even later than did Mr. Hinckley, so he also came unprepared with all documentary evidence necessary.

The majority of the questions today were asked by Mr. J. B. Matthews, and his whole attitude, tone of voice and phraseology made one feel that a prisoner, considered guilty, was being tried at the bar. I surmised that this impression was made on other people, for in a little while a gentleman came around and whispered in Mr. Matthews’ ear. I have no way of knowing what was said and it may have been entirely irrelevant to the matters in hand, but in any case it was soothing to Mr. Matthews, for immediately the atmosphere changed. His voice was softer, his manners were more courteous. He was asking questions from another free citizen of the United States.

The one important point which stands out to me after listening in on these hearings, is the fact that what is said by people about other individuals or groups, is not half as important as discovering what the people, themselves, working in these organizations, say and do.

The only other interesting incident today was when Mr. Matthews, who evidently is sensitive about what is said about him, remarked heatedly that an untruthful statement had been made about him in yesterday’s testimony. It was almost at the end of the hearing and though a request was made to answer this remark from the record, it could not be done at the time. But I feel sure that the committee will receive the answer later on.

The committee members are genuinely courteous and helpful in their attitude. Judging from my two days’ experience, however, the counsel of the committee more nearly carries out the attitude of the committee, at least of these members whom I have had the pleasure of observing, than does the “Director of Research.”

December 4, 1939

Washington, Sunday –
I felt yesterday as though I had been handed some extra time which just dropped out of the sky, and I can assure you I used every minute of it! Christmas presents took up the afternoon and the usual mail took up the morning.

A letter has come to me which so well describes the way in which many people have to struggle in their lives, that I use it in my column today. Of course, the letter, itself, goes into greater detail than I am able to give you here, but I think even the excerpts paint a picture which we should all remember at this season.

My son was 11 months old when his daddy died. He is now 13½ years old. He belongs to a Boy Scout troop sponsored by the church. He is assistant patrol leader and has passed second class examination. He is industrious. He has been selling magazines since he was eleven. Since last Christmas, he has paid $45 for a bike to deliver magazines. This past summer he sold papers too. He bought a radio, he buys all of his clothes and two scout suits complete, pays for his haircuts and, in fact, all his expenses except food, and he lets me have money when we run short. He went to a scout camp twice this summer and furnished his spending money.

He is bright in school. He was seven before he could attend school, and not very regularly the first term. He is in the seventh grade now, having made two grades in one term. Of course, I am, as every mother the world over, desperately in love with my boy and girl. Only I guess it is different with us, for we are so alone. We have no one with whom to share our lives.

I married quite young. I went to school for a while after I married and took a business course. Housing conditions have been in a deplorable state here. Residents here who have houses to rent have gone mad over the subject of rent. Just anything partly furnished and called an apartment rents and people have to pay the price demanded. The type of apartment most commonly rented to working people is a one room affair, or a one room and kitchenette. These apartments rent from $5 a week up, and you pay your own utilities.

Whole families live like this. Cook, eat and sleep in one room, sometimes with only one window, and sharing a bath with perhaps twenty other people. Last winter we tried to exist on $45.00 a month, had $17.00 left after paying rent, for food – and my daughter has to pay transportation to and from school. School expenses seem greater than anywhere else. I pay transportation to and from work. We could not have existed if Billy had not sold magazines. The head of the news agency let him keep his check-up money and only check in twice a month.

Mrs. Roosevelt, my boy and girl are the future citizens of our country. They have a right to live normally, happily and have health. They are, despite living conditions, bright, courteous and industrious. They are outstanding students. They deserve a chance.

December 5, 1939

Washington, Monday –
Many years ago, when I was young, I began joining organizations. At that time I gave very small amounts of money, a good deal of work, and my reasons for joining usually were that a friend I trusted asked me to help. As the years have gone on, I have belonged to a great variety of organizations and I have stopped contributing to some and stopped working for some. In the past, the reasons for doing that were usually, first, that I did not think the amount accomplished for the money spent was sufficient. Second, that I came to think the work being done was not necessary because of other organizations in the field. Third, that I came to believe that the organization was functioning primarily for the benefit of one individual who ran the organization and whose interest was purely personal.

All of us, in greater or less degree, make up the membership and the financial support of various organizations which function in the United States, but a new element has entered into the question of how we decide on the propriety of joining an organization, whether patriotic, civic or charitable. Any of these organizations may suddenly be declared communist, or fronts for communist or fascist work. Therefore, the question arises – what is our duty when we are simply in sympathy with the apparent objectives of an organization and to which to make a small contribution? It seems to me that if we find one or two names of people on the letterhead, we have reason to believe are reputable people, we are justified in contributing and are not really open to attack as part of a subversive organization if it should develop later that a number of people in the organization have affiliations with undesirable groups.

If, on the other hand, we give our names to appear on the letterhead of an organization and work with it actively, it seems to me that we have a more serious obligation. A conscientious person reads all the publications put out by the organization which they are joining, attends as many meetings as possible, knows as many people working in the organization as possible.

It seems to me that something which was said many years ago applies in this instance:

By their works ye shall know them.

When an organization stands up under this amount of investigation, I fail to see how there can be hidden either a Communistic or Fascist program or a surreptitious control of any kind. It is true that there might be a number of members who might willingly work for the objectives of an organization and yet belong openly or secretly to subversive groups, but you cannot fight shadows and you must wait till you find the objectives of an organization are being changed or interfered with. If I remember rightly, even Judas Iscariot was used and in the end he repented!

December 6, 1939

Washington –
Yesterday, I went over to Annapolis for luncheon with Mrs. Wilson Brown, wife of the Superintendent of the Naval Academy. A pair of perfectly beautiful mirrors have been given to the Superintendent’s house and hang in the dining room on either side of the doorway. They are perfect in the room and the reflection of the garden in the mirrors is very beautiful.

After lunch, I went over to make my speech, and noticed how beautifully the ship models are arranged in their cases along the corridors in Bancroft Hall. The Naval Academy has some very beautiful models, but the two battle flags always attract my attention first. The addition to the chapel is nearly finished and I think that when the vines have had a chance to grow, they will be a very great improvement.

I drove from Annapolis to Baltimore and took a train to Philadelphia. Here, Mrs. Curtin Winsor met me with Mrs. J. A. Kline of the Welcome Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. I was not expecting to see my grandson, Bill, so when Mrs. Kline pushed a small boy forward, I thought for a second that it was just a young stranger who wished to shake hands. Then I took a good look at him and realized it was Bill, who had grown very much during his summer out West. We all went to the hotel where I hurriedly changed. Then Mr. Rufus Jones and I were each presented by the Welcome Chapter and the Humanitarians with their award for this year.

The Humanitarians are not members who have Masonic affiliation, but they join with the members of the Eastern Star in helping them with their work. I was much interested to hear of the scope of the work carried on by this lodge. I felt deeply grateful for the recognition which was given me, and was so glad that the American Friends Service Committee and Mr. Rufus Jones were being given an award at the same time, for it gave me an opportunity to voice the gratitude I feel for the education the Quakers have given me through the past few years. It is an education to work with people who have ideals and live up to them, but are practical enough to make their ideals becomes realities.

I had breakfast with my grandson and made the acquaintance of his small brother, who is a most responsive baby now. When I saw him last, he was just a tiny bundle.

On the train coming down, a most interesting young woman sat in the seat ahead of me. Just before we reached Washington, she turned and began talking to me about the work of the American Friends Service Committee. She voiced her belief that one of the valuable things done by them is the bringing together of young people from different parts of the country and of various home backgrounds, in work camps during the summer. I do feel that this part of the work is a great education for future citizenship in our democracy.

December 7, 1939

Washington, Wednesday –
Two young people who had come up from Virginia with Dr. Latham Hatcher of the Alliance for the Guidance of Rural Youth, to broadcast with me in the evening, talked over what we would say at luncheon yesterday. The Alliance is attempting to bring the problems of rural youth and some suggested solutions before as many people as possible. There seemed so much to say and so little time in which to say it, that I was rather aghast at what we would be able to do in the short time allotted to us.

This is a big problem. It embraces, first of all, what can be done to make rural life more worthwhile, so that more young people will want to remain on the soil and find it possible to do so. Secondly, we have to face the fact that many of them must leave and, therefore, schools and communities should prepare them, not only for life at home, but give them every opportunity to be prepared for living in the city when they go there.

One point they made struck me as entirely new, and that was the fact that employment offices can only be found in cities. When I thought of my own county seat, Poughkeepsie, New York, I realized that the employment offices there are not very well equipped to help young people to place themselves in the most advantageous type of employment.

The young people and I happened to reach the broadcasting station simultaneously in the evening and did some rehearsing before we went on the air. I am led to believe that we must have made a good impression, for as I was leaving the studio, a message was handed to me from a gentleman in Virginia, saying that he would like to give one of the young people a job. I turned this offer over to Dr. Hatcher, because, of course, it would have to be investigated. I am not sure that these young people who were talking last night, are through with their education and in a position to take a job. It was a gratifying incident and I hope that some boy or girl may get a job out of it.

Both of the youngsters on the air with me were very attractive and seemed quick and intelligent, for it is not easy to get so many ideas across in a short time.

Some very interesting people came in to tea yesterday afternoon. They had been Youth Hosteling through Europe and North Africa for nearly a year and a half, and their stories of the adventures which come to those who walk and hitch-hike were most entertaining. Besides, they had vivid impressions of the people in many countries, the simple people as well as those in power, so when they get around to writing about their trip, it will make good reading.

I had a short ride this morning. The weather is clearing beautifully, so that flying to New York City this afternoon should be pleasant.

The luncheon in honor of the ladies of the Supreme Court took place today and is the first really formal function of the winter.

December 8, 1939

New York, Thursday –
It was a great pleasure yesterday to have an opportunity to talk during luncheon with Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Brandeis who were my neighbors at table. Mrs. Brandeis spoke of how hard it is these days to preserve a calm spirit and confidence in the future. This serenity of spirit and assurance, that in one way or another, the pattern of life will work out eventually for the good of mankind, is easier, I think, to acquire with age.

I can look back and see, in spite of all the faltering and even backsliding, that the world as a whole has made progress even in the years I have been able to watch. If you haven’t a perspective, each event as it hits you, seems the final stroke of fate. Occasionally you are over-elated at a step forward, but frequently you sink into black despair at what seems to be the endless stupidity of the human race.

One of my guests at luncheon was Miss Dorothea Campbell of Charleston, West Virginia, who, with the Business and Professional Women’s Club there, has been helping to develop some handicraft work at the government homestead near Red House, West Virginia. A number of sales have been held lately in nearby towns, and it looks as though a market is opening up for some of the work done by the women, which is very encouraging. They sent me two charming little hand woven towels with my initials woven into them. I can think of no more personal and attractive gift for anyone who likes hand woven linen.

I had a brief talk in the afternoon with Professor Julian Huxley, a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Elmhirst. From his conversation, it is evident that people abroad in all nations are trying to work on the question of a future and more permanent peace. They feel as I do that a war every twenty-five years is more than any civilization can stand.

At the airport, I was surprised and very pleased to meet again some old friends, General and Mrs. Crozier. The war has driven them home after years of travel, and they are again in their Washington house. As we boarded the plane, Mrs. Crozier spoke of some the early flying she had done, planes were very much smaller and the wings higher up so that you could see under them. She said today’s airships made her think of the Normandie and the Queen Mary transferred to the air. She spoke of flights in China and other parts of the world and I could not help think how extraordinarily interesting it must be to have seen so many countries during the last few years.

We arrived here rather late to fill an engagement which I had made some time previously. This morning it is cold and clear and I am starting off on a very busy day. Some errands first and then a lunch with the People’s Guild of Brooklyn, and later a visit to the Bank Street School. I shall have to tell you about the rest of the day tomorrow.

December 9, 1939

New York City, Friday –
My visit to the Bank Street School yesterday was a thrilling experience. Something fundamental is being done here in the preparation of teachers. They are learning to deal with young people at every age level and to relate the children’s earliest education to the community in which they live. These teachers are going to be familiar with New York City and will learn a technique by which they can familiarize themselves with any community and transmit their knowledge in the classroom.

This school was an old factory and even its disadvantages have been turned to useful ends. The fact that all the pipes were left exposed has made it possible to paint them different colors, so that the children can learn how the various utilities are distributed through the building. Where does the water come from? How do you safeguard the house against fire? Who makes the regulations? How do we obtain electricity?

We should know all these things. These are the questions which little children ask, but which, sad to say, teachers who have graduated from our colleges, cannot always answer.

I would have liked to stay much longer than I did, to talk with these future teachers who were doing actual work with various social agencies in the community and learning how people live. The first and most important thing for any child is to know how his community functions. That will make him want to know how people lived in ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, or in any period of history which may later be studied. The wars will not be so important, except in relation to conditions of life. We will have young people who finish school with an ability to understand their own environment and its relation to past history.

It seems to me that Mrs. Mitchell, Miss Jessie Stanton and their associates are doing a work in the five Bank Street Schools that should be studied by schools and colleges all over the country.

I arrived at McMillan Theatre, Columbia University, a few minutes before 5:30, and from then on, the minutes seemed to fly. I finished my lecture and answered a few questions, dashed back to my apartment, changed my clothes and had dinner and then back to Columbia for another lecture and question period. I was a bit awed to find Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler had come to introduce me in the evening, and when I found he was staying through my lecture, I was even more nervous. But my real critic in the audience was Mr. W. Colston Leigh, my lecture manager. For, after all, if he found fault with me, it would be his duty to tell me all my shortcomings!

Today is windy but clear and I am just off to attend the annual sale for the blind and the sale held by the “Friends of the Near East.”

December 11, 1939

Washington, Sunday –
Friday afternoon, in New York City, I spent an hour with my son, Elliott, who was in an automobile accident recently. I must say that the loss of two front teeth does cause rather a change in his appearance and, in addition, he still has to keep his leg up. He and Ruth were so fortunate not to be more seriously hurt, that we can only be devoutly grateful in spite of what they have suffered.

In the evening, I went to a dinner given by some people interested in “The Open Road.” This group of young men tried originally to promote education and understanding between this country and Europe by arranging tours at a minimum cost and giving people the opportunity of really knowing people of their own kind in their homes abroad. Now that the war has put a stop to these vacation trips, they are attempting to do something which I think of great value to our education as citizens in this country.

They propose to take graduate students, people who will be teachers or doctors or nurses or public officials, to study different parts of our own country. This will be of great value to them, because they will see that various parts of this country have to contribute to other parts of it, and they will also see the difficulties which exist in different regions. Since this group of people will be the group who leads in in various communities, this knowledge will spread rapidly.

I hope very much that they will be able to raise their modest budget, for it is, I think, one of the best educational projects, besides being a very pleasant way to spend a vacation.

Our flight down yesterday morning was smooth and the day was beautiful. I arrived in time to talk over some plans for the Women’s Committee for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis Campaign. Then a few people came up to lunch and in the afternoon I visited the bazaar being held here for the benefit for relief in Czechoslovakia. They tell me that it is almost impossible now to bring over any of these embroideries and glass work done by people over there. Fortunately, some of the people who are established in this country have not left their art behind them, but are continuing to do the same kind of work in their new homes.

Mr. Max Gordon and Mr. Moss Hart gave several of my guests a great thrill by coming to tea. They were here to attend the Gridiron Club party. A number of ladies were here for the Gridiron “Widows” party, which takes place on the same night. One young lady extracted a promise from Mr. Hart to take her backstage when she goes to his play, for this is an experience which she has always coveted.

In the evening we all had a pleasant time, laughed at our own peculiarities as shown in the skits given by the Gridiron “Widows” and another group, and then enjoyed Miss Helen Howe in her professional monologues, which are exceptionally interesting and well done.

December 12, 1939

Washington, Monday –
Yesterday afternoon, I went over to see and hear part of the program given by the Gridiron Club members at their dinner Saturday night. They repeated some of the songs for the benefit of the ladies, who are excluded from the dinner. What talent and wit there is among these gentlemen! They not only write clever songs, but they sing and act extraordinarily well. I enjoyed it very much and shall find it difficult to forget how much one can say in using the one word “quack.”

Last night, the movie Drums Along The Mohawk was shown here. Though I was not able to see the whole of the picture, I viewed some of the most beautiful scenes in color that I have ever seen. Among our guests were Mr. and Mrs. Ernan Forbes-Dennis, who are English friends of my mother-in-law, and whom we have known for a number of years. She is the novelist, Phyllis Bottome and on her way to Hollywood, I believe, to supervise the production of a picture taken from one of her books.

At my press conference this morning, Mrs. Ernest Lindley and Mrs. Edward Costigan gave an account of the National Youth Administration conference on girls’ projects which was held in Denver, Colorado. I think everyone was interested in this and I know it is very valuable to have the work for girls evaluated in an effort to find a greater variety of occupations and work experience for them.

Later I went to the opening concert of Mrs. Lawrence Townsend’s regular winter series and enjoyed it more than I could say. Madame Lina Pagliughi has a most beautiful voice and though her time in this country is short, I am sure that the music lovers who do hear her will enjoy her.

Mr. John Amadio, the flutist, and Mr. Egon Petri, the pianist, gave delightful programs. It was evident from the size of the audience and their applause that they appreciated every number.

I think we have developed a little in the past 25 years, for I can remember during the World War hearing people say that they never again wanted to hear music by composers who happened to be of this or that nationality. I am thankful to say that so far, nothing as stupid as that seems to be felt. The one thing which is above war, is art. We can still enjoy music and pictures and theatres and books, no matter what the nationality of the artist may be.

I picked up a colored print at a charity bazaar by a Czechoslovakian, T. Bimon, taken from a painting by Hradčany. It is a really beautiful view of the city of Prague. I bought it, of course, to give away and now I hate to part with it. However, perhaps the gifts one would like to keep are the ones most worth giving away.

December 13, 1939

Washington, Tuesday –
December 15 will mark the 148th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. I hope that every citizen in this country will read over those first ten amendments to the Constitution and keep them constantly in mind, particularly Articles IV, V and VI.

In Article VI, it mentions the fact that in criminal prosecutions the criminal shall have certain rights. I am wondering if in the present day these rights should not be observed for all people, whether accused in a criminal case or whether merely accused through the public press. It seems to me that the right “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense,” would be a safeguard to a great many people today who find themselves suddenly held up as dangerous citizens when they have not had an opportunity to be heard.

If you are not accused of being a communist these days, you may be a communist front and now you may be a communist transmission belt, and these names apply both to individuals and organizations. I don’t question that all three kinds of people exist, but I begin to wonder whether some perfectly innocent people may not be suffering because of the fears which are being aroused. Shortly timid people will not dare to stand for the things in which they believe, because some may imagine that they are any one of these three dreadful things, or that they are countenancing them in somebody else.

It is really going to take quite a strong minded person with a great indifference to what may be said about him to join an organization, even though the objectives as they are presented seem in accordance with his beliefs. Before long, I think we are going to find people saying what a certain lady said to me not long ago:

I hope you will not see Miss – you know she ran on the communist ticket.

If I had not happened to know that there had been no election and there was no communist ticket in that place, the warning might have had some effect even on me.

Let’s fight realities with all we have. Let’s fight for our democracy and our Bill of Rights, and wherever we find things in which we do not believe, let’s be free to express ourselves, but let us pray not to be dominated by fears or disturbed by nightmares.

We saw Bill Robinson last night in The Hot Mikado, which seems to be a great success, judging by the enthusiasm of the Washington audience. I never consider Washington audiences very enthusiastic, so this was really a great tribute to the performance.

December 14, 1939

Washington, Wednesday –
In our preparation for Christmas this year, I hope very much that we will take into consideration the fact that certain products of this country, which have had a market in Europe, are temporarily laboring under great difficulties because that market has been shut off. If we could feature, during the holiday season, a greater use of these particular products, we would learn to like them and go on using them throughout the year. For instance, the apples which are shipped from the states of Oregon, Virginia and many other places have had to find a home market this year. Drives have been made in various parts of the country to interest people in using more apples for cooking. I am sure that oranges and grapefruit are affected also, and now that there has been a change in the freight rate situation, we should be able to get these fruits throughout the country at more reasonable prices.

There are many other things which we grow in different parts of this country and which should become part of our daily diets, both for the sake of health and for the sake of helping our own growers.

The other day I was sent an extremely interesting letter from a woman, who after four years on WPA, with odd jobs of various kinds to fill in, finds that her family today is forced back on relief. She speaks of the humiliation which the procedure brings and the fact that the people involved lose “personal pride and self esteem sacred to the individual.” She ends her letter with the following paragraphs:

Looking at all these miserable, frustrated, unused people, we cannot help thinking that the difference between our plight and that of the European refugees is only one of degree.

We, who are the disinherited, who are forced to become public charges in spite of every effort on our own part, conclude that the long-time tragedies of peace may be more devastating, if allowed to continue, than those of war. Whatever the cause of this state of being, until democratic society can find a dignified use for all the individuals who comprise it, there can be no peace.

I don’t think there is any way in which we can save people from relief registration, but I do think that letters of this kind should remind us of the necessity of continuing to solve our own economic problems. There are people who do not want steady work even when given the opportunity, but in a really successful democracy, those who do want work should find work. The solution to this problem requires the cooperation of every group and every individual in every community, and none of us should close our eyes at night unless we feel we have given whatever we have to give towards the solving of these problems.

Miss Josephine Harreld, a young colored pianist, gave us a short program of music after dinner last night. She has power and a finished technique and plays with real feeling, which made every minute enjoyable to all of us.

December 15, 1939

Washington, Thursday –
One of the groups of people which the present situation in Europe has sent to seek shelter on our shores includes many outstanding artists from different countries. A group of people headed by Mrs. Anna Case Mackay, is sponsoring a concert for the benefit of these refugees who are in need of aid. This concert will take place in Carnegie Hall on Monday evening, December 18. While many people attending it will feel that they are contributing to a worthy charity, at the same time, if music gives them pleasure, they will have a very pleasant evening.

Yesterday I received a very interesting letter from a Mr. Segal of South Norwalk, Connecticut, who tells me that for some time past he has been acting as a one man employment agency. When he could not employ people in his own business, he has had them fill out questionnaires and, with his personal letter, has sent that questionnaire to a number of people. Sometimes he has written to friends, sometimes to acquaintances who he felt might have an opening. In this way he has succeeded in placing a great many individuals. This is an example of what one man can do. A community can do it also and the same procedure could be followed by many people and even many agencies.

Job getting is largely a matter of the real interest which individuals take in each other. I have one friend who says that she knows if she had $50,000 capital, she could start any number of people who come to her for help in small businesses where they would soon be self-supporting and able to repay the money which she loaned. Of course, she realizes that for a time some supervision would have to be given most cases. But she feels that almost all the people with whom she has come in contact could earn their way if someone would take the trouble to adjust them properly and start them off.

Her particular interest is in women because, being a business woman and an employer, she has naturally come in contact with women seeking jobs. I know that she has started a few people on the upward path and I have always been hopeful that someday she might have the chance to really try it out on a bigger scale.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the tea given at the Women’s University Club for Mrs. Mary Beard. There was an interesting exhibition of material to be given to the World Center for Women’s Archives Inc. Miss Mabel Boardman and Mrs. Frances Parkinson Keyes, besides the Library of Congress and National Archives Council, had contributed exhibitions of suitable material. I only wish I could have taken more time to look over the manuscripts more carefully. I had just read a little about the life of De Soto’s wife, and was amused to find that she was included as being the first woman governor in this hemisphere!

December 16, 1939

Washington, Friday –
I entirely forgot to tell you yesterday about a tea which we had here the other afternoon for the foreign students in Washington. They came some three hundred strong, and I was surprised to find how many countries were represented. China, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, British West Indies, Africa and Australia, all passed by me and I realized what an attraction this city must have for students all over the world. Before we went into tea, their international glee club sang three Christmas carols, one in English, one in German and one in Spanish. This group of foreign students puts us all to shame, for they really try to learn each other’s language and, though they talk to each other haltingly sometimes, at least they are interested in each other’s problems.

Last night, we held our first big reception, the diplomatic reception. There was a little wider distance between each group of diplomats, but on the whole, as we expected, everything seemed to go off quietly and pleasantly. It was sad though to see so many people go by, whom you knew must be heavy hearted. The gay uniforms, beautiful dresses and jewels can not hide people’s eyes, and the eyes are the mirrors of the soul. Through them one can tell when suffering has left its mark on a human being.

It is curious what funny tricks a constantly moving line people will play with your response to impressions. I thought that I was watching each face, and yet after the diplomats had all gone by, I suddenly woke up to the realization that Mr. Harry Robbins was shaking hands with my husband and that his wife must have passed by without my recognizing her. Mrs. Robbins is Mr. Sumner Welles’ sister and I have known her ever since she was a little girl, so to let her go by without a word of recognition seemed odd to say the least! As soon as the President had gone upstairs, I went in search of them, fortunately I found them still here, so we had an opportunity for a little chat.

This morning, Mr. Fulton Lewis Jr. presented me with a small radio. I can’t say that I deserve the notice which he has brought me, but it certainly is a very pleasant and useful award.

Before taking the train for New York City, I went in to see the home economics exhibit in the patio of the Department of Agriculture. This exhibition will be here until some time in January and I am sure that everybody will find something to interest them in going through it. The housewife will be interested, but even her husband may find some items of interest which touch his department of household management.

The President left for Hyde Park after the reception last night, but I am speaking on the Town Hall series in New York City on Saturday morning, so I shall not go up to Hyde Park until that afternoon.

December 18, 1939

Hyde Park, Sunday –
Such excitement as we had this morning! The whole family from Seattle was arriving by train. The railroad people told me last night that to be on the safe side I had better be at the station by 8:15, for that particular train often ran ahead of schedule. However, this morning it ran a little behind schedule and it was five minutes before nine when it pulled in, and mountains of baggage were disgorged before my 9-year-old grandson appeared, followed by the rest of his family.

I think my daughter must have done a very remarkable piece of work, for everybody including the father of the family and the baby looked well and cheerful. My recollection of travelling with babies is a succession of difficulties. The food was never right, they wouldn’t sleep when they should and altogether a 24-hour trip seemed endless. This family, after four days of travel, seemed rested and well and, wonder of wonders, entirely good humored. It is evident to me that each generation improves upon the last!

Everybody flew about the house, first a visit to the President, and then to his mother, and the final joy was to discover that Uncle Jimmy was here to greet them too. Now the President has his little car filled to overflowing. First they visited the library, which is completely roofed in so that the work can go on during the winter. Then a trip is being made to the President’s cottage at the top of the hill, which Anna has never seen finished. At noon Jimmy has to be taken to a train. We all have to come for lunch and the ceremony attendant to the presentation by the President to Mrs. Margaret Chanler Aldrich of a Congressional Medal for her nursing service with the Red Cross during the Spanish-American War. I shall tell you more about that tomorrow.

I must mention the fact that I saw The Man Who Came To Dinner by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman on Friday night. It is a delightful comedy, clever and amusing, and I can quite see why every seat is sold until some time in January. Of course, the central figure is not an altogether admirable character, but in spite of all of his faults and downright wickedness at times, he is loveable and life could never be dull around him. You would get up early in the morning to keep up with him.

I spoke at Town Hall, as I told you, yesterday morning in New York City, and found the audience very ready with their questions. I wished that this period might have lasted longer. The snow is melting here, which grieves the children who would have liked to go coasting at once. I am afraid it isn’t going to lie on the ground long enough to make that possible.

December 19, 1939

Hyde Park, Monday –
Yesterday, I told you I would tell you a little more about the ceremony of presenting the Congressional medal to Mrs. Margaret Livingston Chanler Aldrich. This very charming gray-haired woman brought a photograph of herself in her nurse’s uniform to show to the President and told us at luncheon how she happened to undertake this work, which so many years later has brought her the recognition of a Congressional medal.

Mrs. Aldrich heard that nurses were going to be needed in Puerto Rico and realized that an interpreter would be needed who could speak Spanish. She had learned Spanish and therefore volunteered to go as an interpreter, not as a nurse, but she spent two weeks in a New York City hospital so that she would know what a hospital regimen should be. The other woman, Anna Bouligny from New Orleans, who was also awarded a medal posthumously, went to do the catering for the hospital. Mrs. Aldrich recalled that she would go to market every morning at six o’clock with the cook and the lists of diets necessary and get whatever was needed and then supervise the cooking and serving.

Mrs. Aldrich found herself not only interpreting, but at the head of twenty-odd nurses in this hospital. She must have been terrified inwardly, but knowing her as I do, I am sure she never showed it. She said yesterday that all of her men got well. She knew that if they had died, she would never have had the courage to keep on. I feel sure, however, that whatever had to be done, she would have done. Mrs. Aldrich’s son and daughter-in-law were with her yesterday. I am glad that she is still living to receive this honor so long overdue and I feel sure that her children will cherish it.

In the afternoon, I took a long walk in the woods and saw the landscape with the eyes of a California guest, who said to me yesterday morning that I could not imagine what bare trees against the sky and the snow on the ground meant to him, accustomed to the evergreen or brown landscape of California. He was astonished to find that the bare branches had beauty of design which made them just as interesting in a different way than they would be in summer when clothed with their foliage. I have always felt this way about the changing seasons. Each one has it’s own particular charm and I would regret being anywhere where I could not observe these changes and feel the difference in the air as they approached.

This morning, I was delighted to read the story by Emma Bugbee in the New York Herald Tribune about Miss Thompson. Of course, from my point of view, no one else could do the the job for me which she does, but I think that everyone reading this article, who has aspirations to be a “perfect” secretary, will learn something of what unselfish work can accomplish.

December 20, 1939

Hyde Park, Tuesday –
I did considerable walking yesterday. My last walk from from the cottage through the woods to the big house at about 5:30 in the afternoon. To my surprise, the moon was shining brightly and the stars were already out. It is only about two and a half miles from house to house, and the mysterious beauty of the woods with the moonlight clouds coming through, made part of the walk through the woods seem all too short.

In the afternoon, I went down to Poughkeepsie to buy one or two gifts which I had forgotten. I found myself in the elevator in Luckey-Platt’s, our big department store, going to toyland with quite a group of children. While I was making my purchases, I watched with keen amusement one little girl of two or three, shepherded by her father. She was gazing at the dolls, but she did not demand to have them, just looking seemed quite sufficient. I often think that when children go to the shops and are surrounded by so many toys, they are really more bewildered than interested.

We received a great deal of mail yesterday, which was not so cheerful on a holiday, but we are pretty well accustomed to the fact that mail is something from which we never can take a holiday.

It was with deep regret yesterday that we heard of the death of Mr. Heywood Broun. As President of the American Newspaper Guild, he has done a great service for many newspaper people. Even though some people may not approve of everything for which the Guild stands, or of every action it has taken in the past few years, I think there is no one who will not agree that fundamentally the Guild has improved conditions for newspaper people as a whole.

This, I feel sure, was the reason which made Mr. Broun unselfishly give much of his time to this work and many people will mourn him and feel a sense of personal loss in consequence. I have always felt that, as one of the best known columnists, he set us all a high standard in that he wrote what he really believed. No writing has any real value which is not the expression of genuine thought and feeling.

He was critical sometimes, but almost always there was something constructive about his criticisms. None of us resent being told our faults, for we know only too well how many we have, but it is truly helpful when somebody gives you new ideas and ideals which you can strive for, even though your own achievements are limited.

I knew Mr. Broun only slightly, but I had a deep respect and genuine affection for him, and I sympathize greatly for the loss which his death brings, not only to the public but to his wife and mother and the rest of his family.

December 21, 1939

Hyde Park –
I travelled around yesterday from house to house, leaving my Christmas packages for my neighbors at Hyde Park, and I was struck by the number of new small houses which have sprung up around us. Before we know it, this is going to be a real suburban development.

Two of our neighbors brought us a most marvelous fruit cake, which my husband and I enjoyed greatly. These friends make these cakes every year, and I should think their friends would be most grateful for this welcome addition to the Christmas table. It came on a red plate, done up in red cellophane and decorated with holly and red ribbon. It was such a pretty package, I almost hated to open it. Once opened, however, everyone enjoyed it.

Our second gift was a cake also and it was made by my daughter’s cook, Katie. She has been a member of our family for so long that we look forward from year to year to her Christmas cakes and chocolate fudge, which she makes for us as a special mark of favor. So our Christmas has begun early and we are adding pounds.

The only person not allowed to eat all these goodies is the youngest member of the family, baby Johnny who came with the rest of his family to visit me at my cottage yesterday afternoon. He was put down on the floor on a white bear rug and immediately seized upon a magazine and, before we knew it, he had evidently bitten off a corner of the page. He chewed it contentedly and we thought he was still munching on a piece of zwiebach. Finally, we discovered our mistake, but, of course, printer’s ink must appeal to him. Being a newspaperman’s son, he must develop these tastes early!

Sis and Buzz and all the family had rides yesterday. The children rode old “Brownie,” whom a friend of ours lets us use for those who need gentle, quiet horses.

I forgot to tell you that on Monday night I attended the tenth anniversary party of the Roosevelt Home Club in Hyde Park, where the former presidents of the Club, Mr. Leonard, Mr. Moses Smith, and Mr. Erden Ackert each said a few words. The main speech was made by Mr. Hardy Steeholm and, after we left, the active entertainment of the evening began when the chairs were cleared away and everybody took to dancing.

I wish that the President could have been present to receive in person the framed painting of a ship in full sail, which was given to him for the new library. I took it home to him before he left to take a late train back to Washington and he was much pleased. Then we drove to Highlands and saw him off and I am afraid Miss Thompson and I gloated a bit on our way home, because we were going back to enjoy our own beds instead of returning to Washington by train.

December 22, 1939

Hyde Park, Thursday –
After supper Tuesday night, Miss Thompson and I came to New York City. Yesterday was a very busy day there. We even had guests for breakfast! Then, at 11:00 o’clock, I went up to the Women’s Trade Union League club house to make sure that all the preparations for the afternoon party were made. Then I went back to my apartment to lunch with a guest, and next spent an hour on a project which I have been asked to work on with two of the editors of Good Housekeeping Magazine. Then back to the Women’s Trade Union League club house at 3:30 for the annual party for 35 youngsters.

First we had a magic show and then ice cream and cake. Last of all came the gifts and Merry Christmases which we wished each other as the children were shepherded home by their parents or friends. I always like this party and hope that it brings some real enjoyment to lives that must be drab and dreary in spite of the valiant efforts of their parents.

The day ended very peacefully and pleasantly with a dinner and a long evening spent with a friend. This morning I travelled back by train to Hyde Park, where I am spending one more day before returning to Washington tomorrow with Anna and John.

I think one of the most pleasant Christmas customs which seems to be growing in the country, is the lighting of the evergreen trees either on the porches or yards of the houses. I noticed it from the train the other night, and also when I drove up and down both city and country roads. I always enjoy driving past the big tree in Rockefeller Center Plaza in New York City and seeing the lights outside the various churches. I wish we followed that, in more places, the custom of lighting candles in our homes on Christmas Eve and welcoming bands of carol singers.

I remember the glimpses of this custom, which I saw on Beacon Hill in Boston one year, and I think it is one of the nicest customs of the Christmas season and should be preserved. The light is to guide the stranger to a haven of warmth and comfort on Christmas Eve and should remind us of the welcome the Christ Child offers to saint and sinner alike.

I must remind my readers again this year, that by applying to colleges or the “Y’s,” we may, if we so desire, entertain some foreign student in our home on Christmas Day. Perhaps this student has never been in an American home before and is alone in this country at this season. It is an opportunity which these young people have greatly appreciated in the past years, and I hope that each year an increasing number will find a warm welcome in some American home.

December 23, 1939

Washington, Friday –
This morning we traveled from Hyde Park to New York City. Our cars were filled up with all the paraphernalia which a family requires for travel, but we reached the railroad station very comfortably. The trip to Washington was uneventful, broken only by giving the baby his dinner and getting lunch for ourselves.

Franklin Jr. and Ethel and their small son arrived a few days ago. While they went off, they left this child the first to arrive in the White House for the holiday season. He settled himself comfortably, and greeted his youngest cousin when we arrived today.

I think this old house likes the sound of children’s voices. It is certainly an ideal place for children of every age to play in. At first, they are made to feel a little strange, but they soon find the high-ceilinged, big rooms no more awe inspiring than the little rooms of my cottage. Everyone in the house is a friend, within 24 hours after their arrival.

I am particularly happy to have our far-off Seattle family here this year, and only wish that James and Elliott and their families could be with us. But having three families is doing very well and I feel we should be duly grateful.

Tomorrow will be a busy day for me, but having Christmas Eve fall on Sunday is going to make it possible to do some of the things during the day instead of crowing them all in on Christmas Eve.

At 8:45 tomorrow morning, I shall be at the Capitol Theatre for the Central Union Mission’s Christmas party, and at 9:30 at the Wilson Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, for an annual Christmas party for the underprivileged children. Then a short press conference, and at 1:15, I attend the Christmas party given by the Volunteers of America, and at 2:00, the party given by the Salvation Army. Then I return to the White House for the big tree in the East Room at 3:30, when we greet all of the people who are part of the White House family. At 5:00, I go to listen to the singing of Christmas carols at the Christmas tree in two of the alleys of Washington.

These alleys are the slums of Washington and they are gradually disappearing. Some of them are changed into pleasant “courts,” or they are gone entirely, but some are still with us and not very far away from the White House itself.

This year, my public duties end at 6:00. I still have all day Sunday for the last family preparations, which crowd upon one at Christmas Eve. I am sure many workers are rejoicing in the Saturday, Sunday and Monday holiday granted by the Government, and I join their ranks!