Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (Jan. 1940)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

January 1, 1940

Washington, Sunday –
The New Year is a time for new beginnings and I hope that in the course of this coming year, we will come measurably closer to peace, for peace is the prelude to all the other changes which must come if the great mass of people throughout the world are to look forward to greater happiness. Because of the war, we will find the problems of peace intensified. We will need to redouble our efforts in order to bring about the solution of many questions that are still unsolved. But with goodwill and real determination, we should be able to find some real solutions, if we begin now to prepare our minds and hearts and go about our work unselfishly and with determination and faith in the ways of democracy.

A number of people have sent me a prayer which they are desirous of having repeated throughout the world. We were told once to gather together to make our common supplications to the Lord. It is probable that each one of us needs to be apart and alone at times, and yet this habit of joining to emphasize certain supplications is helpful to us all. I print this prayer, with the feeling that it puts into words what many people hope for the coming year.

Let the forces of light bring illumination to mankind.
Let the spirit of peace be abroad.
May men of goodwill everywhere;
Join in the spirit of cooperation.
Let the spirit of forgiveness be invoked by men
Everywhere, one towards the other.
Let power attend the efforts of
The great servers of humanity.

We will have many of the same people who have joined us before for our New Year’s Eve celebration with us tonight. Many of the family are still here. Secretary and Mrs. Morgenthau and their family will be with us, and Bishop Atwood and the Reverend Mr. Endicott Peabody of Groton School, and a few others are sure to drop in at the last minute. We will observe the usual ritual of eggnog and toasts as the New Year is rung in.

At our gathering tonight, we will be voicing the same wish that will be in the heart of every American:

May the New Year be a happy one for our beloved country and for us, and may it bring greater happiness to the world as a whole!

Note to editors:
This column is being mailed in advance because of the holiday. There will be no wire service New Years Eve.

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January 2, 1940

Washington, Monday –
We had a very pleasant dinner last night, after which Miss Cornelia Stabler gave us some delightful monologues. Her long one on The Refugee was particularly touching. I think all of us were glad to have it followed by a very light-hearted comparison of a girl saying good night to her mother after a party in the 80s or 90s, and a present day girl doing the same thing in quite a different way.

Afterward, Mr. Pare Lorenz showed us a movie which he has written and directed and which is taken from Dr. Paul de Kruif’s book Fight for Life. I found the picture interesting, but I doubt whether it will have a great popular appeal. However, for the sake of the interest which we should all have in this subject of maternity and infant care, I sincerely hope that large audiences see it.

When the President offered his annual toast to the United States on the stroke of midnight, many of us drank a little private toast, I think, in gratitude to a kindly Providence which has seen fit to spare the nation from participation in war and, therefore, in mass tragedy. Personally, I was grateful for two fairly narrow escapes in our own family. Ethel is practically well again, though she is still hobbling a little about the house, and Franklin Jr., who acquired a little cold to add to his discomfort, is still more or less an invalid. Both of them, however, will look quite presentable in the course of the next few days and feel much more like themselves.

Our party here is beginning to break up. Major Hooker left this morning. Johnny and Anne are going back on the night train to Boston. Anna and John are taking the midnight train and going to work in New York City. The family is growing smaller, though some of them remain and return off and on, and the grandchildren will be with us for some time.

I must tell you of a number of interesting books which have come to me within the last few days. One of them is particularly delightful and has impressed me because of my necessity to think a good deal about food. This is a small book called Honor Among Cooks with some recipes in it which I have been anxious to obtain for some time. Then, to jump to something entirely different, there is a new Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, which should be extremely interesting to anyone wanting authoritative information on the Jewish people and their religion.

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January 3, 1940

Washington, Tuesday –
My family has been taking up so much of my thought the last few days, that apparently it is on my mind even in my sleep. I had been asleep only about 15 minutes last night, when the telephone rang. The operator told me that one of the children wanted to speak to me. In my half-awakened state, instead of listening to what he was saying, I immediately replied:

Yes, I shall be there at once.

…and dashed down the hall to Franklin Jr.'s room, to find he was sound asleep.

He was very much surprised at my appearance, but thought of things he wanted and then turned over peacefully and went to sleep again, apparently thinking me a little mad. I decided that he must have called me in his sleep and went back to my room to find the telephone still ringing madly. On taking off the receiver, I found that the child who really had wanted to talk to me was waiting at the other end of the line.

This morning, I had to leave those at my press conference to talk to each other, while I went to see stitches taken out of various cuts Franklin Jr. had sustained in his accident. Of course, I was not in the least needed, but the habit of feeling that you must be on hand to watch whatever is being done to your family, persists even when you are simply a useless observer.

We are trying to make Eleanor and Curtis do some sightseeing while they are here, for they are really old enough now to get something besides mere enjoyment out of this trip. The snow makes them want to go out into the country and coast whenever they can, however, and the fact that they have a certain amount of school work, which they must do every day, makes it hard to be stern about sight-seeing trips.

Mrs. Morgenthau and I went out to lunch together this noon and now we are about to enjoy the first afternoon musicale given here this winter.

I started to tell you of books yesterday which have come to my notice, and I think there is one which I must not forget to mention. It is called Denmark, A Social Laboratory by Peter Manniche, who was the founder and principal of International People’s College at Elsinore. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has considered this work sufficiently important to order a certain number of copies for distribution to universities in this country and Canada.

It is of great interest to us because it describes the cooperative farming community which has grown up in this little country, together with folk high schools and accompanying social legislation. It is true that Denmark is so much smaller than the United States that it is difficult to compare the two countries, but there are parts of our country, and groups of our citizens, where much benefit can be derived from the study of the measures which have been so successful in improving rural life in Denmark.

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January 4, 1940

Washington, Wednesday –
We have just come back from the Capitol where we went – rather a large family party – to listen to the President deliver his message to Congress. Today’s message is, of course, only a prelude to the budget message which goes in shortly, and which is the real indication of what the Administration hopes Congress will do during the coming year. This first message deals very largely in generalities, but the basic principles and general trends of thought are important.

I enjoy going up to Congress largely because I like to watch the reactions of the “floor.” Certain amenities must, of course, be preserved, and everyone arises to greet the President whether they like the President or not. But when it comes to the speech, they applaud largely according to their political affiliations.

Statements which could certainly be subscribed to by all political parties, for some unknown reason, the Democrats applaud, while the Republicans sit with their hands carefully inactive! When the President announced, however, that except for national defense, all other items of the budget would show a decrease, the Republican side of the house applauded vigorously.

To an onlooker who is not much of a politician, this sudden indiscriminate applause is somewhat surprising. Do the Republicans mean by that they have such complete confidence in the Administration that any reduction, no matter for what purpose, will be accepted without scrutiny? They applauded also the expenditures for national defense, but their applause for all reductions would seem to indicate that national defense means to them only expenditure for the Army and Navy and munitions of war. Health, unemployment, the preservation of people’s morale until the answers to modern economic questions are found, are apparently party matters, not matters of national interest and have no part in the national defense. What is this? Blindness? Ignorance? Indifference or partisanship?

Fortunately, applause probably has little or nothing to do with the real thinking and conviction of these human beings when they get out of a situation which they feel is controlled on a partisan basis, and we can hope that national unity on questions of national importance may be possible in spite of what might be called superficial indications to the contrary.

Regardless of the fact that according to our different lights we may consider that certain objectives should be achieved in different ways, still we can agree on those objectives and arrive at compromise methods through conference, rather than through vituperative cat and dog fights which defeat not only methods but often objectives as well.

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January 5, 1940

Washington, Thursday –
Going up to Congress yesterday crowded two things out of “My Day” which I still want to speak about. On Tuesday afternoon, at the musicale, Mr. John Carter sang delightfully and Miss Anne Simpson proved to be one of the most charming dancers we have ever had at the White House. Her costumes were simply bewitching. Everyone greatly enjoyed both artists.

My mother-in-law and I attended the concert given by the Philadelphia Orchestra that same evening in Constitution Hall. We enjoyed the marvelous orchestra, which is now conducted by Eugene Ormandy, and the additional pleasure of having Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist, play the Brahms Concerto in D with the Orchestra. We had to come home before the end, because the day had been rather a long one and there was still work to be done, but both of us felt we had spent a delightful evening.

Yesterday evening I succeeded in doing some work which I had been trying to do all through the holidays, but what with gaieties and duties and sudden unexpected occurrences, I just never got around to doing it.

The Postmaster General, Mr. Farley, dropped in for dinner last night and was, as usual, a cheerful and delightful guest. We went into the President’s study after dinner and I was struck by the fact that the President still has many of his Christmas presents spread around where he can look at them. I thought that he needed a screen for his cottage, so I had one painted in New York City for him by Mrs. Helen M. Parson MacDonald. She came up to Hyde Park last summer to look at the room where it was to go, and then studied old Hudson River prints so that it would be suitable for the President’s cottage, set high up on a hill overlooking the Hudson. Mrs. MacDonald’s colors are lovely and I think it is one of the most successful screens I have ever seen. I am glad to say that the President seems to like it as much as I do, for he has it set up in his study so he can look at it while he waits to have it taken to Hyde Park.

My young people were augmented this morning when Mrs. Robert Baker arrived with her son Bobby, on her way from Fall River, Mass., to Urbana, Illinois. Bobby and Buzzie were thrilled to be invited by Captain Jones to lunch on the Potomac this noon.

At 3 o’clock, Sistie and the boys went with me to the christening of one of the new airplanes which inaugurates a new service by the Pennsylvania Airlines out of Washington. The children were very much interested in going over the ship after the brief ceremonies. I was interested in one or two improvements, such as the double windows which will minimize noise and keep one’s vision clearer in frosty weather; the chimes instead of the buzzer to call the hostess, and the color scheme of gray and red which is really very attractive. The safety record is most impressive. They have been flying 14 years and have had no casualties to passengers or crews.

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January 6, 1940

Washington, DC –
Last night, we held the judicial reception, and it was one of the smallest receptions of the year. It was good to see the Chief Justice in such good health and spirits. He told me that he had begun to read Carl Sandburg’s four volumes on Lincoln and found them as fascinating as any fiction. I had set my volumes aside, thinking that I could not possibly begin reading them until summer, but I think I shall take the first volume and put it by my bed in the hope that by reading a little at a time every night, I may find that I get through considerable reading.

We sat around in the President’s study and talked after the reception was over. We had three guests who are Hudson River neighbors staying in the house – Judge John Mack of Poughkeepsie, and Mr. and Mrs. Lydig Hoyt of Staatsburgh.

It amused me to see two story tellers vie with each other, for the President would tell a story which would remind the Judge of a story. I think they would have kept on all night! They really make a grand team as story tellers.

I had a delightful lunch today with Mrs. Wallace, wife of the Secretary of Agriculture, and have several appointments this afternoon. However, on the whole, these days are comparatively free, which is unusual at this season of the year.

Some of the family is returning today. John and Anna will be back for over the weekend, and Ethel is returning after a session with the dentist. I feel a little like a railroad junction at times when the family begins to come and go, but even a railroad junction has its advantages, for one can snatch hours here and there with people while they linger between trains.

For the New Year I received two delightful gifts of poems. Miss Hilda Smith sent me some of her own verses and one of them, from a poem called “Frontiers of Freedom,” I must quote to you:

Misty the road, but secure the foundation
Laid by those who others blazed the first trail,
Let us rebuild now our pioneer nation
Where living freedom for all shall prevail.

A nice thought to carry with us through 1940.

Another friend sent me The True Ballad of the Glorious Harriet Tubman by Sarah N. Cleghorn. It should be read aloud, for it gives a wonderful picture of a time which I am thankful to say is past for all of us in this country.

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January 8, 1940

Washington, Sunday –
Yesterday morning Anna and I spent an hour at the home economic exhibit in the patio of the Department of Agriculture Building. Though I had seen it before, I found it even more interesting, because there was no great crowd and we could really read all the material which explains the different exhibits. Of course, the work done by the Bureau of Home Economics is so far-reaching because the information goes to state colleges with extension services all over the country, and even has contacts with a great many individual homes. After all, nothing is more important than the help we can give the individual housewife to improve the health of her family and to make her home more comfortable and of greater value to the development of young and old.

In the late afternoon, the Women’s Committee of the National Committee for the Infantile Paralysis Drive, met here and gave a broadcast, which I hoped proved of interest to the country. I have so often found misunderstandings as to how the money raised at the Birthday Balls is spent, that I was glad to have them state clearly that 50% of this money remains in the communities where it is raised; that the other 50% goes to the National Foundation and is used for research which needs to be done, for we do not yet know how to keep people from being paralyzed by this dread disease, even though we know more about the treatment than we did a few years ago.

The Committee also allocates money to communities where epidemics occur and gives grants for the development of facilities to care for infantile paralysis patients in different parts of the country. I was quite overcome when I found how many women had come from distant states for the broadcast and tea yesterday, and the dinner which followed last night. I learned a great deal at the dinner, for I had been laboring under the delusion that a serum had been found which, if used early enough, would be beneficial. I discovered I was wrong, and also discovered that the experiments made the spray for the nose had not been proved beneficial.

Anna, John and I went out walking this morning, for the ground is still not good for riding. We are all very sad to have them leave us tonight to start on their journey back to Seattle. The grandchildren will be with us until Friday, when they will go to join their father and mother in Chicago for the rest of the trip.

We had a rather large luncheon party today, some of Anna and John’s friends came in to say goodbye, as well as a few people whom we have been trying to see for a long time. I always wish that one could see all the interesting people who come through Washington, but sometimes it is almost impossible to manage.

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January 9, 1940

Washington, Monday –
I hated to see Anna and John leave yesterday afternoon. It made the family seem very small at supper last night. I was all alone at breakfast this morning, so I went up to get my youngest grandson to keep me company, but even he seemed to sense that something was wrong, for he wouldn’t stay by himself on the floor, but wanted to be held all the time. However, today at lunch, Sistie and Buzz came back. Now they are out enjoying the snow back of the White House and they will give that added touch of family which their small brother missed this morning.

When they all go at the end of this week, we shall indeed be bereft. Franklin Jr. and Ethel will also be leaving us soon with their little boy, and the old house will return to dignified silence until some more children come to wake it up.

At lunch yesterday, I discovered that Mr. Dale Carnegie is a Lincoln enthusiast, so I showed him all I could of interest about Lincoln in the White House. I find that all the people who really have studied that period of our history are much interested in the new portrait which hangs in the State Dining Room. They are all struck by the thoughtful, contemplative expression and the humorous look about the mouth. It was that sense of humor which kept Lincoln going, because under the gaunt and rough exterior there was such a very soft heart.

A lovely concert this morning in Mrs. Townsend’s series, at which Mr. Melchior and Madame Lotte Lehmann sang. It was almost the biggest audience I have ever seen at these concerts and the artists well deserved the prolonged applause.

I have a letter written me on an airplane by a lady who is on her way back to California. She found in Washington, DC:

Dirty newspapers and crumpled bags blowing along the streets and lodged in corners less than two blocks from the Supreme Court Building.

She feels we should:

…provide containers of interesting design and that organizations, citizens, housewives and school children will then become sidewalk conscious and will cooperate in keeping their city beautiful.

She says:

I cringe when I think how this must impress representatives from other beautiful cities of the world where good civic housekeeping is required.

I wish we might be the cleanest most orderly city in the world. On the whole, I thought Washington did fairly well. It certainly compares well with London, or Paris or Rome. Perhaps cities in Germany and Holland are a little more “shiny,” but that is because generations have been taught a sense of responsibility for their public places. I imagine that this nation will have to set itself to the task of civic cleanliness more seriously than it has in the past in order to compete.

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January 10, 1940

Washington, DC –
Yesterday afternoon I spent a delightful hour with Miss Elizabeth Searcy in her studio on Dupont Circle. She has painted a great deal in Newport, Rhode Island, New York City and the South. It is evident in looking at her work that she has a great feeling for her home city, Memphis, Tennessee. There are five interiors of rooms which she painted at the Roosevelt House in New York City some years ago, and which seemed to me to belong together in some museum. They are beautifully executed and correct in detail and should, of course, be kept together, preferably where people who are not apt to visit and yet want to know the looks of the house where Theodore Roosevelt was born and spent the early years of his life.

Some of Miss Searcy’s etchings are exquisite, but her watercolors of gardens were to me the loveliest of all. I hope that she will have an opportunity while here to paint some of the beautiful gardens in and around this city.

The Jackson Day dinner, which we all attended last night, I need hardly tell you about, for you may have listened on the radio. If you did not, the newspapers have told you more than I could about this party function which each year collects the wherewithal to run the Democratic Party machine.

I am hoping that the women someday will have as well established a day as the men have. They made a beginning last year, but it was only a beginning. I feel sure that they can be as successful as the men if they begin their plans far enough ahead. Certainly the Democratic Party should be able to swing two national celebrations a year to raise money for national work, besides the days devoted to state, county and city organization. Getting together is important to us all.

Today, with my voice teacher, Mrs. Elizabeth von Hesse, I attended the Women’s National Press Club luncheon. Mrs. von Hesse gave us all a delightful talk and a demonstration lesson on voice control. Everyone seemed to have a good time and I am sure all of us learned something.

Mrs. von Hesse stresses developing our ability to hear, which reminds me that I have been wanting to tell you for a long time about a musical project here in the District of Columbia, which I think well worthwhile. The National Committee for Music Appreciation is sponsoring the establishment in the public library of the District, of a free circulating library of symphonic records. The nucleus will be ten symphonies which a Washington newspaper recently distributed. Ten of these sets, covering the work of ten great composers, are being presented by the Committee to the library, so that thousands of people who cannot afford to attend concerts or public performances, can hear this music in their homes.

I hope this may be followed by a similar project in many other cities, for the things which we hear constantly and which become familiar to us are the things which we love.

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January 11, 1940

Washington, Wednesday –
We had a charming program yesterday afternoon at the musical here. Mr. Webster Aitken played, among other things, a group by Schubert which delighted my soul. Miss Angna Enters, did four character sketches which were clever and gave everybody a great deal of pleasure.

In the evening, I went to see Three After Three, a new musical comedy which boasts a number of movie stars in the cast. All of them are charming and I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

This morning I went up to the Children’s Hospital to see their infantile paralysis clinic. There is something remarkable about the philosophy which these children develop in the face of pain. Even when they are nearly well, they have to show so much character to finally overcome their handicap. One little boy, who looked entirely normal, told me he had to do exercises with his arm every day because he couldn’t throw a ball. I told him that if he kept at it steadily, someday he would find that the power was there, but what I didn’t tell him was that the character he would develop by sticking to those daily exercises would serve him better in afterlife than almost anything acquired in school.

Yesterday, I was sent some of the work being done in California on the American Book Of Design. The drawings are among the most beautiful I have seen. When this work is complete, it will be, for student in many lines, one of the most valuable pieces of work which the WPA has accomplished.

In addition to this, a full-blooded Kiowa Indian woman from Oklahoma, working in the Indian arts and crafts project, made and sent me a most beautiful bag. She tanned the white buckskin and did the beading, and the design and colors are authentic in her tribe. I shall use it with the greatest of pleasure.

It is interesting that this tanning should have been one of the early Indian arts, for a gentleman in New York City wrote me the other day that one of the lacks in his trade was young men who would take a practical course in tanning. There were plenty of openings and the need for young men with that skill could not at present be filled.

Since I am telling you about the interesting things which have come to me within the last few days, I should mention that two of my correspondents have sent me a book for children which they hope to get published in this country. They were natives of Czechoslovakia and are now becoming American citizens. One of them has done the illustrations, and both story and pictures are delightful. It will, I think, prove very interesting to young readers, besides giving them a picture of life in a Czechoslovakian village. In their letter, they ask me to return their manuscript, for it is the only typewritten one they have. I imagine the illustrations, being done by hand, are also not produced in quantity. I cannot help hoping that before long this book will be in print and available to many children.

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January 12, 1940

Washington, Thursday –
Last evening, we went to a concert given by the National Symphony Orchestra. In the first part of the program, one of Strauss’ compositions, which I had never heard before, was played. I was sorry not to hear the Brahms Symphony in F Major, for my guests who stayed on after I had to leave, said it was beautifully rendered.

I had to go to the broadcasting station where Mrs. Ellen Woodward and Miss Jane Hooey and I conversed together over the air at 10:15 p.m. on some of the changes in the Social Security Act. I am becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of this act in the lives of a great many people. There will, of course, be more changes, for anything which touches so many people cannot remain static. Circumstances under which we live are constantly changing and therefore an act of this kind must change to meet new needs and new conditions.

A friend of mine, who came to see me the other day, is very insistent that, sad as the war is, we in the United States are great travellers and will still be. Ordinarily most of our travelling has been in Europe, or in places which at present are not healthy for pleasure jaunts because of war activities. Therefore, for the first time, we are probably going to make it a point not only to see our own United States, but to see many other places in North and South America. My friend insists that this will mean the discovery by many people of beauties and interests which they never before realized.

The celebrations which are to begin this spring in Arizona and New Mexico, should be of special interest to those who are interested in the first settlements in this country. We can also see many of our most interesting Indian tribes. In many ways, we are trying to help these tribes to recapture some of their old arts and skills and to adapt them to modern use. At the same time, the nation will have to grow in knowledge and appreciation of the value of these Indian made goods. I hope, therefore, if the San Francisco World’s Fair opens again next spring, more of our citizens will journey out there, where they may see the Indian courts, which were to me the most thrilling part of the Indian exhibit at the Fair.

Since jobs are of necessity a matter of concern to our young college boys and girls, I was very much interested to receive from a girl who is studying journalism at Hunter College, New York City, the following information:

The bureau of occupations at my college has formulated a plan whereby business and professional women in New York City, with a reasonable expenditure of time on their part, can help graduating students in choosing a career. Six metropolitan organizations with a total membership of over two thousand business and professional business women, are cooperating on a program of career conferences which aim to acquaint graduating seniors with employment possibilities in New York City and to bring them in personal contact with workers in various fields.

This is a splendid idea and I hope it will be carried out in many of the colleges.

January 13, 1940

New York, Friday –
The Democratic Digest, published once a month by the Women’s Division of the National Democratic Committee, is undertaking a very interesting demonstration of how one can actually go about knowing one’s own community.

Mrs. Dorothy McAllister and Mrs. May Evans decided that public health was a good study point in any city or rural district. They invited a small group of women to join them yesterday in the District of Columbia Health Commissioner’s office. Dr. Ruhland was away, but his deputy received the group.

We were told first about the things which the Department was doing that were considered important to public health. The Department can show real results, for one campaign which it has carried and and which is tied up with the desire to restrict the spread of contagious diseases. They are inspecting glassware and silverware in all the restaurants and soda fountains in the city. At first, the number of germs found on glasses was extremely high, but they have brought it down so that many restaurants run below a hundred, where they once were up in the thousands.

In the District of Columbia, the most serious menaces seem to be tuberculosis and pneumonia. Deaths from tuberculosis are, of course, far higher among the colored citizens.

In the course of the conversation, it was brought out that, in areas where poor housing exists, disease rates go up in proportion to the low economic status of the families. All clinics are overcrowded and the number of public health nurses in the District is just about half of what is considered safe for a city of this size.

We went through the laboratory where experiments are being made with pneumonia serums which have appreciably cut down the number of deaths from pneumonia. I felt that I had acquired a great deal of knowledge on this first trip. It is planned to continue these trips, looking into a different phase of District of Columbia government and publishing an account of findings in the Digest. It is hoped that this will be helpful to women in other cities, or rural areas, who wish to study their own problems.

This week, in New York City, has been designated as “Kindergarten Week” by the kindergartners of the city, in order to try to awaken public interest to the importance of retaining kindergartens as part of the public education system. I wish this could be done all over the country, for kindergartens and nursery schools should be available to all our children. At an early age, they acquire fundamental habits which will help them all through their later years.

Last night, the Congressional Reception took place. During dinner, I particularly enjoyed having the President and the Vice President vie with each other telling stories of their past political experiences.

Miss Thompson and I came to New York City on the midnight train and are going to Hyde Park this afternoon.

January 15, 1940

Hyde Park, Sunday –
In New York City on Friday, it rained most of the day and, when we reached Hyde Park, we were told it had been raining or snowing all day. The sky was gray and heavy, but the snow on the fields and on the evergreen trees was a sight which I always enjoy. The driving was none too good and I was glad that we did not have far to go.

Saturday was filled with all the air and exercise we could get. A long walk in the morning, a ride in the afternoon, and then we got out a little cutter. Though the snow was not the kind that makes good sleighing, we did manage by choosing our roads carefully, to drive through the woods and even over to the big house to have a look at the library. Many of the partitions are up now, but it still looks a long way from completion on the inside.

Two quiet evenings and late breakfasts seem great luxury. The sky continues to look as though either snow or rain might fall upon us at any moment. I like particularly the feeling of isolation that winter gives one and I think I shall enjoy being snowed in sometime in the future. Just now, I couldn’t indulge in a changed schedule, when there is an engagement, made months beforehand, always ahead.

I see by the newspaper this morning, that the New York World’s Fair has formally invited the quintuplets to set up their nursery in the grounds on the Fair next summer. I suppose they will be allowed an occasional peek at the Fair, but judging from the past their nurses and guardians will see that they lead normal lives. One-way glass will undoubtedly make it possible for thousands of visitors to the Fair to look in on these five attractive youngsters who have been so carefully brought up. One may see them at work and at play without being seen by them. I hope that Canada will let them come, for I think the whole United States will feel pleasure in being their hosts.

In this day of hatreds and wars and rumors of wars, it is good to cement friendships between nations through the affection we all feel for children. The quintuplets have drawn innumerable visitors from the United States to Canada and all of them have been captivated by the charm these children seem to radiate. I feel that it is a very happy gesture to have them come as guests of the Fair of the United States. Many people who might never have had a glimpse of them in Canada will be able to see them here.

It has always seemed to me that their care, the simplicity and regularity with which their lives are planned, must serve as an object lesson to many families both rich and poor. Good luck to you, little quintuplets if you come to us as our guests, may your visit be a happy time.

January 16, 1940

New York, Monday –
What an odd thing it is to find, according to the newspapers, that a group of people who say they belong to the “The Christian Front,” whatever that organization may be, were planning to overthrow our government by force, the elimination of the Jews and the installing of a dictator! A “Christian Front” might reasonably be supposed to indicate that the members are followers of Christ, and he was a Jew. He never used force to overthrow evil. How strangely muddled in their thinking people of this kind must be, or else how easily they must be led by people who can make them think whatever they desire.

Yesterday was drizzly and damp in the country. We had a good walk in the morning, I managed to pay all of my bills, to read the Sunday papers and a number of magazines which I have wanted to read some some time and which in Washington I have never been free to sit down and enjoy.

The Ladies’ Home Journal is beginning what promises to be a very interesting series of articles. In different parts of the country, it is picking out typical families and trying to introduce them to its readers, so that everyone will really know how these families live and what they do with their lives. This particular family of four is in the Midwest in a small town and in the income group below $2,000 a year. I hope that a variety of income levels will be covered, as well as different localities, different types of educational background and various occupations. If this is done, I think this series might prove of great value in introducing us to people throughout the nation, and making us really feel that we know our neighbors.

Another article in the Atlantic, written by Dean Holmes of Harvard University, on the problems of our public school education was extremely interesting to me. He evidently believes in equality of opportunity for all of our children brought about through state and federal aid to localities. He sees this equality of opportunity, however, not as resulting in a cut and dried curriculum through which every child must pass, but as a school system which will provide for every child at every level the best the child is able to assimilate.

This entails giving greater guidance at all times and recognizing the fact that each individual must develop himself or herself in accordance with their gifts. This, of course, emphasizes again the changed conception of what a teacher really should be able to do, and will require a recognition on our part of the value of the teacher. I have often thought that in our concentration on buildings we have almost lost the conception which we once held that a good teacher with poor tools was better than the best of tools without a good teacher.

It cleared today and we had a beautiful drive down the Hudson River. We left Hyde Park about 8:00 and I am glad to have a pleasant day in New York City, for I have a number of appointments which I shall tell you about tomorrow.

January 17, 1940

Washington, Tuesday –
I had a delightful lunch yesterday with the members of the Women’s Faculty Club of Columbia University. It was all very pleasant and informal. I enjoyed particularly seeing Dean and Mrs. Russell again. Mrs. Russell drove me downtown after lunch so I had a chance for a little extra chat with her.

Then I had several visitors, among them a group who are planning an education campaign in New York City in the schools to acquaint people in the city with the problem of sharecroppers as it exists in other parts of the country. I think that it is an interesting thing to do, for we should surely make every effort to have people in the cities understand the problem of their country neighbors.

In the evening, before taking the night train back to Washington, we went to the Guild Theatre to see The World We Make by Sidney Kingsley. This play is based on Millen Brand’s novel The Outward Room. Margo and Herbert Rudley, who play the two principal parts excellently, are well supported by a very good cast. The play is interesting and pertinent to the present time when hatred and horror fill so much of the world that many people must often wish to get out of it. The final realization on the part of the heroine that suffering comes to everyone and the important thing about suffering is how you take it and what you contribute in the way of sympathy and help when other people suffer, is the lesson for all of us to remember.

As usual, Miss Thompson and I are swamped with mail on our return, but the routine is easy to take up again. It seems as though the two days in the country were already a month behind us, and it is natural to find our days scheduled to the last minute.

So many clippings have come to me and so many letters also, condemning the American Students Union, that I have come to the conclusion that there is a misapprehension in people’s minds as to what actually transpired at the their convention in Madison, Wisconsin. I happen not to be particularly concerned with what they did or didn’t do. I certainly hold no brief for their refusal to condemn Russia, but I should like to point out that the resolution which they actually passed was practically identical with the resolution passed by the National Students Federation which is a conservative student body, and with one passed by another student group, all with the aim of keeping us out of war.

This attitude reflects the attitude of the older members of their families. The fact they will not condemn Russia, I think, arises more from a general distrust of all news and feeling that condemnation of any people should at present be withheld. You and I may think this attitude foolish, may even think it wrong, but I really do not think that it is quite necessary to dignify it with the amount of notice and apprehension which it seems to have excited in the press and in the minds of certain individuals.

January 18, 1940

Washington, Wednesday –
Many of you have probably wondered during the past week, just as I did, what would happen to the wives, mothers and children of the men who were killed in the mine disaster in West Virginia. It is bad enough to lose someone you love, but that is something which all of us experience. However, to face the fact that with the loss goes the food and shelter of the family, is stark tragedy, which, fortunately, all of us do not have to face.

I felt that this emergency did face those families waiting at the mouth of the mine for the bodies of their men to be brought up. Therefore, I was very happy when a representative of the Social Security Board telephoned to tell me that out of the 92 miners who were killed, 73 of them were currently insured under the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance system. The widows and children will be eligible to monthly benefits under this system. There is a chance that some of the 19 others may also be insured, though the employers records already in do not show it.

That is a dramatic illustration of what this program means to us, for I know that all of you will sleep more quietly at night knowing that, at least, starvation will not face these families.

When we were living in New York City, after my husband had left the Navy Department, I remember our going to a clubhouse which at the time was run for Navy and Army men in New York City. The Navy League was one of the organizations responsible for the running of this clubhouse, as an evidence of the interest in the Navy personnel. Now I have received a notice stating that the New York branch of the Navy League of the United States is putting on a membership drive. For many years I knew something of their work, I am still interested in their expansion, for I think this country should know and support its navy. Every organization naturally thinks that its own work is important, but in this case I think we are safe in feeling that the Navy does deserve our interest and support. We may differ as to the size of the navy that we need, but that is for experts to decide. We cannot, however, differ as to our interest in the ships and the men who are the backbone of our first line of defense.

Yesterday afternoon we had a very enjoyable musicale here. A young pianist, born in California, Mr. Ezra Rachlin, gave everyone great pleasure by playing a delightful program. Miss Charlotte Kraus, a young Austrian refugee, who sang for us when the Danish Crown Prince and Princess were at Hyde Park, sang again here very charmingly.

Last night, I attended a meeting of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Dr. Kingdon and Dr. Graham both spoke and stimulated a discussion which brought out many ideas on the subject of how the work of the churches of the world might help prepare us for lasting peace.

January 19, 1940

Washington, Thursday –
I have been sent an original cartoon by Wortman as a gift and I do not think anything I have received of late has entertained or pleased me more than this. It depicts Mopey and the Duke and the caption under it says:

Pull up your socks, and straighten your tie, Duke, you never can tell when you will run into Mrs. Roosevelt.

I am not quite sure, however, that this suggests the kind of person who is always a welcome visitor, but it takes me right back 25 odd years to a collection of small boys who were always reminding each other that mother might be around the corner and they had better tidy up!

Yesterday was one of those days when I seemed to be busy every moment and afterwards could think of nothing I had really accomplished. There were only five of us at luncheon, two of my cousins, and a friend besides Miss Thompson and myself, and that seemed to me a very peaceful interlude. Some friends came in a group from North Carolina to reiterate their invitation that I come there this spring, not on a lecture trip, but to attend a Federation of Women’s Clubs meetings and see something of the NYA work. By coordinating many of their youth agencies, they are really making a concerted effort to find jobs and fit young people in them. I am happy to say that they are meeting with some measure of success.

Someone said to me this morning that we had neglected educating young people to do occupational therapy work. I am wondering if this is a field where many talents could be usefully employed and which would appeal to both young men and young women as a career.

I received a pamphlet yesterday which I think may have a germ of some real achievement for the future. It is called “Vocational Adoption,” and was published, I believe, in the New York Times. What interested me was that the man has actually placed over a thousand young people in various careers without displacing anyone, for in each case he asked that new work be created for the applicant and in almost every case when the apprenticeship period was over, it resulted in a real job.

I forgot to tell you that I had a visit from a group of representatives of the southern Missouri and Arkansas sharecroppers. Dr. Will. W. Alexander of the Farm Security Administration, and Mr. Philip F. Maguire of the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation, listened with me to their problems. They are serious problems, but at last some light is breaking, for representatives of the plantation owners have come to the Farm Security Administration and have agreed to cooperate.

The plight of the sharecropper, thrown out of his shack with no possessions and no income, is sad indeed. There is a camp in Missouri for which the land was bought by some St. Louis women, but it is already overcrowded and there is not enough ground to raise food for the families on it. There is no school, so 138 children are without a chance for education. This is not only a Missouri problem, but a problem which extends to a great many states in our country. I am glad that there is not only this meeting of sharecroppers here, but that there will be an opportunity from now on for many people to learn about this problem.

January 20, 1940

Washington, Friday –
Visitors come and go so quickly in the White House these days that I hardly have time to enjoy them, but it was a great pleasure to have Miss Fannie Hurst for a night. Last night, Mr. and Mrs. Howland Davis of New York City, came down for the departmental reception. The heads of various departments who have not already come with other groups for dinner, dined with us before the reception. In some cases, we greeted the same people three times, once when they arrived for dinner, once when we met the Cabinet before proceeding to the reception room previous to the reception itself, and once when they came through the line as heads of their departments. Each time we tried to look as though we had not parted five minutes before.

I attended, for an hour, a reception given at the Congressional club yesterday afternoon, and it was pleasant to see many familiar faces. Before that, I spent two hours with some of the leading educators of the country, and I hope I learned much about the problems facing those who are trying to meet the situation of rapidly mounting numbers of young people in high school. Basically, our trouble is inadequate money to pay for properly trained teachers and to divide the young people as they should be divided for their best interests. There is a wide variety of capacity which necessitates a wider variety of occupations and opportunity as well as academic teaching.

We have always believed in this country that education was the basis of our democracy, and I still believe that is true. We have certainly not as yet faced the duty of the nation, in view of the entirely new problem which is before us today. Great numbers of young people who, in other times, would have gone to work, are now going to high school because there is no work.

For any work which they may later do, they must have better training than ever before. The nation, I think, should consider this as an investment, if we still feel that education of the proper kind, suited to the capacities of every individual, is part of the preparation necessary for adequate participation in a democratic form of government.

I have just been sent some information on the Pan-American Conference in Aid of Spanish Refugees, which is to take place in Mexico City, Mexico, February 7-10, with delegates from Chile, Cuba, the Argentine, nearly all the Latin-American countries and the United States. With 130,000 Spanish refugees still in France in need of assistance, it seems wise to help work out opportunities in those countries for establishing them in a pattern which will at least seem fairly familiar.

These Spanish people should have a contribution to make to the New World. It hardly seems fair to me that France should have to bear this added burden at the present time. Bishop Francis McConnell in his report to Secretary Ickes, who is honorary chairman of the Spanish Refugee Relief Campaign in this country, reports a fair amount of success both in collecting cash and other materials for the aid of these refugees. Their transportation must be provided and they must be started in their new surroundings. It seems to me that those who are able to do so should be glad to help in this work.

January 22, 1940

Washington, Sunday –
Yesterday morning, I attended the closing session of the conference on “Children In A Democracy,” and we heard the final report and recommendations for action given by Mrs. Dunbar, President of the Federation of Women’s Clubs. The group attending these conferences is an important and representative group. The fact there is a government department like the Children’s Bureau, which can give leadership, ensures continued progress during the next ten years.

A number of people are staying in the house. It was a great pleasure to have Miss Vandy Cape in for luncheon Saturday on her way through Florida. She brought me a bag made by a Czechoslovakian refugee and told me of the struggle he was making, not only to support himself, but through his skill to give work to others, both refugees and unemployed Americans.

Artists are proverbially generous people and the legitimate theatre in New York City under Helen Hayes’ chairmanship, is making a great effort through benefit performances, to add to the Finnish Relief Fund. She, herself, will give a performance of Ladies And Gentlemen in Boston on January 28. Gertrude Lawrence will give one in Skylark on January 29 in New York City, and this performance will be attended by many notables. Paul Muni, Tallulah Bankhead, Katharine Hepburn, Eddie Dowling, Katharine Cornell, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, S. Hurok and the company of Pins And Needles will all donate their services for performances. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne have agreed to give an entire week of benefit performances.

The rest of us can do little but go and enjoy ourselves. I hope we will go in great numbers wherever these performances are given, for I think the people of America can not help but have an admiration for the Finns.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a meeting with the leaders of consumer organizations. There were government officials present and the people interested from the scientific point of view, as well as those interested because of their work among people who very greatly need consumer information. Miss Helen Hall, who is chairman of the Consumers’ National Federation and head of the Henry Street Settlement in New York City, arranged the meeting.

I was very grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the three main objectives of these organizations. They are: more useful information on labels, in advertising and in salesmanship; more facts about the quality of goods, their prices and the conditions under which they are made; and representation of consumers at council tables of business and government where decisions are being made affecting the goods and services coming to the market.

January 23, 1940

Washington, Monday –
We attended Senator Borah’s funeral this morning. Any funeral in the Capitol is dignified and impressive and, in addition, the flowers today were very beautiful. The services were simple, the words comforting. Finally, one of the chaplains recited Tennyson’s “Crossing The Bar.” One line in particular I always like, it is:

May there be no sadness of farewell when I embark.

There should be no sadness in this case, except for those who loved him and are left behind. Mr. Borah’s long life has been a useful one in public service, and while those who love him cannot fail to be lonely, they are spared the one thing which I think brings bitter sorrow – the feeling that a life has passed without opportunity for fulfillment, or that the opportunity has not been used to the full.

Yesterday morning, quite a number of us attended the service at St. Thomas Church. I liked the thought expressed in the sermon which brought out that there are many kinds of poverty which are not of the purely material variety. It is hard to rise above starvation, in fact it is impossible, but one may have much of the world’s goods and still be poor indeed in spirit.

In the afternoon, Mr. Julien Bryan showed us his movies taken in Warsaw, Poland, last September. First he shows Poland as he knew it during peacetime, so the contrast makes a deep impression on his audience. I do not think anyone can see these pictures and fail to be impressed with what happens to any individual when we indulge in this madness called war.

Following this, Mr. Donald Slesinger and Miss Alice Kelleher of the American Film Center, brought three films. One done by the University of Minnesota students, states some of the youth problems of the day and is done as effectively as any professional film. The second is a Canadian film which tells the story of one boy and thus the story of the effort which Canada is making to help its unemployed youth. The third is a British film on nutrition. This is an educational film shown in order to educate the nation to food values and better spending. I doubt if it would be a successful film in this country, but something similar should be done.

In the evening, we had the pleasure of entertaining at dinner Mr. and Mrs. Max Gordon, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Massey, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Sherwood, Mr. Moss Hart, Miss Ruth Gordon, Miss Mary Howard, Mr. and Mrs. Harry M. Goetz, Mr. and Mrs. H. F. Meakin and Mr. John Cromwell, all of whom are here for the initial performance tonight of the moving picture Abe Lincoln In Illinois. It was shown here last night after dinner, and I think everybody had the feeling which I had, that it was almost uncanny to see this picture in the hall through which Lincoln, himself, must so frequently have passed. In addition, Lincoln’s words made a deep impression on me. Perhaps, more of us today should begin to stand for the things which we believe, even if it seems almost impossible that these beliefs would be accepted at the present time. Some one must lead crusades just as Lincoln did in order to start new trends of thought in the nation.