Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (Nov. 1940)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1, 1940

St. Johnsbury, Vt., Thursday –
The farmhouse in which the Cutters live in Limerick, Maine, is over a hundred years old and they have had to modernize it in many ways. However, one thing about it is not modern and I like it. Instead of a small bathroom where you could not “swing a cat” I took my bath and dressed yesterday morning in a room with an open fireplace. Do you know anything more luxurious than that?

We had listened the night before to Mr. Joseph Kennedy’s speech. Everybody on the farm had done a good day’s work, and we had spent a long day motoring, so we retired to nine good solid hours of sleep.

After shaking hands with the nice Maine men who are working on an addition to the barn, we left Limerick yesterday morning to motor to Colby College, Waterville, Maine. Mrs. Cutter drove out to the nearest crossroads to introduce us to two of her neighbors and then we were on our way.

Everything went smoothly until just before we hit Waterville, where we crossed a small bridge and looked for a police escort which we were told would be on hand to meet us. We saw none, but a car stopped ahead and a nice young man got out and looked around with curiosity. We thought he might be looking for us, so we drove up beside him and asked. He disclaimed any interest in us, but did tell us how to get to the next bridge, where our police escort would probably be waiting.

Sure enough, when we crossed the bridge, the police car started out ahead of us and we reached President Johnson’s house a little after 12:00. President and Mrs. Johnson have been most kind and cordial, though their lives have been complicated by the endless telegrams and telephone calls which have followed us.

Colby College is an old college and though it originally owned a great deal of land, a right of way was given to the railroad straight through the campus. This now makes for many difficulties. The citizens of Waterville have given the college a new and very lovely site on Mayflower Hill. Some of the buildings are already up and are delightful. The model of the whole plan shows one what the dream is for the future, and I think it must be very exciting to work on a new institution of this kind.

We enjoyed a small luncheon with President and Mrs. Johnson and the visit to the new campus, and then a reception was held for an hour and a half. Many children came in and one little boy, I am sure, will someday be a really good organizer. He kept bringing up his classmates and as he introduced them, he said:

This is Mary Jones, she is in the first grade.

Then he would push her on and go to fetch others.

We dined at Foss Hall with the women’s division of the college. At 8:00, I spoke in the Senior High School Auditorium and a forum discussion followed.

We left Waterville at 7:30 this morning and drove through the lovely northern part of Maine and New Hampshire, coming down into Massachusetts to spend the night at Deerfield.

November 2, 1940

Hyde Park, Friday –
I have said very little about the campaign in these last few weeks. Of course, it is obvious that there is a campaign going on and, while I am the wife of the President, I am also the wife of one of the candidates. In many newspapers on the same page with my column, there appear the columns of gentlemen who have treated, during this campaign period, of subjects which seem to me to have no particular value in clarifying the real issues in the campaign. There is, however, one issue that comes very close to my heart as a woman, as a mother and as a friend of many young people; and I want to speak of it in this column today.

Today no one can honestly promise you peace at home or abroad. All any human being can do is to promise that he will do his utmost to prevent this country from being involved in war. You must judge, as individuals, whether what has been done in the past few years has been done in the hope and in the belief that it will strengthen us in our effort as a nation to remain at peace and to serve the cause of peace in the world as a whole. The fact is before you that in a world of war we are still at peace. I do not believe that the weak, physically, mentally or morally, ever serve the cause of peace and I think we must always have the courage to state in what we believe, and to stand by our beliefs. I believe that is what we have been doing as a government and as a nation, and I believe that is what we are going to do., Beyond that we must put our trust in the Lord and believe that He guides His children when they ask His guidance.

Violence of any kind, whether by action, writing or speaking, seems to me out of place in a campaign to elect a President of the United States. Some of the literature which I have seen, some of the things which I have heard on the radio and read in the papers, seem to me to appeal to prejudice and emotion rather than to clear thinking and seasoned judgement. Someday, perhaps, we will learn that what is really important in a Chief Executive is what he believes in for the people and what his record in public office, or in his field of work, has been. When that happens, our campaigns probably will be much duller, but also much less bitter!

We did have a glorious drive yesterday. Even in Maine and Vermont, some people were saying nice things about the President! We reached Old Deerfield, Mass., at about 4:45, so I had a chance to see the Bement school before the day pupils went home and to join Diana Hopkins in a Halloween party which came before supper. We had supper with Mrs. Bement, her staff and the youngsters.

After kissing Diana goodnight, we continued on our way and reached home about midnight. It was a long day, but a very satisfactory one. It was nice to have an extra night at home and a full day here to start straightening out so many things which must be done before we leave for Washington next Wednesday morning.

November 4, 1940

Hyde Park, Sunday –
I drove to New York City yesterday but I hardly had time to look out of the car because so much work had piled up on my desk. I had worked Friday night until two in the morning, but there was still much to be done so I took my checkbooks with me and balanced them on the way to New York. I also read my papers on the way and a speech Mr. Antonini had made at a labor party meeting, which I was very glad to see.

We stopped at the Concourse Plaza Hotel on the way to the city. I had the pleasure of attending for a few minutes, the luncheon for the Bronx County workers, with Mr. Edward J. Flynn and various other officials. These women work hard, not only during campaigns, but through the rest of the year. I am always happy to have the opportunity to thank them for what they do.

From there, I went to lunch with a friend and met Mrs. William H. Good and Mrs. Henry Wallace at the Biltmore Hotel. I went with them to greet the women of the New York Women’s Democratic Club. Then we were off behind a police escort to the lunch which the Queens County women workers were having. Our escort was extremely good and we made our trip in record time, though once or twice we held our breath when we skimmed past a car which did not stop.

In Queens, there was a large and enthusiastic crowd. The presiding officer remembered our first meeting together in 1925, which was very pleasant for there is something very warming in reminiscing about work done many years ago. Mrs. Caroline O’Day and I can go back to the early days of women’s participation in party work. Miss Harriet May Mills, was the pioneer worker and Mrs. O’Day helped her, and I later helped Mrs. O’Day. It is good now to see how useful these women have become and how secure they feel in their ability to be of service to the party.

By 4:45, we were at the Hotel Roosevelt to attend a meeting for the Independent Voters, over which Mrs. Edgerton Parsons presided. More people came than could get into one room, so Mrs. Lehman, Mrs. Wallace and I went to a second room, where Mr. Morris Davidson presided over the overflow meeting.

Here, again, there seemed to be much enthusiasm. Whatever happens on Election Day, I feel sure of one thing, that many people have given their services in this campaign and will vote for the President because of real devotion to the program for which he has stood in the past few years.

On the way home, I stopped for a few minutes to see my cousin, Mrs. Henry Parish, and then Mrs. Dorothy McAllister, her daughter, Mary and Mrs. John Herrick and I drove back to Hyde Park. It was dark, so again I could not see much of the country.

This morning, however, I lay on my bed on the porch and watched the sun come out, the gray clouds roll away and the few remaining leaves drifting lazily down from the trees. I was glad for the peace and quiet of the country and for the knowledge that there is so much beauty in the world at all times and with each day there comes fresh opportunity.

November 5, 1940

Hyde Park, Monday –
Yesterday was a thoroughly peaceful country day. All of us walked as a group and then I rode alone. We were a fairly big party for lunch and in the evening some of us dined with my mother-in-law. As we came out after dinner, the stars seemed to me to shine particularly bright, almost as they do on a Western prairie. One star was particularly brilliant, and I wished again that I was more familiar with astronomy. When I put the light out on my sleeping porch, I found myself gazing through the bare branches of a tree at this particular star. It seemed to rest on the top branch and all the other smaller stars seemed to light up all the other branches, as though I had a beautifully lit Christmas tree all to my own to admire.

The next thing I knew was that I awoke to the soft pink-colored sky in the west, reflected from the sunrise. A beautiful autumn day is with us again to greet the President on his arrival this morning. We had hoped to see him here yesterday, but he telephoned that he felt he should return to Washington.

I have the last group of boys from the NYA project at Woodstock, coming over for a picnic lunch, and Secretary and Mrs. Morgenthau will join us. At 2:00, he will go with the President on the annual local campaign tour of Beacon, Newburgh, Kingston and Rhinebeck, which is always taken the day before election.

At the end of the Democratic broadcast tonight, the President is to be the closing speaker, so he thought he would give up his usual speech in Poughkeepsie. But 1,500 people signed a petition asking him not to go back on his usual custom in his county, so he is going to speak at Market Street, outside the Nelson House at 9:30 this evening. I hope to attend that meeting with him.

This afternoon, I expect to drive up to Tivoli, my old home, to see to one or two things which my aunt, Mrs. David Gray, has asked me to do. Even though she is as far away as Ireland, she worries a little about the old place. She knows the house is falling to pieces, as all houses have a way of doing when a family does not live in them, no matter how careful the caretaker may be. In this case, the caretakers are very vigilant, but the house really needs fundamental repairs.

I saw some little stories yesterday by Daphne Du Maurier, published in the interests of moral rearmament. It seems to me that they are very charming, but they indicate a change in the teachings of this group; or is it that all human teachings must conform to the necessities of circumstances? Only eternal verities stand unchanged in the face of all happenings.

November 6, 1940

Hyde Park, Tuesday –
This is Election Day and I have been told with great firmness to get my column in early because the telegraph wires into New York City will soon be busy with election news. Of course, nothing authentic in the way of election returns can come in until the late afternoon, but I suppose newspaper correspondents will be filing stories all during the day about minor happenings here and there.

Yesterday was calm and peaceful. I met my husband in the morning, rode for a while through the woods and the fields and enjoyed the blue sky and the warm sun. Then we had the picnic I told you about.

We all went with the President in the evening to the meeting outside of the Nelson House in Poughkeepsie, and then returned to listen to the two hours of the Democratic broadcast. I found that the President, instead of closing the program, came somewhere in the middle of it. I liked the whole program. Then, we listened through the Republican hour which followed, and so went rather late to bed, for I still had mail to finish on my desk.

In spite of being busy, the atmosphere was calm, but today it is not going to be quite so calm. I am taking my ride, but at noon my husband and I, with his mother, will go up to vote and all the photographers and newspapermen will be on hand to record the process as they have done so often before. I shall feel quite calm, but no one thinks that you should be calm, so, willy-nilly, you find yourself being urged into excitement.

The telephones will ring and people will be rising from the table during meals to answer them. The President will have to talk to many people and in spite of all one can do, election excitement will mount. By the time returns are really coming in, very few of us will be left who are capable of comparing past votes with present figures and making any evaluation of what is really going on.

I remember what it was like the first time my husband ran for the New York State Senate. We had no radio and no news service in the house then, and if I remember rightly it was 32 years since a Democratic State Senator had gone from this district to Albany. The campaign had been an intensive one, and I doubt very much if he has ever worked harder since. I wanted him to win just because he was running, and because I felt he might do something of value for the district.

From then on there have been campaigns for various offices. Some were lost and more were won, but I think my feelings have always been much as they were the first time. I think I can say with honesty:

May what is best for the country happen today, and may we all remember that whatever happens, this is just the beginning of some years of useful work.

November 7, 1940

Hyde Park, Wednesday –
Yesterday afternoon went quietly on its way. Some of us took a walk and returned to the big house for tea, where we found Johnny and Anne and their little dachshund “Percy,” had arrived from Boston. I think what I enjoy most about these “historic” occasions is that they bring together what family there is within reach, and we sometimes hear by telephone, at least, the voices of the rest of the family.

Quite a large group came to a picnic supper at the cottage, but by 9:00, we were back at the big house. We sat around radios in the different rooms and received news from the news services and from the various people who telephoned to the President.

About midnight, a larger crowd than usual came from Hyde Park with a band and torches and wonderful placards. The President went out to greet them. Later, he had to go out a second time, because all the cars had not arrived soon enough for everyone to have a glimpse of him the first time.

Late in the night, John Boettiger called from Seattle, Washington. We talked with him and with Anna, and afterwards with James and Elliott. Anna told me that our eldest grandchildren had been so concerned that they had decided to prepare them in case of defeat, but the children looked so dejected that nobody was happy until they heard that the verdict was victory.

To children, of course, it is just a case of winning a campaign. To the rest of us, I think, it is rather terrifying, for a great confidence shown you by a people of a great nation is something to make men proud and grateful, but at the same time, it is a heavy responsibility.

The returns seem to indicate a vote of real confidence, which must mean that the people of the nation approve of the domestic policies as well as the course charted in our foreign relations.

It was a vigorous fight and now that it is over, for the sake of the country as a whole, let us hope that those who have had to accept a verdict with which they did not agree, will help in every way to carry out the will of the people, having faith in the great common sense of the electorate. All of us, whatever our political party, love the United States and know that we must work together in the difficult years before us. In our hearts there must be gratitude that we live in a country where the will of the people can be expressed and where no one is afraid to vote and speak according to his beliefs.

November 8, 1940

Washington, Thursday –
My husband and the boys stayed in Hyde Park yesterday with my mother-in-law. The dedication of the new post office in the village was the one official occurrence of the day. I left in the morning for New York City, for I had promised to meet Mr. Charles Taussig to talk over the three day meeting here of the National Advisory Committee of the National Youth Administration, and also to see Lady Lindsay, who wanted to talk over several things on which we have been working together.

At 3:00, I took a plane for Washington, and was a little late, for we had to land at Bolling Field. At tea, two young men who are fired with enthusiasm over the promotion of real understanding between the South American countries and the United States, told me something of their hopes and plans for the future. They are both teaching in American colleges, but would like to start a school in some South American country to prepare young South Americans to enter college in this country, and to encourage some of our youngsters to study in South American countries, where they can better prepare for future work with their neighbors.

A few friends came to dinner, and about midnight I began to realize that I had had little sleep in the past 24 hours. I almost missed getting up in time to meet the President this morning! I did reach the station at 8:30 and the Cabinet, the Commissioners, some members of Congress and many friends were already gathered there. The people of the District of Columbia turned out in great numbers to welcome back the President and Vice President-elect. When we reached the White House, all the members of the household with the ushers, the aides and the Marine band were there to greet us. The front gates were open and the President had to go out under the front portico once before breakfast and once after it to wave his greeting to the people standing outside.

Then I went immediately to the opening session of the Advisory Committee of the NYA, returned to the White House for a press conference, and then ran over to the executive office to be with the President when he greeted all the members of the executive office staff. I finally found myself seated with Mrs. Helm to go over the accumulated details of social life, which must now be considered.

I shall quote just a brief excerpt from a letter I received this morning:

I have read and listened to both parties all that I could, and weighed it all with what knowledge and judgment. I have… I am bound as an American to say that if the people’s vote gives Wendell Willkie the office, then we owe him, while he is there, the loyalty, devotion, cooperation and encouragement that is due any man on whom we thrust so heavy and frightening a responsibility. I, for one, pray that I may never forget this, my responsibility to our government.

The people’s vote has been given to President Roosevelt and the above describes fairly accurately what I hope will be the attitude of all citizens who really love and serve their country.

November 9, 1940

New York, Friday –
Yesterday saw the beginning of the White House social life for me. The Minister from Costa Rica and his wife came to call for the first time. An interpreter came from the State Department, because I am a little hesitant about my Spanish and they are a little hesitant about their English!

The Minister from Thailand and his wife came later, and I was interested to find that their excellent English was acquired in one case by going to school in England, and in the other by attending an American Missionary School. They told me their two little boys are going to the Friends School in Washington, and while they had learned a little English before coming to this country, they were finding a little difficulty in their American school.

These diplomatic children have to make adjustments to so many different countries and so many different languages that I often marvel at their adaptability. When it is done successfully, however, it gives them a great advantage over a child whose knowledge is limited to one country and one language.

Four more young people came to tea, and in the evening the President and I received some of the people who had worked in the Women’s Division of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. After that we saw some newsreels which gave excerpts from various campaign speeches, and now I hope I have seen and heard the last of the campaign. There is work to be done for everyone and I hope that we will all settle down to do it.

Miss Thompson and I took the plane to New York City this morning. Mr. Walter O’Keefe drove in from the airport with us to tell me about a plan which he wants to carry out, and I was especially impressed by one thing he said:

I have always wanted to do something significant for which I received no remuneration. I think this plan will accomplish something really worthwhile, so I am prepared to give my services.

It is interesting that nearly all of us have that desire when we are conscious of ability to contribute something of value to our neighbors and friends, and the opportunity offers itself.

I managed to sandwich in a little Christmas shopping before going to lunch at the Rockefeller Lunch Club to present to Miss Jacqueline Cochran the Harmon trophy, which she has won for the third time. She is such an attractive person and so young that it is hard to realize how many experiences she has had in the air, and it is fascinating to hear her talk about it. It must take coolness, judgment, and great courage to fly as she does in these races, and her accomplishments are something of which every woman should be particularly proud.

November 11, 1940

New York, Sunday –
Friday evening I attended the National Urban League. I am always impressed by the continuing and faithful interest shown by Dr. William J. Schieffelin, Judge Ulman of Baltimore, Md., and Mr. Hollister Wood, together with many others in the work of this organization. I think the Urban League has done much through the years to improve the conditions for the colored people and to create better understanding between colored and white people throughout the country.

All those of both races who have worked so earnestly together deserve our interest and gratitude. We are interested in democracy and believe that the success of democracy depends upon the rights of every individual citizen being recognized everywhere in the country. This will come only through patient work.

It is most interesting to find how many people were deeply impressed by the prayer which the President read the night before election. There must be a hunger in men’s souls for a spiritual note even in such mundane things as political speeches. During the course of the past few days, a taxicab driver, our superintendent in the apartment house, my maid, a college professor and various other people have told me that such an ending to the campaign wiped out bitterness and gave them hope.

Yesterday morning, we went down to a warehouse to see some of the paintings, sculpture and craft work which have come in for the exhibitions which will be held in the five boroughs of New York City during National Art Week, beginning November 25. Some 62 are already planned and the jury has been going over the exhibits.

I hope the purpose behind this week will be accomplished, that more people will realize when they like a picture, piece of sculpture, or a bit of pottery; that it is possible to obtain it and take it home to live with and enjoy permanently.

More and more, we are going to art galleries and exhibitions and our appreciation of art has increased. But museums can not be the only market for an artist’s wares and we must realize that many things are made to live with in our homes and not to be housed in museums.

I lunched with the United Parents Associations of New York City, and was delighted to have a chance to see the Mayor for a few minutes. Then I drove to Beacon to attend the wedding of my friend, Miss Jane Brett, and returned to New York City in time to see Miss Jane Wyatt, whom I have known for many years, in Quiet Please.

The play is very light. Hollywood life may be interesting to those who live it, but it does not seem to have much “quiet” when portrayed on the stage. Jane Wyatt is charming, however, and I was in the mood to be amused, so, on the whole, I had a pleasant evening.

November 12, 1940

Chicago, Monday –
This is Armistice Day and we are on our way by train to Chicago. It is raining and the landscape is dreary and gloomy, as it may well be, for it matches the mood of most of us who remember what Armistice Day meant to us in the year 1918. Nature should weep with us, for the high hopes which humanity had of ending war on this earth lie in ruins all about us.

Again we gather in body or in spirit at unknown soldiers’ tombs the world over, but the belief that their sacrifice would never have to be renewed is gone. In the years to come, in many countries in the world, people will again gather to mourn the death of young men, old people, women and children, killed in this period of war madness.

For years, I prayed and worked and hoped that the desire could be removed from men’s hearts. Now I have to change my prayer, for when some men use force they oblige the rest of the world to compete on their terms. There are people, of course, who believe that physical force can be conquered by spiritual, passive resistance. Those who hold to this belief may prove at some future date that they are right.

In the meantime, for most of us, it seems imperative that we meet physical force with physical force. But our prayers and our endeavor should be to use this physical force to achieve the results in which we believe, and which are not achieved by the aims and desires of those against whom we exert our influence.

Can we have physical force and not use it for oppression? The totalitarian countries would seem to prove that the answer is “no.” All of their people obey the will of the man or the few men who form their government, and this will is exerted to bring about misery and terror for certain groups of people and subservience for all.

Our force, to justify itself, must be exerted to defend the weak, to insist that justice, so far as we know it, shall be meted out to all of our citizens and to those who come within our sphere of influence. If we can keep a guard upon ourselves which will prevent a lust for power, or a debauch of greed, then we will have done something even greater than what we envisioned on the Armistice Day of 1918.

May the prayer in the heart of each and every citizen of the United States today be that they acquire strength – physical, mental and moral – but only so that they may use it to build up a civilization from which war of all kinds may disappear. May God give each and every one of us the power to love, the grace to be humble and the understanding to be compassionate.

November 13, 1940

Detroit, Tuesday –
In the past few days, both England and the United States have suffered the loss of two well-known statesmen. Senator Key Pittman has been in the Senate for many years. His service is a matter of record. He was liked by the men with whom he worked. He kept his hold over his constituency and carried more weight in public affairs than the population of his state would indicate.

As younger men come along to take their place on the political stage, they will often hear Senator Pittman’s name. He will not be forgotten in the traditions of this honorable and important branch of our government.

Neville Chamberlain, in England, served his country through desperate times. Many people have felt that his policy toward Germany was unwise and dangerous. Perhaps it would be fair to say that his training and his inclination fitted him for different times and different service. He did his best according to his background. He wanted peace and worked for it. That he failed was due to the times in which he lived and the men with whom he had to cope. He must have suffered greatly and history will record that he, at least, dealt honorably with the people whom he approached.

We arrived in Chicago yesterday afternoon, oblivious of the fact that one of the worst of winter’s storms had been raging through the Middle West for several hours. But we no sooner emerged on the street, than we were conscious of the high wind and the swirling snow. One of the biggest street signs in Chicago was blown down, windows were broken, people were battered about. Toward late afternoon, the storm had spent itself and when we went out for the evening, the wind had practically disappeared.

I lectured at a forum, where I spoke some four years ago. Then a night train brought us to Detroit this morning. Here again, there are signs of the storm everywhere. The little square outside of the Statler Hotel is filled with broken glass. One of the highest radio towers was blown down. When nature goes on the rampage, we mortals discover how puny human beings and their works really are. In Romania, the earthquake seems to have accomplished in a few short hours what all the aviators of Great Britain have tried unsuccessfully to do for weeks – fires are raging, oil wells are destroyed and Herr Hitler can direct his rage at no human hand. In this case it looks as though nature was against him.

The sun is out and the day looks most inviting, and shortly I shall visit some WPA projects.

November 14, 1940

Chicago, Wednesday –
I spent two of the pleasantest hours I have ever spent visiting music projects yesterday morning in Detroit. Churches have given space for rehearsal to these WPA units, so it was in the basement of a church that we listened to a gypsy band playing dance music, to which it was almost impossible to sit still.

The leader has a delightful personality. They told me that when he plays in the schools, he tells the children stories of the gypsy customs. Last Christmastime he kept a group of youngsters enthralled while he told about the gypsy Christmas and played haunting gypsy music.

He was followed by another dance orchestra and, finally, by a full symphony orchestra, the fourth best WPA orchestra in the country. They played two movements in a new symphony by Florence Price, one of the few women to write symphonic music. She is a colored woman and a native of Chicago, who has certainly made a contribution to our music. The orchestra rendered her symphony beautifully and then played a Bach choral which ended the concert, much to my regret.

However, more treats were in store for us. In a Negro church, we heard a group of spiritual singers who fairly carried us away from our everyday world. I have never heard a group sing better. Their leader, who was discovered digging ditches, can pride himself on an achievement which must give pleasure to innumerable people. He told me that they had sung before almost a 100,000 people during the past year. Then, in the colored YMCA building, we heard a band play “The Star Spangled Banner,” which was a fitting climax to our morning.

At a little after 1:00, I was back at the hotel and my niece and namesake, Eleanor Roosevelt, came in with a friend to lunch with me. The two girls told me they had done much campaigning. Everyone wondered that they were still friends, for they had been on opposite sides of the political fence. Eleanor added that she had enjoyed it, but had few allies in and about the Bloomfield Hills section, where the Cranbrook School is located.

At 2:30, we drove out to Cranbrook and I very hurriedly obtained an impression of this most beautiful school. The glimpse of the courtyard, as you enter the girls’ school where Mellis’ statue of Diana stands poised on her pedestal, is something not to be forgotten. In fact, these fortunate youngsters are surrounded by beauty of nature, architecture and art on every side.

I dined with Mrs. Dorothy Kemp Roosevelt and her mother and my three other nieces who live in Birmingham, Michigan. Then I lectured in the evening at the Cranbrook School and took the night train back to Chicago. Here we have had breakfast and few hours of quiet before we leave for Springfield, Illinois.

November 15, 1940

Chicago, Thursday –
On our arrival in Springfield, Ill., yesterday afternoon, there seemed to be a little difference of opinion as to exactly what my program was to be. One person said I was to go the hotel and hold a press conference, another person said I was to go immediately to lay a wreath on Lincoln’s tomb.

The crowd at the station was very friendly and the Governor’s wife and the Mayor’s wife and other people who met us were very kind. We finally drove to the hotel, discovered that I was not needed there at once, and proceeded to Lincoln’s tomb. This is a very imposing monument which rises high above everything else in the cemetery.

When I was there with my husband in 1932, I do not think I was really able to see how fine the marble is along the walls of the corridors leading to the tomb. The veins are perfectly matched and the colors very beautiful. I liked all the replicas of the different Lincoln statues. One can not stand before his tomb and not feel a sense of awe, for here lies buried one of our greatest men, who lives forever in the hearts of the people he preserved as a nation.

A friend of mine went to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington not long ago and stood before that beautiful statue. She reviewed in her mind all the things that had been said in the campaign of 1864 against this Lincoln, before whose statue she now stood with tears in her eyes. From the group around her she suddenly heard the voice of a young boy.

Grandpa, what was the name of the man who ran against Lincoln in 1864?

Well now, son, I can’t seem to remember just who that was.

I thought surely you’d know.

Somehow the name slips me, but we can look it up in the encyclopedia when we get home.

But, Grandpa, I did look it up already and it doesn’t say.

Well, then what difference does it make?

None, only I kinda wondered.

So you see, all the bitterness, all the lies of that campaign have faded out, and only the goodness and fineness of Lincoln remain to inspire his countrymen of today.

In Springfield we visited the Crippled Children’s Hospital and another hospital before we returned to the hotel. There we held a brief press conference, saw two girls who are interested in promoting the cause of unity, now that the campaign is over, and rested a while before the evening lecture.

After that I went to the Governor’s mansion for a short time to meet some of the committee sponsoring the lecture. On my return to the hotel I found Mrs. Robert Baker, Mrs. Louis Howe’s daughter, with two of her friends, who paid us a short visit.

We returned this morning to Chicago and I have had the pleasure of meeting the Democratic National Committeeman from Oklahoma, Mr. Kerr, and his wife and daughter. Now I am about to leave for Kenosha, Wisconsin, for this evening’s lecture.

November 16, 1940

Chicago, Friday –
We drove right into a midwinter snowstorm last night. As I went into my lecture in Kenosha, Wis., it seemed as though hardly perceptible ice particles were flying through the air. When we came out an hour and a quarter later, snow lay on all the streets.

This lecture was given for the Teachers Union. In spite of the weather, the auditorium in the high school was filled and everything went off with a precision which delighted the soul of this lecturer. We actually began two minutes ahead of time, and the question period, announced to last twenty minutes, closed in exactly twenty minutes.

As I came out, a group of young people waited for autographs. Among them was a crippled boy who had had himself wheeled over in his chair. Snow or no snow, his idol is the President and he wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to give Miss Thompson or myself his book with the request that the President sign it. We are taking it back to Washington to await some auspicious time when the President isn’t snowed under with work and can autograph the book.

After the lecture, we went to the YMCA building, so that I had an opportunity to meet many of the people interested in sponsoring the lecture. We started back to Chicago a little before 10:00 in what was by that time a real snowstorm.

The snow gave a mysterious and rather enchanted air to the city. The houses around one of the squares looked comfortable and inviting with the lights shining out of the windows on the snow. It is a pleasant custom, for it gives a sense of welcome to those who may happen to have to wander in the dark outside.

We were back at the Hotel Stevens at 11:45 and enjoyed a midnight supper. In fact, yesterday we reversed all of our usual hours for meals and had no lunch save the proverbial English tea with an egg. We had no dinner and a midnight supper.

We woke this morning to find Chicago covered with snow. My windows, which look out on the lake, framed a gray picture of clouds hanging over gray water. The snow is not falling any longer, and so I think we will find our drive this afternoon to Princeton, Ill., easy. In the meantime, four large envelopes of mail awaited us here from Washington and I think we will waste no time during the day.

Greece still seems to be holding her own. Heroism is always a thrilling thing to read about. This little nation’s defense and the remarkable fight put up by the British ship against such tremendous odds, which saved so many of the convoy’s ships, must make us proud of that quality in human beings which makes them able to rise above all selfish fears and interest and do their duty in the face of danger and death.

November 18, 1940

Canton, Ohio, Sunday –
Our drive to Princeton, Ill., on Friday night was uneventful until we reached the city itself. There we wandered down a few streets and came to dead ends before we actually found the remarkably fine high school building of which the city is justly proud.

Princeton is in the heart of a very productive agricultural area and depends largely for its prosperity on agricultural conditions. There are mines in this vicinity, but they have been closed down, apparently long enough for the labor to be absorbed in other occupations and not to be a real problem at present.

I inquired as to whether their young people were finding it hard to obtain jobs and was told that one big industry absorbed most of them. However, they have made use of NYA help in their schools, but on the whole they reported a remarkably fortunate condition for their neighborhood. Since I had the whole day free in Chicago yesterday, I was able to see several people who had written me.

First of all, Dr. Ernest Schwartz of the Central YMCA College came to tell me of the work they are doing to promote the good neighbor policy through contacts with people in some of the countries to the south of us. They are particularly interested in the schools, both urban and rural, to which they send books and pictures. They establish forums and encourage the interchange of scholarships on a college level.

After one of my lectures the other night, I was asked if I did not think that a universal language would be a prelude to world peace. I confess that it would be a great help. Until it exists, I hope that we, who are so greatly concerned with better understanding of our neighbors to the south of us, will make every effort to learn the Spanish language so that we may talk with our neighbors and not have to trust to an interpreter, which at present I have to do.

At lunch yesterday, Mr. Jarka Bures, who illustrated the charming Czechoslovakian book for children which captivated me last year, told me of some of the work which he is trying to do. He brought me some delicious little cakes and beautiful embroideries made by his mother and showed me his own delightful designs which could be used in textiles or wallpapers.

He is making some Czechoslovakian dolls and told me something of the origin of their colorful costumes. I think we are fortunate indeed, that so many of our new citizens are bringing us gifts which will increase our knowledge of arts and crafts, which are only gradually coming into their own in this country.

After lunch, I went to look at some of the work which will be shown at the WPA art week exhibits in Chicago. They have some wonderful materials. Most striking were the names of the various artists and craftsmen, for they denoted a variety of nationalities and proved that in this great city of Chicago we are indeed a union of many people.

November 19, 1940

Johnstown, Pa., Monday –
Yesterday I spent the day in Canton, Ohio. We visited President McKinley’s tomb, which is very imposing and must be very beautiful in summer with the water in the pools below it. A great deal of WPA work has been done to improve the park system and Canton seems a pleasant place in which to live.

I had the privilege of visiting there a very beautiful old lady, who has evidently won a great place for herself in the hearts of her fellow citizens. Mrs. Goodman may be bedridden today, and she has certainly had her share of personal sorrows, but if achievement is measured in terms of the influence which people have over their neighbors, I should say that her life has been eminently successful. Everyone who spoke of her, did so with affection and appreciation.

After my afternoon lecture, we took the train for Johnstown, Pa., and arrived here about midnight last night. So far, the day has been busy and very interesting. I visited the Red Cross Roll Call Headquarters and saw some of the garments which they are turning out and shipping to Great Britain and Finland. Then I went with the Mayor to see the flood control work which the Federal Government is helping them to put through.

Two terrible floods have visited Johnstown, the one in 1889 cost the city a great many lives. 773 people were never identified, and up in the cemetery on the hill, the unmarked stones are placed in rows as they are in Arlington Cemetery in Washington. One monument is erected to all those unidentified dead. The recent flood cost the city some $40,000,000, but fortunately only a few lives were lost in the whole county.

The work of dredging the two rivers, which will in the future safeguard the population from the ravages of the past, is in full swing and I was much interested to see it. The President inspected this work and told me of it some time ago, so I know he will be glad to hear of the progress made.

It is easy to see that a city, which has suffered as this one has, must take advantage of whatever help the state and federal government can give. For the future, these expenditures to prevent recurring disasters, will be a saving not only to the community, but to the state and the nation.

The NYA director took us over to his office after lunch and we saw the woodworking shop where much good work is being turned out by the boys. They are about to build a resident project here with a shop which will give valuable training in skills to many of the boys of the State. The plans were shown me and the work is already beginning. The boys were digging today to find out what the conditions would be for foundation work.

At 5:00, a few of the Democratic women leaders are coming to call and, after my lecture this evening, we take the train to Henderson, North Carolina.

November 20, 1940

Henderson, NC, Tuesday –
We changed trains this morning in Washington. Because our typewriter seemed to go to pieces during the last few days of travel, the White House car came down to the station to bring us another typewriter, and to take back a bag we felt we could dispense with on this trip last night.

It was nice to see the smiling familiar faces and we almost wished that we did not have to get on another train. However, once on board, we enjoyed our breakfast and I must say that the sun shining on the familiar Virginia landscape was very attractive.

We worked all the way down to Lynchburg, Virginia. It seemed curious after so many cold days to find the sun almost too warm as it shone through the windows. At Lynchburg, we were met by the Mayor of Henderson, NC, and several ladies from the Business And Professional Women’s Club of Henderson. They took us to lunch in a very attractive hotel and we found ourselves sharing the dining room with the Rotary Club. The club members offered to sing any song I wished, but, unfortunately, I had to leave before they fulfilled their promise.

The most beautiful looking Smithfield ham was presented to me in the lobby of the hotel. I hated to part with it, even to have it mailed back to Washington, but I realized that I had no place pack a ham done up in cellophane. They promised to mail it special delivery today, so we could take it to Hyde Park for my mother-in-law to use at her Thanksgiving dinner.

The drive from Lynchburg to Henderson is through country which reminds me very much of what one sees around Warm Springs, Georgia. The pines are everywhere. There is a reddish tinge to the earth and cotton and tobacco seem to be the main crops.

The genuine Southern atmosphere exists here. A feeling of leisure and kindliness and contentment envelops one. There is no rushing to catch a subway train here and knocking down anyone in your path, there is always time to remember your manners.

We are now in a little hotel in Henderson writing this column, signing mail and resting before the evening lecture. The hotel proprietor’s little daughter, who looks like Little Lord Fauntleroy, a story I used to love in my childhood, led us to our room. She never spoke a word, but was sweetly solemn and completely self-possessed. At 1:40 a.m., we shall take a train back to Washington and this trip will be a thing of the past.

The only thing I have not told you about is the dinner we attended last night in Chicago, which was given for the benefit of the American ORT Federation. They are doing such a wonderful work giving young people a chance for vocational training and are still functioning in Europe, where many other organizations have had to cease doing any work.

November 21, 1940

Washington, Wednesday –
Another Thanksgiving Day has come to us. In almost every country in the world, after the harvest is taken in, they have some kind of thanksgiving festival. Our own feast was connected with the safe harvesting of a food supply by our Pilgrim Fathers, but they gave thanks also that they had escaped the attacks of the Indians, the cold of the winter, and that ships had reached them with supplies from faraway England. From their day to ours, this custom has come to be observed in every part of our union, and at different times we have given thanks for many and varied things.

Today as a nation, we give thanks first and foremost for the fact that we are at peace. All of life is a struggle; at least, it should be a constant and unending struggle to make the world a better place in which to live. The struggle goes on constantly against our baser natures, but we, as individuals, are able to carry it on today without being weighed down by the knowledge that in order even to exist ourselves we must try to destroy our fellow human beings – people who live in some other bit of land and speak some other language, who claim some other nationality and yet who have the same needs and the same desires we have ourselves, and whom we could love and understand if it were not for this thing called war.

Next in our category of national thanks, I think, comes the knowledge that as a nation we are growing steadily in the understanding of what democracy means to us. We are free to register our will politically, to worship God as we see fit, to insist that even those with whom we disagree shall have the right to express their opinions, and that all men shall come before the bar of justice with the presumption that they are innocent until they are proved guilty, and with the right to defend their beliefs and their actions.

We are thankful for our natural resources, for the productivity of our land, for the resourcefulness and ingenuity of our people, for their character and their courage which gives to our leaders the courage to look ahead and visualize a brighter day in the future.

As an individual, I am grateful for health and strength, the love of family and friends, for the power to enjoy so many things, for the ability to see the humor in life which softens the bitterness, and above all else for the ability and the opportunity to give a helping hand in one way or another to some of those who need it temporarily.

I can easily forgive my enemies for I so greatly value my friends, and on this Thanksgiving Day my wish for all of you who read this column is that life may give you a chance to be grateful for what you receive because you love the giver, and that you may have the joy of giving of yourself to those whom you may love.

November 22, 1940

Hyde Park, Thursday –
We returned to Washington early yesterday morning from Henderson, NC, and I had the pleasure of having Madame Tabouis to lunch with me. The rest of the day was filled with such things as having my hair washed, trying to catch up on the mail and seeing various people.

This morning I am back in Hyde Park, staying with my mother-in-law and the rest of the family in the big house, where we are celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time in many years.

The President’s custom of being in Warm Springs, Ga., with the Foundation trustees and the patients on this day, has meant that we have not been able to be here with his mother. The family is so scattered now that we are a small party here, but it is very pleasant to be at home and what we lack in numbers we shall make up in gaiety.

We shall telephone our various far distant children wherever it is possible to reach them this evening. This always gives me a sense of nearness. The sound of someone’s voice, whom you really care about, tells you so much more than any written words.

I often think, when the telephone becomes a nuisance in my life and I am irritated at its constant ringing, how grateful we should be for the joyous moments it brings us and for the relief which can come over the wires in cases of emergency. News from far away, a few years ago, took days and weeks to reach us. Today a voice can be carried straight into the sickroom and relieve uncertainty, which is perhaps the most difficult thing to bear.

Though I am staying in the big house on this visit, I have been over to my cottage and found everything being arranged for the winter months. Porch and garden furniture is put away, the climbing roses are all covered up, leaves have been raked up and burned. The work which the tree experts warned me should be done on my trees this autumn, is already begun.

There is only one thing I change in my cottage in winter. I put down before the fireplace a big white bearskin rug, which Mrs. Ruth Bryan Rohde brought me from Greenland some years ago. Somehow he gives added warmth to my heart when winter is really upon us, and I love to have him in front of the fire.

I always wish for a dog in the country, a nice little black Scottie to lie on the white bearskin rug, but I promised myself that I would not subject any other dogs to life in the White House. It is altogether too exciting and uncertain to be satisfactory for a dog’s existence, so I imagine I must wait again a little while before the picture of that little black dog on my white bearskin rug comes true.

November 23, 1940

Hyde Park, Friday –
Life in the country has been fairly uneventful. I had a few friends at lunch and dinner, a walk and a ride and time to sit and read by the fire. How delightful it all is, but just around the corner lies plenty of activity, so I can revel in this without feeling really lazy.

On Sunday I shall have to leave here to broadcast on the Chicago University hour at 2:30 p.m. This discussion is being arranged so that the public may have a better understanding of the meaning of Art Week, which begins on Monday the 25th.

I must devote the rest of this column to telling you of some of the things which people have been writing me about of late.

First and foremost, I have a really serious letter from the Audubon Societies. More than 30 years ago, they led the fight to stop the slaughter of wild birds for their plumage. It appears, we ladies in those days used too many pretty feathers from wild birds on our hats and in other decorative ways. Now the National Audubon Society has conducted an investigation and finds that they must start a new campaign. They ask the women of the United States to help them.

We ladies are guilty, of course. If we realized that we were stamping out so many beautiful wild birds and destroying the species for all time, we would not be very happy, no matter how becoming our headdress might be. But, most of us buy such things with little thought as to what lies behind the product.

There are always some feathers which are permissible to wear because they can be obtained without injuring the birds. If we dress these feathers up with very nice names, which modern advertising surely can do we will be just as happy wearing them as if they were some of those banned by the Audubon Society.

I hope, therefore, that the Audubon Society’s crusade will be very successful, and that all of us who like to think we are well dressed, will shun the use of feathers obtained by killing wild birds. We should look askance at anyone who cannot say:

I bought this before 1940.

…and hope that if such a lady buys feathers of the banned variety we can at least say of her that fashions are against her.

I realize that the manufacturers of feathered goods will have to use their inventive genius to please the public in some other way, but they have done it before and they can do it again.