Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (Nov. 1941)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

November 1, 1941

New York, Friday –
I arrived in Washington early this morning and Dr. Harriet Elliott, who is in charge of the Consumers Division, came to breakfast with me. Later I had a brief talk with the President, who left at 2:00 today for Hyde Park. I spent the rest of the morning at the Office of Civilian Defense. I felt we had cleared a number of things satisfactorily, but I came away with an armful of mail, which I have carried with me to New York City, and which I shall have to send back tonight.

The news of the torpedoing of one of our destroyers off Iceland was the first thing that the President spoke of this morning, and that has cast a shadow over the whole day. I cannot help but think of everyone of the 120 men and their families, who are anxiously awaiting news. When this is translated into terms of a specific destroyer on which your own child is serving, it makes it seem a very close and personal anxiety. I want to tell each family how much my thoughts are with them in these trying hours.

I spoke last night in New York City at the tenth educational conference of the American Council on Education. This conference is sponsored by the Educational Records Bureau and Cooperative Test Service, the Committee on Measurement and Guidance of the American Council on Education, and the Commission on the Relation of School and College of the Progressive Education Association.

This dinner session was devoted to the consideration of morale in the national emergency. I think their last ten years’ emphasis on the individualization of education and the practical aspects of guidance in student adjustment, has a great bearing on morale at the present time.

Professor Ralph Barton Perry of Harvard, delivered a most interesting and able address and I enjoyed my evening very much. Just before the speaking began, I realized that I had left the key to my house in my day bag and was, therefore, locked out, for my maid is away on her vacation. Dean and Mrs. Hawkes, who took me home, were very kind and disliked leaving me until I found a way to get in.

I had telephoned, to ask a friend, who has a key, to meet me, but I was earlier than I had expected. The policeman told me the caretaker in #47 was home. It took some time to awaken her, but finally she appeared. I found the door open between the two houses and was able to get in and dress and pack and start on my way to the station.

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November 3, 1941

Hyde Park, Sunday –
Ever since Friday we have been anxiously waiting for more news of the survivors from our torpedoed destroyer. Evidently the seas were high and the rescue of the men was very difficult, but one continues to hope the search for them will save more.

Miss Thompson and I caught the 4:30 plane on Friday for New York City. We were joined there by Mrs. Helm, and after dining at the house, drove up to Hyde Park.

It was raining fairly hard, but I liked the sound of it as I sat on my porch and rejoiced in the country quiet. I was sorry, however, to wake to a gray day and steady downpour on Saturday, in spite of the fact that we need rain badly.

At 10:00, I met the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mackenzie King, and Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, with her two children, at the Poughkeepsie Station. They settled down very quickly, and at 12:00, our two small granddaughters, Sara and Kate Roosevelt, who are staying with friends in Rhinebeck, came down to lunch with the two little Princesses.

The rest of us, with the addition of Secretary and Mrs. Morgenthau, and several girls and their friends from Vassar, intended to have an outdoor picnic, but we ended by using the new playroom. It proved a great success and after lunch we sat around the fire and asked the President, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Treasury, innumerable questions.

We all argued with each other, which always brings out many points of view. Since Vassar is at present having a conference on the postwar world, there was much talk of both present and future defense. The rain was forgotten and I think, perhaps, it even added to the sense of companionship, for a gray outer world makes one all the more conscious of a fire and cheerfulness within.

After tea at the big house, the Vassar guests were taken back to College. We had no guests for dinner and the President and the Prime Minister settled down to a long talk. The ladies chatted for a little while and then I sat down to quantities of mail. It still had remained unfinished, even though I had tried to snatch a little time here and there during the day, and had succeeded in signing the letters which had been sent up for signature.

This morning dawned clear and beautiful. The reflection of the early morning light was almost as colorful as a sunset. I was up early, for there is some work to be done before we all go to the Dutch Reformed Church for the morning service.

November 4, 1941

Washington, Monday –
There were a number of guests for luncheon yesterday. After it, Mrs. Helm, Miss Thompson and I started for New York City. Before we went over to the broadcasting station, several young men came to see me.

Mrs. Morgenthau joined us at dinner at the New York house. She and I flew down to Washington, while Mrs. Helm and Miss Thompson drove back to Hyde Park.

A staff meeting this morning, a press conference and other appointments are keeping me busy until I leave again at 3:00 by plane for New York City. I shall drive straight to Hyde Park, so as to be there for dinner tonight. In the meantime, fortunately, Princess Juliana has friends in Millbrook, NY, so today they have spent most of the time over there.

I had some quite appalling news on the rise in the cost of living last week. The average housewife must now spend 14% more money for the food she will need for the family dinner than she did a year ago. In some cities, the increase in food costs is even greater, running to over 19%. If you were preparing a meal of ham and eggs, potatoes, white bread, butter, coffee and milk, the following prices show you what you would pay this year in comparison with last year:

1940 1941 Increase percent
Ham (lb) 25.4¢ 34.4¢ 35
Eggs (doz) 37.2¢ 46.9¢ 26
White bread (lb) 8.1¢ 8.5¢ 5
Butter (lb) 34.3¢ 43.5¢ 27
Potatoes (15 lb) 28.8¢ 32.8¢ 14
Coffee (lb) 20.8¢ 25.7¢ 24
Milk (qt) 12.3¢ 13.9¢ 13

In other staple products, the prices have gone up very considerably also. For instance, here is a table which may interest you.

Sept. 1940 Sept. 1941 Increase percent
Sugar (10 lbs) 51.0¢ 60.0¢ 18
Flour (10 lbs) 40.1¢ 47.5¢ 18
Lard (lb) 9.3¢ 14.6¢ 57
Evap. milk(14½ oz can) 7.0¢ 8.4¢ 20
Cheese (lb) 25.7¢ 32.7¢ 27
Onions (lb) 3.6¢ 4.2¢ 17
Salmon, red (16 oz. can) 25.9¢ 33.7¢ 30
Corn (#2 can) 10.5¢ 11.8¢ 12

The greater part of these increases occurred since last February, and in October of this year prices were still rising. Some of these prices should undoubtedly have increased, particularly if the increase reflects itself in the farmer’s pocket. I am wondering, however, if, in the case of milk, we will not have to resort to less handling, in order to keep the price on a level where children in cities can have enough.

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November 5, 1941

Hyde Park, Tuesday –
Before I left Washington yesterday, I took the pledge which Miss Harriet Elliott is eventually going to ask all householders in the country to take during Civilian Defense Week.

Knowing quite well that, in the White House, it would be impossible for either Mrs. Nesbitt or me to sign this pledge honestly without the cooperation of the whole White House staff, I asked all those who were on duty at noon to meet me.

I explained its meaning, particularly in not wasting anything. I urged them all to sign the pledge individually when it comes out, and to try to live up to it in the White House. I hope, also, that they will persuade their own families to join with us. They were most cooperative and my first suggestion came immediately from Mrs. Nesbitt who said that we had certain things that were always left over after a big party, which could be sent to the Self-Help Cooperative Farm and fed to their animals. So we have found one useful outlet for leftovers which could not be used at all on our own table.

We hope very shortly to have a correspondence course available in the Office of Civilian Defense. It is a fairly simple study on nutrition and the duty of the consumer. Many people who cannot attend classes, may be able to read these courses and go to a Volunteer Bureau or Consumer’s Information Bureau once to take a test. This will then make it possible for every household to feel it is part of the civilian defense effort.

My plane landed in New York City on time yesterday. It seemed a very short flight, because I had so much in my briefcase to read and was so sleepy that I accomplished nothing between naps. We drove to Hyde Park and found that everyone had had a busy day. The President enjoyed speaking to the teachers of the county in our Consolidated High School. He has some very decided views on education, which I think are very practical.

Princess Juliana had been over to Millbrook to see some friends, and then had gone to the school meeting and driven around with the President, so she had a busy day too. Mrs. Helm and Miss Thompson joined us for dinner, and all of us were glad to spend a quiet evening around the fire.

This morning, we went up to Hyde Park Village a little after 11:00 to vote, and I explained what a voting machine was like to Princess Juliana. She told me that they still use pencils in Holland, and that women are not allowed to vote until they are 25.

November 6, 1941

New York, Wednesday –
The labor representative of the Dutch Government, who is here for the ILO Conference, came to lunch yesterday and gave a vivid picture of what it means for the working people of his nation to be under the control of a conquering nation. I wondered if he had been able to tell it as vividly to some of our people in this country, who wonder why a maximum defense effort is necessary when we do not seem to be personally menaced.

I have heard so many people say that what we are doing is being done for the British Empire, or for the other democracies, when in reality whatever we do, is for ourselves alone. First, to keep us from suffering what they are already enduring, and next, to try to establish for the world a situation in which human beings will not have to endure such suffering again. We are a part of this world family!

It is encouraging to realize that certain things are still going on which were established by the League of Nations, such as the International Labor Bureau and certain health organizations.

After lunch, the President drove up to Rhinebeck to give his advice on the choice of a site for a new school. We all had tea together, including the little Princesses, Beatrice and Irene. They were rather afraid of Fala, the President’s little Scottie, since they had never had a dog of their own in Holland.

While they solemnly drank their cambric tea and ate their cookies, I made Fala perform for them. He did every trick he knows, several times over, and gradually they lost their fear so completely that they ended by chasing him around the room and my husband had to rescue him by taking him in his arms.

There he behaved just like a child and snuggled his head down on the President’s shoulder, but the little girls had at last gained confidence and, as they were led away to supper, the older one came over and gave Fala a shy but affectionate pat.

A little before 9:00, the Democratic victors on our town ticket – and this year the Democrats won every town office – appeared at the house, and the President congratulated them.

The most excited person was the daughter of one of the victors. She brought her autograph book and corralled the President’s autograph, Princess Juliana’s and mine, plus that of Tommy Qualters, the President’s bodyguard. She went away murmuring that the first time the Democrats had lost, but the second time they had won. For her, I am sure, winning was symbolized by the acquisition of these autographs.

After taking the Princess Juliana to her train, Miss Thompson and I drove to New York City, and are here for two days while I lecture at Town Hall.

November 7, 1941

New York, Thursday –
Yesterday was a very pleasant day. I gave two lectures, one at the Town Hall in New York City in the morning and one in Elizabeth, NJ, in the evening. In between times, I lunched with my cousin, Mrs. Henry Parish, and did a little Christmas shopping and a number of personal things which I have not had time to do in Washington.

Today is going to be a busier day, but still I never have quite the same schedule when I am away from Washington. I go to Town Hall this morning at 11:00, to repeat as nearly as possible the lecture I gave yesterday, but since I speak from notes, I never can give exactly the same talk.

Afterwards, I lunch with the Board of Trustees of the Town Hall, and the program sounds both varied and interesting. I am glad that my own part will take only ten minutes, for I shall be able to enjoy all the others. At 3:30, I am to be at the English-Speaking Union. I have belonged to that organization for many years, but I am not very familiar with the work they have been doing of late, so I am glad of the opportunity to talk with some of their officers.

I received a rather pathetic letter from a woman who runs one of the small speciality shops in New York City. She sells dresses and millinery, and I imagine such things as costume jewelry, bags and accessories of all kinds. She is worried for fear that a wave of economy will sweep over our people and that small business such as hers will be ruined.

She says they do not want charity, they want to earn a living, and they want to keep their people at work, many of whom have been with them for several years.

There are undoubtedly going to be economies practiced along many lines, but perhaps these small businesses, as well as bigger ones, will be able to find ways in which they can adapt themselves to the making of certain things needed in defense. They should apply at once to bureaus set up in Washington, under OPM, for the purpose of giving them advice and consideration.

Many of their employees may have to go into defense industries. If we go into high gear in defense production, there will undoubtedly be a shift in the type of employment which many people have, and a more general possibility of employment for people of middle age, as well as for young people without experience.

I hope that no one, for the present at least, will curtail their usual buying, except where it is necessary. The kind of economy which is undertaken because of a vague feeling of fear about the future, is bad psychology for us all.

November 8, 1941

Washington, Friday –
I was very much impressed yesterday afternoon with the amount of work which is being done by the English-Speaking Union. Their toys are charming and each doll will represent some very necessary vitamin pills for a child in Great Britain. Supplies of all sorts are accumulated and sent out from a very active workroom. I felt like congratulating the many hard workers with whom I had the pleasure of shaking hands.

I went to see my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Parish, in the late afternoon. After supper and a meeting at our own house in the evening, I caught the night train back to Washington.

The day here has been very busy. First, at the office, then at the White House. A number of people came to lunch and then back to the office and finally home to entertain a group of people at a reception given in the interests of the International Student Service.

I am always amused when certain writers insinuate that this organization must have something wrong with it because I am associated with it. Of course, it existed long before I went on the board, and that board chose their general secretary, Mr. Joseph Lash, before I was asked to be one of their number. The names of those who sponsor this organization and are on the board, should guarantee its complete respectability.

This afternoon, Mr. Archibald MacLeish gave the explanation for his interest in the International Student Service, and an interesting talk. This was followed by an account of the work we hope to do in the Washington Bureau. Finally, the general objectives and activities were explained, covering aid to refugee students, work camps, conferences on the campuses designed to awaken the young people to an interest in exploring their reasons for a belief in democracy, and to bring together students and faculty in helpful discussions.

Their magazine, The Threshold, offers an outlet for good writing by students on any subject that interests them. They are constantly developing new ways in which to stimulate the interest of students in exploring subjects that will lead them into other organizations.

Tonight I am having a meeting of the staff working in the Office of Civilian Defense. I am anxious that we should all get together and know each other, and that we should, from time to time, have an opportunity to hear things from other people which will give us all a better understanding of the reasons why we are all at work.

November 10, 1941

Washington, Sunday –
All day yesterday, from 10:00 until after 5:00, the heads of many women’s national organizations met at the Labor Department Auditorium.

Miss Eloise Davison, who has been lent to the Office of Civilian Defense by the NY Herald Tribune, and who is in charge of all plans for women’s activities, arranged this meeting. I think it was one of the most interesting that I have ever attended.

The speeches given in the morning by the various government officials were informative and interesting, and brought home many facts we need to know if we are going to do constructive work in our communities. I do not feel that we can overemphasize the importance of coordinating all of our resources on a community basis to serve us now and in the future.

A strange report comes to me from New England. It appears that volunteers are reluctant to go to work unless they can do some work which is distinctly a wartime occupation. They do not realize that improving social services in a community is basic defense work. Every time any volunteer takes a course in nutrition or childcare, and sees that the community as a whole is better fed, she has done something which will be invaluable if we are attacked, and useful in the future as well.

After the meeting, everyone came to drink tea and coffee at the White House and to talk over the day. The consensus of opinion was that Miss Davison had provided a very stimulating program.

In the evening, my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Robinson and some other friends, went with me to see a new play, Junior Miss. It is light and amusing and I can think of no better way to take your mind off serious matters. In Lenore Lonergan, I am beginning to look for the perfect enfant terrible. It must be almost second nature for her to play these parts. My only other friend in the cast, Mr. Alexander Kirkland, seemed to me to do his part very well. In fact, the whole cast was good, though there were a few individuals I hope are not really true to life!

November 10-16 has been designated as American Guide Week, because it represents the end of six years of work, done by thousands of anonymous American writers on the writer’s project of WPA. They have been doing research work and writing histories of our states and cities, which make up a story of the nation. The 51st guide book is now out and the series is complete.

November 11, 1941

Washington, Monday –
I thought yesterday was going to be a very quiet, lazy morning! Immediately after breakfast, Miss Agnes Inglis brought her four adopted children, two of them English refugee children, to see me. We went over the second floor of the White House together.

She is starting across the country in a trailer to visit migratory camps, so as to make a study of the migratory labor situation. The boys were in a state of very great excitement at the prospect of this adventurous trip, and I can think of no better way to get a first impression of the country.

Then, one after another, people came to see me. Before I knew it, it was lunchtime! Franklin Jr. called us about noon. He had arrived in Portland, Me., at 7:00 a.m. and was on his way out to sea again at 3:00 p.m. He sounded well and cheerful, though he insisted that his responsibilities were bringing grey hairs to his head prematurely!

The fog seems to be one of their main difficulties. I always feel helpless when fog descends upon me and only the mournful foghorn gives me a sense of attachment to anything else beyond the grey blanket around me.

I flew over to New York City, because I had an appointment there at 4:00 with a gentleman who has to spend the winter in Florida and wishes to volunteer his services to work in the civilian defense setup there. Then, some friends came in, I went to my broadcast, and from there straight to the dinner given in the interest of ORT.

This charity has long provided education for Jewish boys and girls to prepare them for agriculture and industry. They send machinery abroad, not only for purposes of training, but to help people establish themselves in various occupations.

At present, this work is greatly restricted, but they are still able to function in some places and certainly it is very necessary to carry on wherever possible.

All the labor organizations in New York City were represented at the dinner and they turned it into a tribute to me, which was slightly embarrassing, even though I was deeply appreciative of all the kind things which were said. Parties such as this bring home to me how very kind people are, and also the great responsibility we all carry these days to work together to make our country united and strong.

This morning, we held a meeting of the staff at the Office of Civilian Defense, augmented by 22 members of the State Defense Councils. The rest of the day I have spent at the autumn meeting of the Rosenwald Fund Trustees.

November 12, 1941

Detroit, Tuesday –
Miss Thompson and I flew over on the 5:00 plane to New York City yesterday afternoon. I reached the dinner given by the Public Education Association a little late.

Fortunately, the few words I had to say came at the beginning, and I was able to enjoy the three other speeches which were really outstanding. Sir Norman Angell, in his talk on what the English schools had been able to accomplish, pointed out how successfully their people had learned to make their own decisions and to act on their own initiative in times of emergency.

Mr. James Marshall must have been pleased at the praise which was given the present school administration in New York City and his speech was most interesting.

The evening was closed by Mr. Eduard C. Lindeman, who is, I think, one of the most inspiring leaders I know in the educational world. He conducts a seminar on Monday evenings at Columbia University, and he told me that his students had let him off for the evening on the condition that they could come into the gallery and listen to the speeches. They were there in full force, and I feel sure it was a profitable evening for them.

This morning we breakfasted early and caught the plane for Detroit, Mich., where we shall spend a busy afternoon and evening.

I have just read a book, The Heart Of Another by my friend, Martha Gellhorn. It consists of four short stories, most of them dealing with incidents which she has lived through, or seen others live through in the course of the last few years. The gift of the fiction writer is to paint in words that “heart of another,” so that, for the first time, you actually live somebody else’s life. You know their thoughts and feelings, and follow their reasoning, a thing often missed in real life.

The first story is the one which appeals to me most. It is easy to understand the primitive suffering of the man because of his love of the land which he feared he must leave. There are no subtleties here which are hard to understand.

Some of the guests at luncheon yesterday begged to see the President’s dog, Fala, and so I sent for him. The group of twenty-odd people, all talking and laughing, did not unnerve him. He seemed to sense at once that he had been brought in to entertain them. He went through all his tricks, earned great praise and retired, tail wagging, with an evident sense of virtue.

November 13, 1941

Cincinnati, Wednesday –
We reached Detroit, Mich., on time yesterday, and barely arrived at the hotel before the military parade in commemoration of Armistice Day began to pass in the streets. It was cold and gray, and yet the streets were lined with people. It was evident that this was because of a new realization of the significance of the day. Every other Armistice Day we have celebrated something that was past. Today, we celebrate a rededication of ourselves to preserving, in the present, what people died for so frequently in our history.

This time, I hope, that we can use this period of emergency to awaken in every citizen the realization that democracy at home and in the world, must be made safe by daily continued efforts, year by year, which will bring to all people a freedom from want and fear. This entails a more equitable economic situation and some kind of machinery which will allow nations to suppress an aggressor who wishes to take up arms.

This entire week, as you know, is dedicated to civilian defense, and I want to stress particularly the significance of “Sign Up for Defense Day.” We hope that local defense councils will see that volunteer offices are established, not only in large cities, but in small ones. That, from the county seats, people will go out and spend evenings in the villages, telling the rural men and women how they can enroll and be a part of the nation’s defense.

These volunteer bureaus are not merely enrollment centers. Their duty is also to canvass every available opportunity for training in their area, whether it is training which can be obtained through the Red Cross, private social agencies, Social Security programs, WPA, or the educational system.

They must also canvass the opportunities for volunteers after training, and know where the opportunities for placement are for people already trained in some particular line. There is work for everyone, and we must do it. In a united nation, everyone must participate in its defense.

During the afternoon in Detroit yesterday, I had an hour’s conference with the Governor, Mayor and a number of State officials. Later, representatives from a women’s local of the United Mine Workers came to see me. Finally, I met some of the Democratic women leaders and the President of the Pen Women. I ended with a very pleasant hour spent with one of the Washington newspaper women, Mrs. Esther Tufty, and my sister-in-law, Mrs. Dorothy Roosevelt and two of my nieces, Amy and Diana Roosevelt. A pleasant dinner, then the lecture, and the train to Cincinnati, where we arrived this morning.

November 14, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
The Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, Rabbi Wohl, with several other members of the Forum met us at the train at 8:00 yesterday morning. I am always a little overwhelmed by these early morning attentions, because I feel that the hosts put themselves out so tremendously and nothing you can do or say can really repay them.

They drove us to the hotel and left us to eat our breakfast, and at 9:30 the press appeared. I did a little work on the broadcast for civilian defense, which I made at 1:15, and saw some of the staff of the volunteer bureau, which is already established here, though still without a local defense setup. Then I settled down at 11:45 to do my column and several other articles which I have been saving up over a long period.

I had promised my daughter weeks ago, to do an article for the Christmas number of her paper. It was more difficult to write this year, because suggestions for Christmas giving have to be thought out with greater care than usual.

After the broadcast, Mrs. Thomas McAllister came to lunch. She is a member of the Voluntary Participation Committee of the office of Civilian Defense in her region. She had a number of questions to ask. I made the discovery that there were certain things which I tried to answer without really knowing whether I was correct or not, so I shall have to take these particular points up today, now that I am back at the Washington office.

Yesterday afternoon, Judge Robert Marks and Mr. Frazier Reams came to see me. Judge Marks always sends me the most delicious box of candy when I come to Cincinnati. He tells me that it is made by a little shop that refuses to be commercialized, remains the same size, keeps the same saleswomen, and will not acquire a large clientele. I can testify that it is some of the best candy I have ever eaten.

We went to the lecture without dinner, and returned to some delicious creamed chicken and milk, which fortified us for our night of travel.

I visited two of our schools in the District of Columbia this morning, one for white children and one for colored children. They are putting on a program for civilian defense. I have a plea from the military chairman of the waste paper conservation campaign, in which she tells me that everybody is being asked to conserve waste paper. Papers that lie about the house, or any package that comes in, should have its wrappings removed at once and put into a convenient place to turn over to the dealers who collect it and pay for it. They are getting help in their efforts from the Salvation Army and Boy Scouts. Anyone taking part in this campaign is doing a job for civilian defense.

November 15, 1941

New York, Friday –
Miss Caroline Haslett, Honorary Advisor to the British Minister and Ministry of Labor on Women’s Training, came to lunch with me yesterday and told me of their plans to invite some women of various organizations in this country to visit England, and then report back to the people of this country on the work being done by women over there.

It certainly will be a great help to civilian defense, but I hope the women will be very carefully chosen, so that they will reach as wide a field as possible on their return.

I left Washington on the 4:00 plane, flew to New York City to attend a meeting in the evening, after which I spent some hours going over all the mail which I had not succeeded in doing earlier in the day.

The trip up on the plane was particularly pleasant because Mr. Edward J. Flynn, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was with me and talked on many subjects of mutual interest. When I did take to reading my papers, which I had been carrying around with me all day, it was an added interest to be able to comment on various matters and to ask questions of my well-informed neighbor.

At 9:30 this morning, a Boy Scout, rather breathless because he had been delayed in arriving, a Sea Scout and a Cub Scout, were at my door. A truck half piled up with papers stood outside. I took out a stack of old newspapers and we all faced the camera men together.

I had to beg them to hurry because I found the papers heavy. When they were taken over by the Boy Scout, I realized that he must find them just as heavy. Finally, they were safely on the truck. After signing three autographs, everybody departed happily.

Since then I have done a variety of things, and since variety is the spice of life, this has been a spicy day.

“Bundles For Britain” has a most enchanting “All America” shop, where I am sure many people will find unique Christmas gifts.

The head, done by Mr. Robert Bros, of the President, which is on exhibition in Mr. Frey’s gallery, seems to me very fine.

The Child Study Association lunch was most interesting. Dr. Eduard C. Lindeman told us of the purposes of the organization and introduced Dr. David Levy, who gave a learned paper on hate and intolerance. Dr. Everett R. Clinchy, closed with a convincing plea for us to prove the possibility of unity, in spite of creed and religious differences.

November 17, 1941

Hyde Park, Sunday –
Friday night I attended a dinner in New York City for the American Friends of German Freedom. As usual, Dr. Frank Kingdon was a delightful chairman. It was encouraging to find that people, who had recent contacts with Germany, felt that there were many people there waiting, longing and working for freedom from Nazi rule.

Early Saturday morning, we motored up to Hyde Park and, in spite of the fact that the trees there are bare and the color is gone, it was a very lovely drive and the country is still beautiful and the weather mild. I like the country in all kinds of weather, so I am not too critical and would probably tell you that it is beautiful at every season.

After lunch, I went down to listen to some of the speeches and discussions at the conference at Vassar College on morale in the army camps and the colleges’ responsibility. The conference was held under the auspices of the Vassar Political Association and the International Student Service.

In the evening, I went back again to hear Dr. Hans Habe, author of A Thousand Shall Fall, and other novels, give a most interesting lecture on his observations in France and morale in Europe. The evening ended with a very well acted living newspaper skit on the draftee in camp. 43 delegates came from other colleges to this conference and some 15 colleges were represented.

This morning, Congressman and Mrs. Tom Eliot, who are staying with me, drove over to the library and they are now wandering around enjoying the country. He gave a very good talk at Vassar yesterday afternoon. Both he and Mrs. Eliot seemed to enjoy the discussions and the evening entertainment.

After lunch, we shall all be wending our way back to Washington, though I shall have to stay in New York City until fairly late, because I not only have my regular broadcast at 6:45 but I have a broadcast for Civilian Defense at 10:30 with Mr. Clifton Fadiman. I shall take a plane to Washington and a train from there to Greenville, NC, where I must be tomorrow for a lecture.

May I remind you that the American Red Cross is now having its annual roll call and that their objective is to double the membership. They are going to try “to see all the people,” but if they don’t happen “to see” you, be sure that you see them, for the work that they are doing is needed all over the world.

November 18, 1941

Greenville, NC, Monday –
We arrived in Wilson, NC, and were met by Dr. Leon R. Meadows, president of East Carolina Teachers College. The state highway patrol preceded us on the thirty-odd-mile drive to Greenville. They had evidently decided that I was an old lady with nerves and did not like to be driven at more than 30 miles an hour, so we drove at a snail’s pace. I was about to ask what was the matter, and then decided that it was not up to me to ask questions and I had better take advantage of the opportunity to look at the countryside.

I remembered well that this is the part of the country which had been hardest hit when the war closed its tobacco markets, because of the sudden decision by Great Britain that it could not buy tobacco over here. Almost 50% of the tobacco raised here, used for cigarettes, had been sold in England. Before the Japanese-Chinese war, much of it was sold to China.

The Government helped the planters over this period. In one way it has had a beneficial effect, for through their state agricultural college, they have received assistance in establishing a more varied agriculture. You now see fields of corn, a little cotton and gardens. Mayor Sugg, of Greenville, who drove over with us, told me he had attended a meeting recently on home canning, which had really been inspiring.

I was glad to hear of this, for it seems that the nutrition program is working. I feel that if we can establish community planning for specific purposes during this period, we shall have a stronger instrument with which to meet any problems which face our communities in the future.

The members of the press are to be here to see me at 12:00. Luncheon will be at 1:00, after which we shall drive around the campus, visit the NYA community center, and I hope also to see the WPA art gallery, which is located in the Greenville Public Library. This being WPA Art Week, I want, wherever possible, to see the local exhibitions. In this way I shall obtain a better idea of what artistic talent and craftsmanship we are developing in various localities.

On the 11th day of each month, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States have established a radio program to which more than 425 radio stations are contributing time. They call their program Speak Up For Democracy. I have had the privilege of looking over some of their material, and I want to congratulate them on the service which they are rendering to the cause of liberty.

November 19, 1941

Washington, Tuesday –
Yesterday afternoon, I went to the NYA resident center in Greenville, N. C., and was tremendously proud of what these North Carolina boys had achieved, for they built all of their own buildings! They have some excellent shops in wood-working, sheet metal work, radio, photography, etc.

Much of their work is, of course, done for the Army, because the training in every NYA resident project is with a view of making these young men valuable in defense industries as quickly as possible. The health program is stressed in North Carolina, so they have an adequate small clinic building with a few hospital beds. Every boy is given a complete physical examination and I was appalled to hear that somewhere around 70% were found to be undernourished.

The little WPA art exhibit in the library was very charming. Some of the craftwork done in the industrial school and by the NYA girls’ project is very good.

I hope this afternoon to get a glimpse of the WPA art exhibit here. This year, Art Week promises to be a greater success even than last year. I notice that, in New York City, they have already sold several pictures, different pieces of sculpture and various things from the crafts projects.

Mr. Thomas J. Watson, a well-known businessman who has taken over the chairmanship this year, has been able to get the active cooperation of businessmen on local committees throughout the country. They have been able to stress the need of the artist to sell his wares, which is, after all, something every citizen must recognize. If artists are to contribute to the pleasure of our daily lives, they must also make a living.

After my lecture last night, in Greenville, we returned home, for, unfortunately, the President of the University of Alabama, where I was to lecture tonight, was taken seriously ill, and they asked me if I would cancel the lecture. To find myself at home with two unexpected days of leisure is something really to rejoice over, though I am sorry the cause had to be somebody’s illness.

I took life very easily this morning and did a number of things around the house before I went to the Office of Civilian Defense at 11:00. I thought there would be nothing to do at the office, but I soon found myself seeing one person after another as fast as I could see them. I came home to lunch with Mrs. Kermit Roosevelt, who was in town. I am going back to the office for a few more appointments this afternoon.

November 20, 1941

Hyde Park –
I don’t know when you are celebrating Thanksgiving. Some people have never changed from the traditional last Thursday in November, but according to the calendar, November 20 is Thanksgiving day, and therefore, I am writing this column for that day.

There is so much for which we in the United States can be thankful. We should join together and say our prayers of thanks with very full hearts. As we look at the rest of the world, we may be thankful that we have been spared the sorrows and the hardships which have come to so many men, women and children.

True, our own lives have been greatly changed and some people in this country have suffered losses, and are in deep sorrow because some young life has come to an end, either in service training or in actual service work. My heart ached the other day when I read one of my letters which begged me to find out for a broken-hearted father whether his boy was actually on the Reuben James and among the missing, because he had been on board but his name was not listed.

Anxieties and grief there are for many people, and yet on the whole, we can be thankful that our countrymen are waking to their responsibilities, and are accepting whatever the government asks of them. We are producing more and more in the way of defense materials, as the people realize what the real impact of a Hitler victory would mean to us.

I think each one of us who is able to do even a small service for the country today is thankful for the opportunity.

I like some lines which a friend of mine, Robert Porterfield, the actor who established the Barter Theater in Virginia, has sent me:

Be frugal, save, and buy defense bonds.

Stop being complacent.

Pray for peace.

Work for peace.

Do your part.

Crush that evil which is set up to destroy our culture and the bill of rights. Thank our forefathers for their stamina and their vision. Realize that we hold the torch of tolerance, for freedom and for peace.

Do your part.

Our philosophy is giving, not getting.

Do your part.

He headed this “How I can help national defense.” And on this Thanksgiving day I think that is the thought I want to leave with you, being thankful, we must “do our part.”

November 21, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
Wednesday afternoon, after a day spent in the Office of Civilian Defense, and an hour or so which I stole to do such little jobs as going to the hairdresser, Mrs. Helm, Miss Thompson and I ended up at the WPA art project. The District of Columbia has a corner of this national exhibition, and the children have a section all to themselves.

I think I was more impressed by the marionettes than by any other work done by the children. Certainly the District is developing into a very good art center. They have some good paintings and sculpture, as well as some excellent craftwork on exhibition. The national show, off course, has artists exhibiting from every part of the country.

There were two things which I liked very much, a Gloucester moonlight picture, and a watercolor near the door, done by a Chinese-American boy, Don Kingman, of San Francisco.

Thanksgiving Day was quiet. We are all very glad to have Diana Hopkins here, otherwise we would have no children in the house. Diana arrived home from school on Wednesday for the Thanksgiving vacation. I suggested that the pony be ridden today, and she seemed to think it would be one of the pleasant things to do.

A number of friends, besides our son, Jimmy, and his wife, will be here for dinner tonight. After dinner, Mr. Arthur Menken is going to show his very delightful travel pictures. The President is never very interested in seeing pictures of a place which he has once visited, because he has a photographic memory and never forgets the “lay of the land” when he has once seen it. He was thrilled, however, at the idea of seeing pictures of so many countries he has never visited, and I am sure we shall be also.

It is curious to have a day which is entirely free of engagements until tea time, but I am devoting it to preparing for Christmas! I have had very little time to do much checking of my Christmas lists, but, by the time this day is over, I shall know exactly what I need to buy.

I am afraid this is going to be a very quiet Christmas in the White House with very few children to entertain us. As far back as I can remember, there have always been children around and I hope that we shall at least have Diana Hopkins here. Perhaps we may find some child who is not going home to come to celebrate with her.

November 22, 1941

Washington, Friday –
I took a long walk yesterday morning and, after that, a swim, the first exercise that I have had in so long that I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be physically tired. The weather has been like summer, but today there is a little change. I hope it will stay colder from now on, because I think it is much healthier at this season of the year.

I have little to record except that I spent the morning at the Office of Civilian Defense. The more I visit different parts of the country and the more reports I get, the deeper is my realization that men and women volunteers throughout the nation are thinking of the work they can do for their country largely in terms of “war work.”

They do not seem to realize that perhaps the greatest defense work done in any nation, is to build up your own community to the point where that community will give to every man, woman and child a life worth living and, therefore, worth defending.

This means that, instead of leaving our social agencies to cope with all the problems of community life, through their trained workers, we should take an active interest in these problems and should offer our services as volunteers to make the work which our agencies do more effective. We might make it possible to cover a wider field than they are usually able to cover with their restricted budgets.

Eventually, the use of volunteers will probably bring greater contributions to the social agencies and make it possible to employ more paid workers because, as the volunteers see the needs, they will be willing to contribute.

There are many resources for use in every community which lie idle part of the time because of the lack of personnel to use them. For instance, an official of a big city wrote me only today and said that his city and school playgrounds were used only part time. They did not dare increase the city space because they did not have money enough to employ paid personnel and the board of education was in the same position.

At the moment, it is most important to provide as much supervised recreation for children as possible, because in many cases their parents are needed out of the home for longer hours than before the emergency existed. It seems to me that trained personnel could train volunteers and then supervise them, thereby making it possible to increase the playgrounds.

This whole question of how to contribute to civilian defense must become a personal question and lead to as much active participation as possible.

November 24, 1941

Washington, Sunday –
Yesterday morning there came to my office in Civilian Defense Headquarters, three women representing the National Federation of Music Clubs. They told me of the work they are doing for defense, and what they have accomplished is really astounding. Through their state and national organizations, they have already given phonographs to every camp. They provide records and their members volunteer to teach choral singing, to play for entertainments and to give concerts in various camps and nearby places where the boys congregate on leave.

Here is an organization which really has something to offer in the way of entertainment and has quietly gone about its work and already accomplished a great deal. I hope the members of this federation will enroll in the various volunteer bureaus in their vicinity as soon as these are set up, and will continue their work just as they are now doing.

Yesterday evening, I had the great pleasure of having Dr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Davenport here at dinner with a number of other guests. After dinner, a number of Dr. Davenport’s government interns, with a few other young people, came in for the evening. We had the movie How Green Was My Valley. If you have not seen it, do not miss it. It is one of the most moving, stirring stories, and as applicable to life today in similar situations and environments, as it was in Queen Victoria’s day.

Our guests began to leave us this morning at 7:15. The sky was gray and the rain fell to chime in with our mood of regret at seeing them all go.

I have had a profitable day reading the papers, catching up on my mail, entertaining a few guests at lunch, and spending some time in my Christmas closet, which is always a joy at this season. The President has been bothered by a slight attack of sinus. Some other people in the house seem to be suffering from colds, so none of us went out all day long.

I think we all felt a weight off our minds and hearts yesterday when we knew the coal strike was to be arbitrated. I know what a relief it is for the men to go back to work. I cannot bear to see situations where there is shooting. Many people in this country must have felt grateful that all will work together and two different groups will not line up against each other.