Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day (Oct. 1941)



By Eleanor Roosevelt

October 1, 1941

New York, Tuesday –
Yesterday, I finally succeeded in seeing all the heads of departments who are under my direction in the Office of Civilian Defense, except Mr. Kelly, who is in charge of physical education for defense, and who apparently functions in Philadelphia. I have not yet had an opportunity to catch up with him, but his assistant, Miss Alice Marble, who functions in New York City, has telegraphed me that she is coming down to see me soon.

We caught the 6:00 plane for New York City and worked on my personal mail during an extremely smooth flight. I went home first, where I had a glimpse of Jimmy and Rommie, who were just starting out in their best bibs and tuckers to dine very gaily in celebration of her birthday, and to listen to the fight.

I must confess that I would rather listen to the fight over the radio than actually see it, and I prefer not having even to listen to it! This is heresy, I suppose, but I was never really educated in sports.

Miss Thompson and I dined in a little restaurant on 60th Street near 5th Ave., which we both like, and had a very leisurely and pleasant meal by ourselves.

Today, from 10:00 to 4:30, I am meeting with the regional directors of the Federal Security Agency, and hope to discover where they need volunteer services in their various programs. When we return to Washington this evening, I hope to have a very clear picture of some of the opportunities for work which we can develop.

Volunteers and jobseekers are already beginning to crowd Miss Dorothy Overlock’s office in our headquarters in Washington. Miss Overlock is Mrs. Ernest Lindley’s assistant and is interviewing people until Mrs. Lindley is able to return to Washington for the winter. This work is most important, for they must guide people into channels where they will find satisfactory work.

Between 4:30 and 5:00 this afternoon, I am going to stop in at a meeting of the Defense Knitting for Citizens Committee for the Army and Navy. My friend, Mrs. June Hamilton Rhodes, seems to have organized nearly all the department stores and all the knitters in the whole city. I am sure that none of our boys will be without knitted woolen garments to meet the inclemencies of the winter weather.

Mrs. Rhodes is a dynamic person. If she has decided that we are going to knit, we are not only going to knit, but we shall produce garments which our boys can wear, for she will not tolerate waste and she will see that we are efficient!

October 2, 1941

Washington, Wednesday –
It was a great joy to me to find my friend, Miss Mayris Chaney, in New York City yesterday. She drove out to the airport with us so we could catch up on all she has been doing since she went West last spring.

Miss Thompson and I caught the 6:00 plane, but it left 15 minutes late and was twenty minutes late in arriving here. With profuse apologies for being so tardy, I dashed breathlessly up to the President’s study, where we were having dinner, only to find that he had not even noticed the delay!

There is an advantage in a household where everybody is so busy that nobody ever really waits for anyone else. Everybody is completely occupied and can always find things to do, even if there are a few minutes to wait.

The meeting called yesterday by the Coordinator of Federal Security Services, Mrs. Anna Rosenberg, was a most inspiring occasion. It brings together not only the different agencies under that bureau, but all the other government agencies working in the area. Here were government representatives on a regional level, working out the problems which affected all their different agencies. Thereby, they accomplished results, which, if they had not met together once a month, probably would have taken weeks of correspondence finally to clear up.

In the afternoon, all the state officials joined the meeting. This meant that purely state responsibilities, and the points at which the state officials touch the Federal Government officials, could also become clarified because of personal contact.

In addition, Lieutenant-Governor Poletti, of New York State, State Coordinator of Civilian Defense Activities, and Major General Irving J. Phillipson, representing the military interests of the area, were present. It seemed to me that this was as good a coordinating job as I had seen accomplished anywhere in the Government.

Edith Helm has returned to us today from her summer home in Illinois. It is always a day of rejoicing when she joins our staff again. I am very happy to have her back, because I know she is going to be of great help to me in many ways. She takes up the responsibility of social activities at once, of course, but her experience in other emergency periods will be of great value, not only here in the White House, but in the Office of Civilian Defense.

October 3, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
Last evening, the President and I, with our dinner guests, had the pleasure of seeing two new films. One is made from pictures taken during Mr. Julian Bryan’s last trip to South America, and his voice gives the running comment.

Life is full of little coincidences, and I smiled when I thought that, only yesterday morning I had read a letter which a young friend wrote from Bogota. She told most interestingly of the country and the life there and casually mentioned that they had been spending some very pleasant hours with Mr. Julian Bryan. Here I was looking at the picture made on his last trip, while he was out making pictures for a future film!

The second picture shown, was done under the direction of Mr. Joseph Losey. It is a very charming picture of a nursery school in a rural area. Children are shown in all the activities that are possible in country surroundings. We see them at work and at play. The children range in age from two to seven years. No one could see this picture without finding some charming youngster to catch his attention.

It has no great significance, except that it brings the people who see it, a realization of the value of the nursery school. This educational experiment is fairly new in our country. In Europe it has long been known and available to rich and poor alike. I remember years ago hearing that children in the London slums, who had the opportunity of attending nursery schools, showed up better in physical examinations than the children of more privileged homes, who were brought up in the traditional English fashion.

I hope that wherever this picture is shown, here or in South America, it will make friends for us, because the audiences will like our children. I feel sure also, that Mr. Bryan’s pictures shown throughout this country, will make us realize more keenly that, from Mexico to Cape Horn, we are truly “Americans all.”

On the wall, in my office today, there hangs a map of the United States. On it, the regional directors’ areas are marked off and coincide with the Army corps areas into which the country is divided. I am going to have a very interesting time putting little pins into that map as each one of our volunteer bureaus is established.

I returned to the White House from the office at 10:30 this morning to sit in on the WPA National Advisory Committee meeting on volunteer participation in the WPA program.

October 4, 1941

Washington, Friday –
I was enormously interested yesterday in hearing a young farmer from Alabama, tell of the plan which he and his friends had followed in rehabilitating their rural community. They simply mobilized all the available government agencies, federal, state and local, and they found they had many resources from which to draw.

One particularly good instance of cooperation among the neighbors, is how they contribute days of work to each other. Our ancestors did this in pioneer days, when they had to build a house, or a barn, or husk the corn. Today, they find they can build a house for a family and buy the materials at a cost of $300. If they cut their own lumber, they can do it for much less.

Then he told me how the community is trying to raise the level of its stock. They have built a community house with shops in it, and even make their own furniture as they build their houses!

I asked what they are doing for health, and heard, to my joy, that they are building a clinic. They hope to have a nurse there, particularly to help the women with their babies and to meet many emergencies which arise with children.

Even though this effort is being made in the state of Alabama, it is being made for both colored and white families, and they work side by side in accomplishing results. I was so encouraged by the whole account of what is being done, that I would have given a great deal if I had known how adequately to show the young man how enthusiastic I felt. I hope he keeps right on and is so successful that his pattern will be followed by many other communities; North, South, East and West.

Mrs. John L. Whitehurst, the President of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, came to see me this morning and I was much impressed by the work which she has done in the Federation, and on the State Defense Council of Maryland.

It was a joy today to see Mrs. Grenville Emmet, who has come to Washington to spend the winter with her two daughters. I enjoyed also having Mrs. Florence Kerr’s WPA regional directors lunch with me and give me a word picture of conditions in their various regions. It is most interesting to hear from so many different groups of people about conditions in various parts of the country.

October 6, 1941

New York, Sunday –
Well, after 25 years, a woman has succeeded in winning the world’s typing championship, which has been held by the men over that long period. On Monday, Oct. 6, the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of New York will make an award to Miss Margaret Hamma in recognition of her winning this trophy.

As a typist, Miss Hamma belongs to the largest individual group of businesswomen. The business and professional women who are honoring her represent every type of business and profession in which women may engage today. I think all women are honored when a woman achieves an outstanding success and I want to congratulate Miss Hamma.

Friday morning I went for a brief time to address the School of Philosophy, which is a group of employees in the Forest Service who gather to discuss their own work and to understand better some of the objectives of the department. They assigned me quite a subject: “Has Democracy a Universal, Workable Philosophy of Human Relationship in a Complex World?” I only hope I was able to contribute something to their course.

The rest of Friday I spent in seeing people in the Office of’ Civilian Defense. It is very difficult to do much in the way of planning, when I am still spending the greater part of my time talking with people for periods ranging from fifteen minutes to a half hour. I find myself still reading the mail for this office and any information or questions which come in during the night. I wonder that my secretary does not rebel at the hieroglyphics which she has to decipher on the various letters and bulletins in the morning.

Friday evening I went to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, in Washington, to speak to the graduating class of nurses. They were such a nice group of young people. Most of them were girls, but there were a few men scattered among them. These girls are going to be nurses for mental cases, many of them staying in St. Elizabeth’s. I think this work requires better training and more self-control and kindness than almost any other work one can do.

We all got off the train yesterday morning in New York City and went straight to the 65th Street houses, where my husband sorted many articles in his mother’s house.

October 7, 1941

Washington, Monday –
I did not spend a very long time yesterday morning in the country. We finally have had some rain, which made a great difference in the countryside, and I was struck by the beauty of the foliage around Hyde Park. Of course, as we neared New York City, we found the colors less vivid, for they have not had such cold nights, I imagine.

The heat of the last few days makes us all feel that we have returned to mid-summer, and I really envied people who had summer clothes and could wear them. A black dress seems so much hotter to look at and certainly is heavier in texture!

Three of us stopped for lunch with Secretary and Mrs. Morgenthau on our way to New York City. The Secretary’s flying experience must have been very unpleasant and yet having come through safely, it must give him a sense of security. The pilot did such an excellent job, and everyone on the plane who had a job to do, seems to have kept right on doing it, in as calm a fashion as though nothing had happened! That gives one confidence.

We discussed at lunch whether everybody should take a course in parachute jumping, now that flying is a very ordinary method of travel. I suppose we older people might find it rather difficult, but for young people it would be perfectly easy to take this as part of their athletic program.

I held my first staff meeting this morning at the Office of Civilian Defense and I think it cleared up certain difficulties of procedure which are not yet organized within the office itself.

I came back at eleven to the White House for my usual personal press conference. I had asked Dr. Harriet Elliott, the commissioner of the Division of Consumer Protection to attend, so as really to stimulate a discussion on the whole question of the increased cost of living. There is no question in my mind that we must have some method which is legal to control the rise in prices. It cannot be done by voluntary participation alone, nor by the action of community groups, because it is too difficult for people in the communities to get information on which they can act. I am happy to know that representatives of consumer interests will be appointed on defense councils. I understand some thirty have already been appointed.

More than this is needed, however, particularly when you realize that the snowball of rising prices has rolled up very rapidly in the past four months, and in some cases this increase is higher already than it was during the last World War. We must profit by our former experience and realize that prices which go up must eventually come down, and the coming down process is a very difficult one.

October 8, 1941

Washington, Tuesday –
At luncheon yesterday, Miss Mary Winslow brought two very delightful guests, Señorita Graciela Mandujano, of Chile, and Señora Ana Rosa de Martínez Guerrero from the Argentine. Señorita Mandujano, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting before, has travelled in many parts of the United States since her arrival here last spring, so she must now feel quite at home in our country. She has just spent some time in Maine and announced to me that she had become a Republican.

Señora de Martínez Guerrero brought me an interesting scroll signed by many of the women of Buenos Aires who have joined together to aid the women in other countries who are fighting Nazism. They call their organization “Junta de la Victoria.” Señora de Martínez Guerrero, who is a very charming young woman, has lately been interested in building a hospital. I have long known that the control and the management of the hospitals in the Argentine are in the hands of the women. I have often wondered if the contact with problems in the hospital would not someday create a situation where the women would wish to prevent certain things instead of waiting to alleviate them when they reach the hospital stage. Much to my interest, Señora de Martínez Guerrero said yesterday that she had decided that the only way to do this was through a more active interest on the part of women in the government, and that she was beginning to talk to other women along these lines. This is interesting, not only from the point of view of what it might mean internally, but of what it would mean in better understanding and cooperation between the women of the Americas.

Senator Caraway from Arkansas, with two gentlemen from her state, also came to lunch. They were very cordial in their invitation to me to come to their college for commencement next May. Heaven knows what I will find myself doing next May, so my answer was somewhat vague, but I did appreciate the effort the gentlemen made and particularly Mrs. Caraway’s kindness in coming with them.

Yesterday afternoon I saw Mrs. George V. Ferguson, a most interesting woman, who has headed a voluntary participation bureau in Winnipeg, Canada. They have carried on there some very interesting projects, but I doubt if we in our country can do exactly the same kind of thing. Their experience, however, should be very helpful to us. She also invited me to come to the meeting of the Junior League in Kansas City next spring, so my calendar would be filling up, you see, if I had the temerity to plan so far ahead. I have decided, however, that life is too uncertain to make definite engagements, beyond those I already have made, to give three lectures on the West Coast and to visit my children some time in the month of April.

October 9, 1941

Washington, Wednesday –
Yesterday was a day of rapid adjustments! I had planned on spending a short time at the office and taking a morning plane to Philadelphia. I found, however, that just as I was leaving to take the plane, I was told that the flight had been cancelled. I spent an extra hour at the office, attended the Mayor’s staff conference and took a noon train for Philadelphia.

At luncheon on the train, I found myself at a table with two young army boys and we were joined shortly by a young Marine who had just finished his Paris Island training and was being sent from Quantico, Virginia, to a new post. The army boys came from Virginia and New Jersey respectively, and had spent some months in camp in the state of Washington, and were now on their way to a New Jersey camp. All three were fine boys and I enjoyed talking to them. The thing which I remember most in retrospect, however, is that as we talked about their lives and need for their present sacrifice, they unanimously agreed that they did not have enough information or enough opportunity to talk about the larger aspects of world affairs as they related to their own individual services.

One of the boys finally said:

Well the trouble is, when you get into the army, the training is often the same, day in and day out, and you begin to think that the whole of life centers in what you get to eat, and when you get your pay.

I wonder if perhaps one aspect of our officers’ training is not being neglected. Should we include a course in the art of encouraging conversation among your associates? Should we remember that in both the German and Russian armies there is a relationship between the officers and their men which is not entirely official in character?

I saw my grandson, Bill Roosevelt, and Mr. and Mrs. Curtin Winsor and little Curtin Winsor, Junior, during the afternoon in Philadelphia, I just missed a glimpse of the new baby and that will have to wait for another visit. Then I went to the office of the Women’s Home Defense Association, and finally to the Benjamin Franklin Hotel where the dinner for the Northern Liberties Hospital was held. It was a most inspiring dinner, because the good work which this hospital does seems to have inspired all the people who work for it. The hospital serves a poor part of Philadelphia and everyone concerned is devoted primarily to the relief of suffering wherever it is found, without distinction as to race or creed.

My return plane was cancelled also, and I had to take a train back to Washington which arrived at 2:05 a.m.

This morning was taken up primarily with interviews at the Office of Civilian Defense.

October 10, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
Yesterday afternoon Mrs. William Denman brought Mr. Miguel Covarrubias, the Mexican to see me. His beautiful maps in Pacific House will be remembered by everyone who went to the San Francisco Fair. We had a pleasant talk about Mexico and I was delighted to find that he is as enthusiastic about Steinbeck’s film The Forgotten Village as I am. He told me that he had helped him in every way and assured me that it was authentic because he had lived among the Indians in their villages himself, and took a great interest in the developments which would eventually lead to the elimination of some of the superstitions and to the improvement of sanitary and agricultural conditions.

Another guest was Mr. Alberto Rondon, a native of the Argentine. He is editing a magazine in Hollywood which is circulated largely in South American countries. And, to emphasize that the world is small, a friend of the late Mr. George Foster Peabody, Mr. Harry Hodgson, from Georgia, dropped in, and at once found a point of contact with Mr. Rondon because his brother had travelled in South America on business and returned with a keen interest in the countries and their people.

I have been sent a little brochure from the Consumers Book Cooperative, which they call Reader’s Observer. It is a helpful little publication because it lists books in various fields, and has an article at the beginning, telling one about the trend of interest in reading material, and commenting on books in many fields. I was interested to find that a popular vote which they have taken shows a great interest in religious books, and secondly in books that can be classed as education for democracy. They recommend a book called The Religions of Democracy which is sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. This is a collection of interpretative essays, written by authoritative people on the religions of Judaism, Catholicism and Protestantism. I quote one thought from their article:

It is vital in a democracy for each of us to know what the other believes, for tolerance can only exist through understanding. And in a time of crisis, more than in any other, it is essential to know one’s own background as well as possible.

The last part of that statement struck me particularly, because I am very apt to be rather superficial in my knowledge of religious subjects. I am afraid that my reading of the Bible and the New Testament has been confined often to sections which I like particularly and not to sections which are particularly concerned with the reasons for my beliefs.

October 11, 1941

New York, Friday –
Tomorrow, October 11, the Young Men’s Christian Associations throughout the country will be celebrating the birthday of George Williams, who founded the organization. To me, the work the YMCA does, year in and year out, in small towns and in big cities, in giving boys and young men a place to meet where they can have healthful recreation and companionship, is one of the valuable contributions to the young of our country.

The fact that this program is carried on with a background of religious interest and influence adds to the confidence which many people have when their boys go away from home to a strange place.

This society started in England in 1844. It soon attracted the attention of American visitors. In 1851, the year of the Great London Exposition, some of these visitors returned to our country and founded the organization in Montreal, Canada, and Boston, Mass. Today there are 1,244,410 members in the United States alone. The YMCA is one of the organizations cooperating in United Service Organizations to provide recreation for young men in areas adjacent to the camps. In fact, there are few parts of the world in which the YMCA does not have some representative.

Criticisms have been levelled at the personnel and at the program at various times. That is inevitable – and probably very helpful, because criticism spurs any organization to do better work.

Yesterday morning I received at the White House the ladies who came with the “Fight For Freedom” committee; caught a plane for New York City; lunched at the Rockefeller Institute with Dr. Alfred Cohn; did some shopping, and had a long talk with Mrs. William Brown Meloney. She is a marvel to me, and I was overjoyed to find her looking so well and surrounded with work.

Miss Viola Ilma, of the Young Men’s Vocational Foundation, came in to talk to me about starting a branch of her organization in Los Angeles, and I think this may be the beginning of groups in other parts of the country who will concern themselves with finding jobs for the boys who have been in reformatories. This is essential to real rehabilitation.

This morning I left for Troy, NY, by train, to take part in the 25th anniversary celebration of Russell Sage College.

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October 13, 1941

Washington, Sunday –
I arrived in the rain in Albany, NY, on Friday, but it soon cleared and the day in Troy, NY, was interesting. We first stopped a minute at the Samaritan Hospital to see a boy who is there in an iron lung, as a result of an attack of infantile paralysis. His aunt was a nurse in the Navy Hospital during the last war, and had known me then, so she wrote to ask if I would pay her nephew a visit. He is full of courage and as cheerful as one can be in such a difficult situation. I marvel always at the spirit of youth, and I feel that it can accomplish wonders.

We lunched with the Mayor of Troy, who was most kind. Then the ladies from Mexico, Panama, Brazil, the Argentine, Chile and Bolivia, with Miss Mary Winslow and myself, sat down before a full house in the very charming old music hall, and carried on a panel discussion. Each of them had an opportunity to state what the women could do in a period of crisis to improve relationships in our hemisphere.

I stand in admiration before these women who are able to speak English so well and to express their thoughts clearly before such large groups of people. I was particularly impressed by the youngest member of the party, who represented the youth of South America. She is only 26 years old, and yet she is pioneering in social service in Brazil. She has taken charge of the first children’s court, has written a book on the care of dependent children in Brazil, and has inaugurated a system for the guidance of boys and girls coming out of reformatories. Not many of our own young people can chalk up such a record by the time they are 26.

The conversation in the evening, at which these distinguished Central and South American women were given honorary degrees by Russell Sage College, was a colorful and delightful ceremony. Speeches were made by the representatives of the Mexican and Cuban governments and our own State Department.

I took the night train back to New York City and arrived here before lunch on Saturday, then I attended to a little business and went off with the President and a small party for a short trip down the Potomac. We had dinner on board and were home by 9:00, in time to get Miss Helen Gahagan, who has been staying with us, off on her plane. I always hate to see her go, for she is such an enthusiastic person and a joy to have in the house.

Today is a beautiful day, and I hope for a little more fresh air and exercise. There will be a number of guests for lunch and supper.

October 14, 1941

Washington, Monday –
It was very pleasant walking in Rock Creek Park yesterday. I was pleased to see how many young people hike and ride over the paths, and use the playgrounds for games of various kinds. I think we are much better able to enjoy the out of doors since we have developed so many state and national parks. Everywhere one finds family parties picnicking in sunny spots. Even at this time of the year, there seems to be a great reluctance to give up such summer pursuits.

Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten spent last night with us. Lord Mountbatten told me what an interesting time he had had with our fleet. He also told me that he had established a system of loud speakers on his ships, whereby the crews were informed of all the reasons for the things which they were doing.

Naval secrets are not divulged, of course, but there are many things which can be explained, and which make orders more intelligible and create more cooperation among the men. This seems to me very sensible and should make everyone feel that he is working in an organization where each individual is expected to do more than to obey orders. Obeying orders blindly is sometimes necessary, but complete individual cooperation is sometimes more valuable.

Today I went, as usual, to the Office of Civilian Defense and returned to the White House for my press conference. Very shortly I am going to speak to a group of national club presidents, called together by Mrs. Oveta Hobby, of the War Department, who is in charge of public relations. It is interesting to know that the War Department finds it valuable to have the assistance of women. I see by the papers that they are even considering the enlistment of women in certain positions.

In case you are interested in knowing the uniforms and insignias which will be worn by workers in different branches of civilian defense, there is an article in Liberty Magazine of October 15, which will give the necessary information.

Uniforms are valuable, first, because if they are suitable, they give us the right kind of garment in which to perform certain jobs. Secondly, we become identified with that job through our uniforms and, if our services are needed, people know whom to call. I do, however, feel very strongly that uniforms and insignias should really mean trained workers, so that they will be worn only where they represent real responsibility and definite work undertaken and carried on in some branch of civilian defense.

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October 15, 1941

Washington, Tuesday –
I feel very content today because we have spent the whole day meeting with the regional directors who work in the nine corps areas to establish the program for civilian defense. I think, for the first time, that these gentlemen, to say nothing of us in the office here, are getting procedures clarified and understanding the work we have to do and the way in which we have to do it.

This afternoon we all met the regional directors of the Federal Security Agency and cleared our method of cooperation. This was another long step forward.

Of course, we work with many other groups, both public and private. But the programs carried on by the Federal Security Agency, which are long range programs, are in themselves part of civilian defense. Without real cooperation between the Office of Civilian Defense and the office of the Administrator of Federal Security, it would be practically impossible to set up for our volunteers work of permanent value in making this country stronger now and in the future.

Last night, Dr. John Studebaker and Dr. Ambrose Caliver, and several of their assistants, brought over the transcription of their radio program, Freedom’s People. The Secretary of the Treasury and Mrs. Morgenthau, and Lord and Lady Mountbatten were with us. We all sat and listened with great pleasure to this program, which will be followed by others, all of which I hope will be equally interesting and well carried out.

These programs should bring before the whole people, the contribution of the Negro race to this country. I think that many of the Negro people will be surprised to find what a rich cultural heritage is theirs.

After we listened to this program, Lord Mountbatten brought in the records of two songs by Noel Coward, which have been a great success in London lately. One is called “London Pride,” and is charming. The other has to be approached with a sense of humor. It was written to stimulate the British Government to give proper consideration and equipment to the Home Guard. It is fairly satirical, but they tell me it achieved its object and the Home Guard got the guns it wanted!

I have just had the pleasure of receiving the Minister of the Dominican Republic and Señora de Troncoso, who arrived here scarcely a week ago with their four children. They speak English well and their children are already started in school. I always marvel at the adaptability required of the children of diplomats, and the wonderful way in which they make new friends and succeed in being at home in no time at all.

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October 16, 1941

Washington, Wednesday –
I heard today that Noel Coward is going to sing, from London, his two new songs, which I heard the other day. He will be heard over the radio on the Treasury Hour next Tuesday evening between 8:00 and 9:00. I am delighted we are going to have this opportunity to hear him on the air.

Last night, Mayor LaGuardia flew down to Washington, had dinner with us, and spoke before a meeting of the United Women’s Organizations in the District of Columbia. This group of women’s organizations is composed today of 57 women’s groups, ranging from labor groups to political organizations.

They started with a meeting of twelve and stated that they would come together in a united organization to work for civilian defense. I think this is a fine achievement and hope there will be coordination and unity all over the country at this time in the interests of greater efficiency in community defense work.

This morning, Mrs. Kermit Roosevelt arrived in time to have breakfast with me at 8:00 o’clock on the South Portico. Then I met my daughter and son-in-law on their arrival from Seattle, Washington. It gives a lift to my spirits just to see these two young people, even though I am so busy that I think most of our talking will be done in the middle of the night!

At 10:00, I was at the Office of Civilian Defense, and returned before lunch in time for two appointments at the White House. Then, three representatives of the American Women’s Volunteer Association and some of our Civilian Defense Office staff, came to lunch. We talked over the cooperation between the American Women’s Volunteer Association workers already in the field, and the Civilian Defense people, working through our voluntary information and placement bureaus.

I hope this will develop in every part of the country and am anxious that we should use all the work that has been done. We must keep in mind the objectives before all of us, which are to do good work to meet emergency situations and to improve the communities in which we live.

I failed to mention last week, that Miss Helen Hayes, who is a native of the District of Columbia, celebrated her birthday here on October 10, while appearing in Maxwell Anderson’s play Candle In The Wind.

It is a long time since she has celebrated her birthday here and, had I been able to be in Washington, I should have tried to celebrate with her by seeing the play. However, I shall have to postpone that until it is in New York City, because my time in Washington is almost entirely taken up, even in the evenings!

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October 17, 1941

Washington, Thursday –
Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of receiving the members of the Women’s Club of Martinsburg, West Virginia. Some two hundred strong, they had come to Washington and were spending the day sightseeing and shopping. I always enjoy seeing people from West Virginia and the opportunity to talk to them about some of the things they are doing in that most interesting State.

Later in the afternoon, I again had the pleasure of meeting with the regional directors of the Social Security Board. This time I heard them discuss some of the problems which are facing them, not only today, but in the future. Very wisely, they are thinking not only of such things as they may have to meet now, but of what may come when the present emergency is at an end and another period of readjustment is before us.

It is a great satisfaction to me to find so many groups looking forward and planning ahead, so that we shall not be caught unawares. I find this one of the most encouraging signs, for it shows that some of us, at least, are able to profit by experiences in the past.

I was at work all evening, but finally sat down to a long chat with my daughter and her husband. This morning, I was off to the Office of Civilian Defense early, and back in time for lunch with my two children and the Secretary of the Interior and Mrs. Ickes.

Today I received several postcards which interested me very much. Suddenly people seem to have the urge to put their innermost secrets on postcards! One person asks me kindly to arrest three other people, asserting that they are guilty of slander. It never seems to occur to the gentleman that the power of arrest lies in the hands of certain special individuals, authorized by the Government, and if I started usurping their rights, they might be somewhat indignant.

I also have a postcard which directs that I shall bring certain practices of a local draft board to the attention of the President, and to no one else. The writers are apparently not at all interested in asking the proper people at the head of the draft service in their difficulties. In fact, they tell me, that if the President, himself, cannot take a hand in this matter, under no circumstances am I to give the postcard to any one else!

However, these two cards show a confidence in the fact that the White House will take an interest in private matters which are brought to its attention. I think this is very flattering and am very grateful to both of these writers, though I am afraid I cannot do anything about either request which meets their desires.

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October 18, 1941

New York –
Yesterday afternoon, I received the members of the National Council of Negro Women. Last year, like so many other organizations, they held one session of their convention in the White House. This year, however, they were 700 strong. Since the East Room of the White House does not seat more than between 300 and 400, I attended their session in the Labor Department Auditorium.

There I heard most interesting reports on different phases of their work, after which they were all received at the White House. Two of their artists, a young singer, Miss Carol Brice, and a violinist, Mr. Louis Vaughn Jones, (NOTE: Mr. Louis Vaughn Jones correct) from Howard University, entertained us.

This is the third organization that I have entertained this year, and it seems to me a very satisfactory way to get an idea of the work they are doing. The paper tells me that the women’s organizations, at least, are being asked to choose other cities for their conventions and meetings because of the congestion here.

I can quite understand that this is perhaps necessary from the point of view of housing, but from the point of view of keeping in touch with what the organizations are doing, I shall regret it very much.

21 years ago in Cleveland, Ohio, they established a day which comes around again on Saturday, the 18th of October, for observance. There are people from coast to coast, who look upon this as the day in the year when they must:

Do a good deed, say a kind word, remember the forgotten.

This year they are emphasizing that everyone should:

…send a remembrance to the boys in the armed forces.

I think the idea is a good one and hope it will spread, though I hardly think it need be restricted to one day in the year.

So many people have sent me birthday greetings this year, that I am afraid they never will receive personal acknowledgements. I want to take this opportunity to tell them how much I appreciate their kindness.

I told you yesterday about my postcards, and I must share another one with you. My anonymous correspondent desires to know if I still believe in free speech, or:

…think it is outmoded like our form of government.

Let me say that I do not think our form of government is outmoded, and so long as that is true, I must also believe in free speech, free assembly and freedom of religion. Believing in these things, I must at all times try to make them a reality for everyone who is a citizen of this country.

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October 20, 1941

Boston, Sunday –
The last time I wrote this column I was on my way to Albany, NY, where I spent last Friday attending a luncheon given by the Civilian Defense School, which was being held under the auspices of the State Defense Council. They evidently had some very interesting sessions.

Miss Wilma Shields, who heads up our volunteer bureaus in Washington, spent practically one entire morning answering questions. I feel very much encouraged when I see the interest shown by people who belong to local defense councils in these bureaus, because I feel they will eventually be of real value to the communities.

I enjoyed my time in Albany and had a nice visit with Mrs. Lehman at the Governor’s Mansion. I also saw several of the old staff there, whom I am always happy to see. In fact, the Governor’s Mansion would not seem the same if the steward, Mr. Harry Whitehead, did not meet me at the door.

That night I heard Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Elmhirst speak. Mr. Elmhirst spoke on the postwar planning, which groups in England are already preparing. Mrs. Elmhirst talked on life in England today. I must say her picture was extraordinarily vivid and its implications for the future were very interesting. I think that people who have become accustomed to living on the same rations, to working side by side and facing constant danger together, are apt, in the future, to forget minor distinctions permanently.

When Mrs. Elmhirst said that, in England today, unless you have a package from America, you never ask a friend to come for a meal, because everybody has just enough for himself. It makes the changes in the way of life very real too.

The torpedoing of the Kearny still lies heavily on my mind, partly because it seems incredible that a foreign ship should make attacks of this kind. The mere fact that we have to prevent them, gives me, as it must many other women in this country, cold chills thinking that some particular person may be involved.

Saturday we drove to New London, NH, leaving New York at 7:00 a.m., and stopping for a little while with Miss Esther Lape and Miss Elizabeth Read at Westbrook. It was a gray and rainy day, but the few patches of brilliant color stood out all the more vividly because of the atmosphere. We reached New London at 5:15 and I spoke at Colby Junior College for Girls in the evening.

My audience in the lovely old church was a very responsive and delightful group. We spent the night with Dr. and Mrs. H. Leslie Sawyer, who were very kind hosts. What a difference a long night’s sleep in the country does to one’s outlook on the world.

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October 21, 1941

Washington, Monday –
I didn’t have time yesterday to tell you of our delightful breakfast Sunday morning in New London, NH, with some of the students at “The Lodge,” a log house on the lake surrounded by pine trees. I waked to a gorgeous view of the valley, hills and mountains from my window, and was in the mood to enjoy the sunshine and the brilliant bits of color still on the trees.

Last summer the college had some twenty-odd refugee children in the lodge and nearby tents. Volunteer counselors took care of them. I imagine the lodge is ordinarily used for social purposes. I can testify that the girl cooks are excellent, for we had delicious scrambled eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast.

We talked on many subjects and, at 10:00 , I left then and started on my way to Concord, New Hampshire. I had, of course, not expected to meet with anyone on Sunday, but New Hampshire is going to have its defense workers school, beginning October 19 and lasting through the following week. Governor Blood thought, therefore, that I should not miss the opportunity to talk about the voluntary services and what we are doing in Washington. I feel sure that most of the New Hampshire women with an interest in their state and local defense councils, were present.

The Bishop opened the meeting with a prayer, which made many of those present, who might otherwise regretted not having been able to go to the 11:00 church service, feel that they had a blessing on the meeting.

Governor Blood was very kind and is cooperating in a most remarkable way with all the defense activities. By 12:30 we were on our way and reached the Hotel Statler in Boston around 3:00. A number of people came in to see me. The day was a little odd as to meals. We had an unusually large breakfast, went without lunch and then had a very extravagant tea, because we knew we would have no time for dinner.

At o’clock we went to the broadcasting station and, after that, we drove to Roxbury, Mass., for a lecture. Finally, we settled down on the night train for Washington, feeling that we had had a fairly busy day.

Today is just as busy! First there was a staff meeting, then a conference with a number of the staff separately, and various outside agencies. In the afternoon, I had some appointments with a few individual people before I caught a plane for New York City, where I expect to give a lecture tonight.

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October 22, 1941

Washington, Tuesday –
After a drive across the Triborough Bridge and down the East Side Highway with very few traffic signals against us, I reached the house in New York City very promptly last night. My daughter and son-in-law were awaiting me, and we had time for a really comfortable dinner before I was called for and driven over to Brooklyn for my evening speech.

Miss Mayris Chaney went with me and, on the way back, after we had picked up my bags, we went into the restaurant in the station. We had ice chocolate and chicken sandwiches and much talk about a pleasant program she has in mind to keep all of us, young and old, in better physical condition during these strenuous days.

Once on the train, I tried to stay awake and do some of the mail, which I had not finished on the way up. Finally, my eyes would stay open no longer and I woke just before we pulled into Washington this morning. I had breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Elmhirst and Mrs. Elmhirst’s son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Straight, which started me off well for the day. It is a joy to have them staying here.

Just as I was leaving to walk up to the office, the President arrived from Hyde Park with various friends, and they had a second breakfast. But I could not wait, because of the work at the Office of Civilian Defense.

I came back to the White House at 11:00 for my press conference. Since then, I have seen Miss Jessie Scott of the Brooklyn YWCA, who has told me about their plans for a Negro youth conference in November, and I have been photographed with “Mrs. America 1941.”

I have one more postcard, which I want to share with you today. The writer seems very indignant with me because I said my knowledge of the Bible was superficial. I wonder how many people would dare to say otherwise. Few people can claim a real study and knowledge of that book, which is probably the most widely read book in the world and, frequently, the least understood. My correspondent seems to feel that saying one’s knowledge is superficial, means that one had little respect for the subject.

As a matter of fact, it is because I have such a deep appreciation of what real knowledge the Bible implies, that I would never presume for a minute to consider it possible for me to claim anything beyond a very superficial study. On the other hand, my correspondent ends by thinking it odd that people in Washington can ever understand what is going on there.

I should like to assure him that it is quite easy to understand what human beings conceive and carry out in Washington in the present day situation, and I am sure most of them wish frequently for Divine Guidance!

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October 23, 1941

Washington, Wednesday –
Yesterday afternoon I received the wives of the Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Masons, who were in session in Washington. They came from every part in the United States, and I was particularly pleased to have one of them tell me she had visited my daughter just before she came East.

Afterwards, I had the pleasure of receiving the ladies accompanying the Argentine Commission, which is now here. It was a great pleasure to see them and we were happy to have Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., staying in the house, for they were delighted to meet again friends made on their trip around South America.

In the evening, a few of us were the guests of Mr. Max Gordon at his new play The Land Is Bright, which opened here this week. Miss Edna Ferber and Mr. George Kaufman are the authors. It is certainly a very interesting production, building up to the climax in a way which leaves you no moment when you are not tensely held by the action on the stage.

There were times when I thought that, perhaps, the story was slightly overdrawn, and yet, as I thought it over, I had to acknowledge that I could pick similar people and similar circumstances from my youthful memories.

The play is well acted, and I came away with one great sense of satisfaction, for the youth of today are more serious and more purposeful than the youth portrayed in the first two acts of the play. The honesty of the younger generation, as it looks back on its ancestors, is like a breath of fresh air. It points the moral that the whole level of public responsibility and integrity has gone up over the period of the last fifty years.

We are again in the midst of the Community Mobilization for Human Needs. I hope that, under the stress of the many demands which are made on people’s pocketbooks, there will be no letting down on the giving to the regular organizations which carry on the work in our communities.

I am also told that, since Sunday October 19, we are observing National Hearing Week. There is so much for us to learn, not only in the prevention of deafness, but in what we can do to make deaf people more self-reliant and better able to cope with life, that this week should be of interest to us all. We should be inspired to help all those who are handicapped by impaired hearing.

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