"What I hope to leave behind..."
The following is excerpts from an article written by Eleanor Roosevelt for Pictorial Review magazine in April of 1933.
A man said to me recently, "I would like before I die to live in a community where no individual has an income that could not provide his family with the ordinary comforts and pleasures of life, and where no individual has an income so large that he did not have to think about his expenditures, and where the spread between is not so great but that the essentials of life may lie within the possession of all concerned. There could be no give and take in many ways for pleasure, but there need be no acceptance of charity."
Men have dreamed of Utopia since the world began, and perfect communities and even states have been founded over and over again. One could hardly call the community that this man likes to visualize Utopia, but it would have the germs of a really new deal for the race. As I see it we can have no new deal until great groups of people, particularly the women, are willing to have a revolution in thought; are willing to look ahead, completely unconscious of losing the house on Fifth Avenue as long as somewhere they have a place to live which they themselves may gradually make into a home; are willing to give up constant competition for a little more material welfare and cooperate in everything which will make all those around them acquire a little more freedom and graciousness in life.
If a sufficient number of women can honestly say that they will willingly accept a reduction in the things which are not really essentials to happiness but which actually consume a good deal of the money spent by the rich, in order that more people may have those things which are essential to happy living, then we may look, I believe, for the dawn of a new day.
Unconsciously our characters shape themselves to meet the requirements which our dreams put upon our life. A great doctor dreamed in his youth that he would save people, that he would help a suffering humanity. He completed his long training; he steeled himself to see suffering in order that he might alleviate it. Instead of sliding out from under responsibility, he accepted it because he knew that he had to develop all those qualities of mind and heart if he were going to be a great doctor or a great surgeon.
When the care of the children ceases to be entirely in one person's hands, then in the past, as in the present, women have turned to other things. Some have changed the map of the world, some of them have influenced literature, some have inspired music. Today we are dreaming dreams of individual careers.
I find I have a sense of satisfaction whenever I learn that there is a new field being opened up where women may enter. A woman will rejoice in her freedom to enter on a new career. She will know that she has to make some sacrifice as far as her own life is concerned, and for that reason you will find more and more women analyzing what are the really valuable things in human life, deciding whether a job of some kind will be worthwhile for them from several points of view, whether it will give them sufficient financial return to provide for the doing of certain household things better than they could do themselves, and whether the job they do will give them more satisfaction and make them better-rounded people and, therefore, more companionable and worthwhile in their associations with the human beings that make up their home life.
What is the real value of a home? To me the answer is that the value lies in human contacts and associations-the help which I can be to my children, which my husband and I can be to each other, and what the children can be to us. These are the real values of home life. A sense of physical comfort and security can be produced quite as well by well-trained servants.
I feel that if holding a job will make a woman more of a person, so that her charm, her intelligence, and her experience will be of greater value to the other lives around her, then holding a job is obviously the thing for her to do. Sometimes a woman works not only to make money and to develop her personality, and be more of a person in herself, but also because she is conscious that she wishes to make some kind of contribution in a larger field than that of her home surroundings.
The conditions which are governing the world today are obliging many women to set up a new set of values, and in this country they will, on the whole, be rather a good thing. We have come to a place where success cannot be measured by the old standard. Just to make money is no gauge anymore of success. A man may not be able to make as much as his wife, may not be able to make enough to support his family, and yet he may be success. He may have learned to be happy and to give happiness, too, in striving for things which are not material.
A painter may do his best work and yet not be able to sell it, but he is nonetheless a success. You may make your home a success and spend one-tenth of what you spent last year. Bread and cheese cheerfully eaten and shared with other congenial souls may bring a larger return on the investment than do the four- or five-course dinners of a year ago.
There is no doubt that we women must lead the way in setting new standards of what is really valuable in life. One of my favorite quotations is: "To be honest, to be kind - to earn a little and to spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence, to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered, to keep a few friends but these without capitulation - above all, on the same grim condition to keep friends with himself - here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy."
As I grow older I realize that the only pleasure I have in anything is to share it with someone else. That is true of memories, and it is true of all you do after you reach a certain age. The real joy in things, or in the doing of things, just for the sake of doing or possessing, is gone; but to me the joy in sharing something that you like with someone else is doubly enhanced.
One of the things which I hope are coming home to us with a lessening of the abstract desire for money is an appreciation of the fact that some people have an ability to enjoy where others have not, and that one of the things that we must do is to give that ability to enjoy to more and more people.
Answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper.
1. In the first paragraph, what type of government would be necessary for the world hes describing to be reality?
2. Roosevelt describes her new deal as "a revolution in thought." Describe what she means.
3. How is Roosevelt critical of the flappers and other women of the 1920s?
4. Why does Roosevelt urge women to seek work?