Eleanor Roosevelt Radio Broadcast from Liverpool, England
Broadcast, November 8th, 1942 (from Liverpool, England) 9:15 British time
By Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt
First of all I should like to thank the people of Great Britain, who everywhere have given me such a warm and sympathetic welcome, and to rejoice with them on this momentous day. I also want to thank the many kind people who have written me. I have not been able to answer all of these letters, but I am nonetheless appreciative.
I realize that I am here as a symbol, a symbol representing an Ally whom the people of Great Britain are glad to have fighting with them, not only because we bring them material strength, but because the peoples of the two countries that feel they are fighting for the same objectives - a world which shall be free from cruelty and greed and oppression - a world where men shall be free to worship God as they see fit, and to seek the development of their own personalities and their own happiness within the limits which safeguard the rights of other human beings to do the same.
The peoples of our countries know that they will never compromise in this fight, but they also know they must plan now to establish a method of working together for the future. Without such cooperation among all the United Nations, we can not hope for the kind of world in which it may be possible to maintain peace.
I have only a short time tonight and so I can only sum up for you quickly, the impressions which stand out as a result of the days which I have already spent here. I am sure that I will learn much more in the remaining days of my visit.
First, it seems to me that the women of Great Britain have assumed their responsibility in the war in a truly magnificent way. From top to bottom, for men and women alike, among the representatives of all the United Nations whom I have met here, material things seem to have found their level and to be no longer of primary importance. A man said to me the other day that he had heard of the loss of a substantial piece of property belonging to him, and it seemed such a trivial matter that for three days he forgot to tell his wife. Before the war, he said, it would have worried him for days, and now it meant nothing. It means nothing because people have seen bricks and mortar disappear. They have found that it did not really matter—that they could rejoice if those whom they loved were safe. The nearness to catastrophe enhances enormously this sense of the values of personal relationships. A woman said to me quite blithely the other day: "We have all accepted the fact that we may be destroyed at any moment, so danger has no meaning to us." This spirit is the spirit of the people as a whole. If all of your possessions are destroyed it really does not matter whether they were contained in one room or in twenty rooms. What you have left may be only your determination to go on fighting for the rehabilitation of the world, but that is important. That seems to live as long as those you love are about you.
People seem to have come through unbelievable hardships smilingly. The people of Great Britain have learned to meet emergencies. I had an emergency meal the other day, such as would be supplied in a blitzed area and it was quite as good as one that you would eat in many a private household.
There is great gratitude on every hand here for the generous gifts received through the Red Cross, the Bundles for Britain, the British War Relief in America, and from cities and individuals. People who might have been cold, have been clothed with garments sent from America. People have been fed from mobile canteens and rescued in ambulances sent from America, and last but not least, the American Army and Navy and Air Force are making friends here. Some of our soldiers helped in the harvesting and since then they have preferred to go back to visit the families with whom they worked, rather than to go to the town in their time off. Such men as have been stationed for any length of time in an area have found hospitable people. Hospitality is not a matter of sharing food these days, for the British, high and low, live on a food ration. If they give any of their rations to our men, they have to go without and sometimes they do, but there is so little excess they can not do it often, for everyone—man, woman and child, in this Island is working and must eat his ration.
The work of the women is what I was asked to come here to study. I haven't the time to tell you tonight in detail all I have seen, even along these lines, or my full impressions, but I hope to have the chance to tell the American people later. I have seen that the women are working side by side with men in the Military Forces, in industrial jobs, and in addition they are doing countless numbers of jobs in civilian defense as volunteers with the Women's Voluntary Services. They work as well in many of the long established organizations like the Red Cross, the Y's, the Women's Institutes which in the rural areas make the wheels go round.
One valuable thing that seems to have been learned is not to duplicate work, but to leave to each organization the field that it can cover best, realizing that there is plenty of work to be done and that it is only a matter of finding where you can best function as an organization or as an individual.
I have seen no woman who is not doing a real job, requiring in many cases a full eight hours work a day, as well as carrying on full time or in a modified way whatever her job had been before the war.
The working woman in some cases is confiding the care of her child or children to the day nurseries in the cities, or to the full time nurseries in the country. Sometimes this is done for the good of the child, sometimes because the mother needs the added money to keep the family going while the man is away in the Service, and also because the country needs her work.
To the mothers, wives and sweethearts of our men, whom I have been seeing in different parts of Great Britain, I can only say that the men are doing their part extremely well in adjusting to a climate which is traditionally in November somewhat rainy, and so has given them plenty of rain and mud to cope with under conditions which require a saving of fuel and therefore an endurance of cold which we know nothing about in the United States of America. Added to this, they have had to learn to live under blackout regulations of which no one in the US has the slightest conception. A blackout here is a total blackout. The countryside loses all of that friendly feeling which twinkling lights that shine out of a window, give you as you walk along a country road in the dark. Here a country road is a dense blackness. A passing car is a black object with two tiny lights and in the cities you carry a shaded torch and should your torch gleam too brightly, a policeman, he is called a bobby over here, will soon tell you what changes you must make. This is a quality of blackness which no one who has not known it, can possibly imagine.
But your men folks will keep their American sense of humor, their buoyancy of spirit. They have good times. They sing as they play and as they march.
I have been to hospitals and even those who are going home because for some reason or other, they will not be able to fight again, have the courage to face it with a smile, whatever their burden may be. American women can be proud of their boys over here. I imagine most of them would tell you that they would give a great deal to be home again, but every one of them, I am sure, will do his part and do it gallantly to win the war.
I hope our women in the United States will be worthy of the boys over here. I hope that we will be worthy of the women of Great Britain. Wistfully, a woman said to me when I happened to mention that I had seen one of my sons: "Mine is in the Near East and I haven't seen him for three years."'
Great Britain's sons are scattered far and wide and so are ours. Let us resolve that we will do our part, giving whatever we have to give with the main object in view, the winning of the war as quickly as possible so that we may save as many lives as possible.
The women of Britain are helping to win the war, in fact they are a very vital factor in the man power of the nation and they know also that they will be a very vital factor in making the peace and in carrying on the crusade which will certainly have to be carried on in the future.
Women may have had a feeling in the past that they did not have an equal responsibility with men in world affairs. The women of the future can not have that feeling because they writing on the wall is clear that if there is to be peace in the world, women as well as men will have to decide to work and sacrifice to achieve it.
The price of peace in the future may be sacrifices of material comforts in the years immediately after the war. Men who have fought the war and women, if they have given all they have to the war effort, may be tired when peace comes, but we can not afford to be too tired to win the peace if our civilization is to go on. It can not go on if wars continue and I surmise that women will be a very potent factor in working out the necessary changes in existing economic systems as well as changes in social conditions which alone can bring real freedom to the people of the world.
The young people in high schools and colleges today, as well as those in the Armed Forces and industry and on the farms, will be a great factor in making these decisions of the future. If we decide to be selfish and to think of ourselves alone, for a time we may be able to achieve something which appears temporarily desirable. It seemed to be a desirable world we were creating in the United States in the 1920s, but the 30s were not very happy for many men, women and young people. Like a Greek tragedy, the war moved forward in the wake of poverty, and disease and material and spiritual attrition, inevitably fell upon nation after nation.
Our hope for the future, I believe lies in the acceptance by women and young people of their responsibility. I think we failed before because we could not think on international lines. We did not have a broad enough vision and the peoples of the world left their business in the hands of self-seekers who thought of themselves and their temporary gains, but now and in the future you the women and the youth of all the United Nations will have to awaken and accept full responsibility. It is no easy burden to assume, but if we win the battle over ourselves, the vision of God's world ruled by justice and love, may become a reality.