Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day: July 22-31

July 24, 1937

“HYDE PARK, Friday—…I received the other day an appeal from an organization which had as its purpose the removal from all employment of any married women whose husbands earned enough to support them. Who is to say when a man earns enough to support his family? Who is to know, except the individuals themselves what they need for daily living or what their responsibilities are, often hidden from the public eye? There are few families indeed who do not have some members outside their own immediately family who need assistance. Added to this, who is to say whether a woman needs to work for the good of her own soul outside her home? Many women can find all the work they need and all the joy they need and all the interest they need in life in their own homes and in the volunteer community activities of their environment. Because of this I have received many critical letters from women complaining that other women were taking paid jobs who did not need them; that they were working for luxuries and not for necessities, that men were being kept out of jobs who had families to support by these selfish and luxury loving creatures. I have investigated a good many cases and find that on the whole, the love of work is not so great, those who are gainfully employed are usually working because of some real need. There are a few, however, who work because something in them craves the particular kind of work which they are doing, or an inner urge drives them to do a job. They are not entirely satisfied with work in the home. This does not mean that they are not good mothers and good housekeepers, but they need some other stimulus in life. Frequently they provide work for other people and if they suddenly ceased their activities, many other people might lose their jobs. As a rule these women belong to the creative type.

It seems to me that the tradition of respect for work is so ingrained in this country that it is not surprising that fathers have handed it down to their daughters as well as to their sons. I wonder if we are not going to feel more respect in the coming years for the women who work and give work to others, than for the women who sit at home with many idle hours on their hands. One fill their time with occupations which may indirectly provide work for others, but which give them none of the satisfaction of real personal achievement.”

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