DECEMBER 2, 1942
WASHINGTON, Tuesday—Last night I went with Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins and Ambassador and Mrs. Litvinoff to see Katharine Cornell's very remarkable production "The Three Sisters" by Anton Chekhov. It was a little difficult for me to pull myself out of the present into the mood for real appreciation of the characters who performed their parts in a little Russian provincial town in the year 1900. Once the transition was accomplished, however, I was able to appreciate and enjoy this very fine performance.
I have today a long letter which brings up the whole question of what constitutes war work for women. I think we should face this question realistically and acknowledge the fact that the first thing every woman with a family has to do is to meet her family obligations. If her children have reached the age for school or college, and she has gifts which can be employed outside the home, she most certainly should employ them.
There are many women with younger children, who must have help in the home in order to do this, and who are thus enabled to work at some occupation for which they are trained, or are capable of undertaking. There are many women who are particularly gifted in performing household tasks, and that may be their best war work.
I know of many older women who are today relieving younger women by running their homes for them efficiently and well. These women would do, perhaps, a very inferior job in an office or factory, or even in some voluntary organizations, but here, in the work they know and like, they do superlatively good jobs.
This may be so of young women with a special gift and preference for this kind of work and, of course, there are things one can do in a home that bear on the war effort directly. Knitting, sewing and cooking for men in the armed forces can be done at home.
I know a great many people who dislike the thought of applying the word "servant" to people who perform household tasks. I, myself, would far rather look upon this work as a skilled occupation and consider all people thus employed as household operators who help the war effort in a most important way.
This presupposes that we look upon these workers in exactly the same way that we look upon any others—that they have standards of work and that the employers have standards for employment, and that both live up to their contracts whatever they may be. Basically, the most important thing to face is that, in war time, more than in peace time, each one of us should give the best we are capable of giving through the gifts we have. That may mean work in a home, factory, office or volunteer organization, but be sure it is the greatest contribution you are capable of giving to the war effort.