My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Thursday—When I was in Washington in 1917 and 1918 and we were all doing war work, I think we all had in our minds that we must work as hard if not harder than the women in other parts of the country. For if we could not go overseas, at least we could see that from Washington emanated a spirit of real cooperation in the government's program.

Now that I am back here, it is getting to seem to me every year, more important that in the District of Columbia, in the City of Washington, our National capital, we should have not only beautiful memorials, fine government buildings, but in miniature a government running the model institutions of the nation. Here is where foreign countries are represented, where foreign visitors come, where big national conventions meet, where in certain months of the year, school children come in great numbers. In fact, tourists from every part of the country are always in and out of Washington. Here is the place to demonstrate what government at its best can do. The District is the child of Congress as far as government is concerned. Here is their opportunity to produce a model for the rest of the country. Yet, for some strange reason, the District seems to be today in somewhat the position of a step-child and this is nothing new. I remember when the Navy sent its first group of men back from overseas to St. Elizabeth's, the one federal hospital for the insane in this country, we discovered at that time a lack of sufficient appropriation and perhaps a lack of interest on the part of certain officials which had produced some very deplorable conditions. Today it has attained a high standard of efficiency.

It is not the fault of the people actually running the institutions, they may do an excellent job with the tools they are given but they can not do more than just so much.

Yesterday afternoon I visited the House of Detention for women in an old precinct police station. Here are sent also until agencies can arrange for their care, any indigent women. Space does not allow of any segregation except race segregation so the woman with a criminal record may sleep beside the little girl of twenty who has never been in prison before. If medical attention is needed they are taken under guard to Gallinger Hospital. Very little work for the inmates is possible under the present conditions and yet the personnel as it now stands is doing as good a job as can be done under the physical conditions and the rules under which they have to work. Three of the resident staff have a ten hour day at work which does not leave much time for a personal life. They do not even have space for a sitting room where they can relax in their time off.

Of course, compared with the rest of the country the rate of taxation in the District is low but I wonder if the District is not really a little the ward of the country as a whole, and if every community should not have a little pride and interest in what conditions obtain in the nation's capital? Perhaps if the citizens as a whole took this attitude, there would be a change in the institutions of the District which might have a wide spread influence throughout the country.

E.R.
TMsd 4 February 1937, AERP, FDRL