My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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LONDON—The King and Queen very kindly gave a lunch on Saturday for the heads of the various women's services to which they also invited Mrs. Oveta Hobby, the Director of our women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

I was glad to find that there were a number of women present who were not complete strangers to me. Mrs. Arthur Grenfell, the head of the YWCA, had come to see me in Washington. The Dowager Duchess of Reading, who heads the women's voluntary services, spent weeks in the United States before she started her work over here. Now, of course, we have much to learn from her, but I think we may feel that at the beginning our country contributed something to the development of her ideas.

Mrs. Mary Agnes Hamilton of the Ministry of Planning had spent a day with us in Hyde Park years ago when my husband was Governor of New York State and it was very pleasant to renew that acquaintanceship.

After lunch their Majesties took me to visit St. Paul's Cathedral. It was my first view of the destruction which has levelled whole blocks of houses. It is remarkable that St. Paul's itself still stands in spite of considerable damage. Its fire fighters have spent night after night, sleeping in the Crypt and ready to spring to their posts should they be needed.

I had seen pictures of the fire which had swept the financial district, known as "The City" after one of the blitzes, but I was in no way prepared for such a great areas of destruction. When buildings such as the fine old Guildhall, and many beautiful old churches are destroyed, they are a loss to the whole world, I think. So much skill and artistic ability, not to speak of historic interest have simply been swept away and the whole world is poorer. But even more poignant is the destruction that we viewed a little bit later in Stepney. Here a crowded population lived over small shops and in rows of two-story houses. Today there is only one-third of the old population left and each empty building speaks of a personal tragedy. They showed me one of the big shelters which at one time housed as many as 12,000 people and where even now about 300 old people come to sleep every night. They feel cared for and less lonely and their own houses are no longer very secure.

It seemed to me as I walked through the brick compartments of that shelter that I learned something about fear, and the resistence to total destruction which exists in all human beings. How could people be herded together like this, night after night without some epidemic being the result and yet it was done and the spirits of kindness and cheerfulness prevaded, and those who had lost so much still managed to smile.

We visited the city fire control center where the Lord Mayor of London, Sir John Laurie, and the senior regional commissioner, Sir E. Gowers, who is in charge of the safety of the city, greeted and welcomed us. Many of the other city officials demonstrated how the system functions which they have built up to protect as far as possible, the life and property of this City.

Later at the Guildhall we saw a small detachment of the civil defense personnel looking very efficient in their uniforms and many of them wearing decorations for conspicuous courage. A short stop for tea at the Mansion House with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, and then on our return, a visit from our Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Henry Morgenthau, Jr.

E.R.
TMsd 26 October 1942, AERP, FDRL