1947: July–December

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1947: July–December

If You Ask Me [excerpt]...586
James Hendrick Memorandum of Conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt...587
Eleanor Roosevelt to Mary Ester R. Hill...590
Dorothy Tilly to Eleanor Roosevelt...592
Eleanor Roosevelt to Dorothy Tilly...593
Eleanor Roosevelt to George Marshall...597
George Marshall to Eleanor Roosevelt...597
My Day...599
Eleanor Roosevelt to James Hendrick...602
James Hendrick to Eleanor Roosevelt...603
On Prejudice and American Fascism...605
Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. Philip McMahon...607
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...609
Harry Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt...610
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...610
Eleanor Roosevelt to Charl Williams...613
My Day...614
Albert Harris to Eleanor Roosevelt...615
Eleanor Roosevelt to Albert Harris...616
If You Ask Me [excerpt]...619
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...620
Harry Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt...620
Eleanor Roosevelt to W. D. Kuenzli...622
Eleanor Roosevelt to E. Ralph Wiborg...624
Sumner Welles to Eleanor Roosevelt...626
Eleanor Roosevelt to Sumner Welles...627
My Day...629
Walter White to Eleanor Roosevelt...632
Walter White to Eleanor Roosevelt...633
Eleanor Roosevelt to Walter White...634
My Day...636
Eleanor Roosevelt to J. Marshall Cooper...638
Eleanor Roosevelt to Alma Sue Emrick...641
Remarks by Eleanor Roosevelt Meeting of the Third Committee of the General Assembly7...644
My Day...649
My Day...652
Remarks by Eleanor Roosevelt Press Release #312 United States Mission to the United Nations...655
"Mrs. Roosevelt Puts Future up to Women"...658
Louis Darabant to Eleanor Roosevelt...663
Eleanor Roosevelt to Louis Darabant...663
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...665
Harry Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt...666
Eleanor Roosevelt to George Marshall...667
Robert Lovett to Eleanor Roosevelt...668
Eleanor Roosevelt to George Marshall...669
Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. H. Kinerk...673
Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Truman...676
Eleanor Roosevelt to Nina Dexter...678
Walter White to Eleanor Roosevelt...680
Eleanor Roosevelt to Walter White...681
Walter White to Eleanor Roosevelt...682
Eleanor Roosevelt to Walter White...682
Commission on Human Rights Summary Record2 Second Session, Twenty-Fifth Meeting [excerpt]...685
"U.S. Doubts Scored by Mrs. Roosevelt" Michael L. Hoffman...687
My Day...689
Eleanor Roosevelt to Frank Hawkins...691
My Day...695

"Either we are strong enough to live as a free people or we will become a police state."

Eleanor Roosevelt continued to defend human rights and civil liberties, both at home and abroad, throughout late 1947. As she and the drafting committee of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) sought to make progress on the Declaration of Human Rights, she turned to Senator Warren Austin to try to secure congressional support for the Declaration and a convention. After Austin conveyed that Congress would sooner approve a declaration than a convention, ER traveled to Geneva in December to ask the HRC to prioritize the drafting of the Declaration. As for a convention, she told her colleagues that "the Commission should not proceed to draw them up until it was sure that such Conventions could be accepted and applied in all good faith by the participating States.1 Working in close cooperation with French, Soviet, and Filipino colleagues on the drafting committee, ER guided the drafting of a declaration she wanted to be "readily understood by the ordinary man or woman" and a covenant she hoped would "be really binding among nations."2

ER also continued to monitor developments in foreign affairs. When foreign ministers of several European countries met in July to begin work on what would become the European Recovery Program (or Marshall Plan), ER wrote Secretary Marshall, urging him to keep the UN involved in the program. That same month, Truman proposed that up to 400,000 Eastern European refugees, especially Jewish orphans, should be allowed to enter the United States. ER supported the proposal in her My Day column: "To do nothing about solving the displaced persons' problem this year means that we leave desperate people with no hope."3 The plight of the Jewish orphans particularly concerned her, and she urged her friend Charl Williams to mobilize the National Association of Education on behalf of the Stratton bill (the congressional version of Truman's plan), while she sought ways to bring the issue before the HRC.

ER's greatest struggle in her work with the HRC during this period came when, in October, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) submitted its "Statement on the Denial of Human Rights" to the UN as an entreaty for redress of African American grievances. Walter White asked ER, who then served on the NAACP's Board of Directors, to participate in the petition. ER refused, telling White, "as a member of the delegation I feel that until this subject comes before us in the proper way … I should not seem to be lining myself up in any particular way on any subject."4 When ER attempted to reach out to the NAACP in late November, asking the organization for suggestions to bring before the HRC, W. E. B. Du Bois discounted her overture, concluding that the State Department remained "determined that American Negroes shall have no chance to state their grievances before the world."5 ER could only assure White that "the sub-committee on Implementation is already considering the suggestions" offered by the NAACP.6

Outside of her association with the HRC, however, ER freely expressed her sympathy with civil rights struggles and her horror at the persecutions of minorities within the United States. "We can not look down too much on the Nazis or the Communists, when somewhere in our land things like these can happen," she wrote in reply to Dorothy Tilly's news of attempted lynchings in Georgia.7 In If You Ask Me, ER encouraged friendship and association across color lines, while stopping short of outright endorsement of interracial marriage.8

While the HRC worked to secure human rights worldwide, the United States faced infringement of civil liberties at home. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) launched its investigation of Communist "subversion" in the entertainment industry with the Hanns Eisler case in September. The German film composer, then working in Hollywood, had caught HUAC's attention for his unusual visa application (which had peripherally involved ER) and his suspicious political background. Though she was never called to testify in the Eisler case, ER did express her thoughts on HUAC's ensuing inquest of the "Hollywood Ten" in My Day: "One thing is sure—none of the arts flourishes on censorship and repression."9 The federal "loyalty test" program, another manifestation of the national "witch hunt," elicited ER's remark to Truman, who supported the government program, "I feel we have capitulated to our fear of Communism."10 To Marshall, who enforced the loyalty test in the State Department, ER protested, "any Communist would sign to it and the rest of us feel a little besmirched as we sign."11 As the Taft-Hartley Act went into effect in late August, ER voiced her opposition to its principles, including its provision requiring an anti-Communist loyalty affidavit for union leaders. The increasing distrust of the people by their government that ER perceived led her to declare, "Either we are strong enough to live as a free people or we will become a police state."12

In national politics, ER viewed the continuing ascendancy of Henry Wallace with caution. "I think Mr. Henry Wallace is a fine person but I do not think he is very wise as a politician," she wrote in response to an inquiry about Wallace's capabilities, adding that she thought he was "misleading the Russians" in his public stance against the Truman Doctrine.13 At the end of the year, when Wallace announced his intention to seek the presidency as the nominee of the Progressive Party, ER responded in her column, "as a leader of a third party he will accomplish nothing. He will merely destroy the very things he wishes to achieve"—namely, the progressive ideals on which Wallace, FDR, and ER once stood together.14

Other topics that ER addressed in her correspondence, columns, and interviews in the last half of 1947 include support for public schools, the economic hardships of the Navajo tribe, religious freedom, and the importance of women's participation in public life.

1. See Document 289, Excerpt, Commission on Human Rights, Summary Record, 2 December 1947.

2. See Document 291, My Day, 18 December 1947.

3. See Document 244, My Day, 23 July 1947.

4. See Document 266, ER to Walter White, 22 October 1947.

5. See Document 285, Walter White to ER, 28 November 1947 (header).

6. See Document 288, ER to Walter White, 12 December 1947.

7. See Document 241, ER to Dorothy Tilly, 31 July 1947.

8. See Document 256, If You Ask Me, September 1947.

9. See Document 271, My Day, 29 October 1947.

10. See Document 277, ER to Harry Truman, 13 November 1947.

11. See Document 279, ER to George Marshall, 13 November 1947.

12. See Document 247, My Day, 13 August 1947.

13. See Document 260, ER to E. Ralph Wiborg, 21 September 1947.

14. See Document 293, My Day, 31 December 1947.

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1947: July–December

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1947: July–December