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Susan Green

The Better Half

The “First Lady of the Land” –
Lieutenant in Jingo Brigade

(1 July 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 12, 1 July 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

We herewith present a few items of special interest to our women readers. It is our intention to regularly publish material on the effect of Roosevelt’s arms program on the working woman, what the women can do in the fight for socialism and against war, and so forth. You are invited to submit your own contributions.Ed.

Do you realize what an important part Eleanor Roosevelt, the President’s wife, is playing in preparing this country for war?

Of all the first ladies of the land, she is the most active in public affairs. She is here, there and everywhere; talking at this convention, at that dinner, at another celebration.

At the same time she has been played up as a woman among women, with ordinary womanly interests. Perhaps you have heard her on the air for the makers of Sweetheart soap, telling about the simple meals served in the White House; about where she buys her clothes, or how beautiful a sunset is from an airplane. In this way she gets herself liked by many women who serve not simple meals but skimpy ones, who can’t afford a dress a year, who never get nearer to an airplane than a tenement house window.

Now that her husband is No. 1 war monger, she has become his first lieutenant, but all within the role of the kindly, understanding woman.

She agrees that war is “the most stupid thing on earth” and is very sad about it, but we must be pre pared to fight. She hopes that “youth will always feel that war is a horrible thing,” but anyway they should go to war this time. She under stands why those who haven’t received much out of life don’t want to die, but a little “mental preparation” (Hitler-Mussolini style) will help them meet “today’s peculiar conditions.”

Behind her, kindly smile, the first lady hides the grimace of death.

The newspaper correspondents leaving Paris with the fleeing people, have reported heartbreaking stories. William Bird, writing in The N.Y. Sun, tells one of the most horrible ones I have read. His car was progressing slowly in the stream of slow-moving people and vehicles and he got well acquainted with his immediate neighbors in the procession. He writes:

A pregnant woman afoot begged a lift to the next railroad station. She told us she had had no news of her husband since the offensive began. She hoped that she was going to have a girl so that she would have company during the next war.

This woman has lost all hope. She can visualize nothing but a life of continuous wars. All she wants is that her child should be a girl so as not to have a son to send to the next war.

It is a great tragedy when people lose their fighting spirit and submit to a ghastly fate that others make for them. That is why this story is so horrible to me.

I hope the working women in America will be such brave fighters against the bosses’ war that they will inspire new hope in such hopeless people as this French woman.

Since President Roosevelt started the national defense hysteria, several women’s organizations have been formed to prepare for war. The National Legion of Mothers formed what they call “home defense rifle clubs against parachute troops.” In New York a so-called Defense Corps of women is taking shape. They will wear black-blue uniforms with red doughboy hats, and will be “available at two hours’ notice in case of an emergency” to be ambulance and bus drivers and armed watchmen, to replace the men drafted into the war.

The moving spirits of such organizations are women of the boss class. Mrs. So-and-So from Westchester, a swanky residential section of New York, and Miss This-and-That from Long Island, a Wall Street bankers’ hang-out. With these women Labor Action has nothing to do. They are helping prepare a war which will benefit their own class.

The working girls and woman who may fall under the influence of this national defense hysteria and join up with such war organizations would be helping to send their brothers, fathers and sweethearts, their husbands and sons, to waste their lives in bloody slaughter for PROFITS for the bosses.

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Last updated: 10 July 2014