Eleanor Roosevelt Defends Curiosity

In the August 24, 1935, issue of The Saturday Evening Post, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about the importance of being curious, even if some found it "unbecoming in a woman."

Eleanor Roosevelt

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—Eleanor Roosevelt wrote “In Defense of Curiosity” for our August 24, 1935, issue.

A short time ago a cartoon appeared depicting two miners saying with undisguised horror, “Here comes Mrs. Roosevelt!”

In strange and subtle ways, it was indicated to me that I should feel ashamed of that cartoon, and there was something the matter with a woman who wanted to see so much and to know so much. Somehow or other, most people seemed to feel that it was unbecoming in a woman to have a variety of interests. Perhaps that arose from the old inherent theory that woman’s interests must lie only in her home.

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity. I recall the words of my former head of school, already 70 years old, gathering her pupils in her library, and saying, “You must cultivate curiosity, for only through curiosity can you learn, not only what there is in books, but what lies around you in the world of things and people.”

When my children were young, they were occasionally embarrassed because people ­talked to me wherever we went, but as their own curiosity develops, they do the same thing. A little of the right kind of curiosity will endow you with sympathy, and that will bring you the confidence of your fellow human beings.

I often wonder, as I look at the stars at night, if some day we will find a way to communicate and travel from one to the other. Perhaps the day will come when our curiosity will not only carry us out of our homes and out of ourselves to a better understanding of the material things around us, but will make us able to understand one another and to know what the Lord meant when He said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” And we might well add: “He that hath eyes to see, let him see.”

The first page of the article "In Defense of Curiosity"
Read “In Defense of Curiosity” by Eleanor Roosevelt from the August 24, 1935, issue of the Post.

This article is featured in the July/August 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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