Margaret Truman Daniel Says She Lives in a Man’s World and “Loves It”
She has four sons, a newsman husband and a “courageous mother” who chose a family life
Q and A
The Washington Star, December 21, 1976: Margaret Truman Daniel, daughter of a president and wife of a prominent newsman, says she lives in a man’s world and loves it. Variously a concert singer, actress and author, she has recently published “Women of Courage.” She was interviewed by Washington Star Staff Writer Judy Flander.
Question: As you contemplate extraordinary women, which contemporary women would you include?
Daniel: Well, I dedicated the book to my mother. I think she’s a woman of courage. For one thing, she hated politics, and she went along with my father. Did everything she was supposed to do. Shook hands, made appearances. And she’s a very reserved, quiet … no, not quiet, a private woman. She didn’t particularly care for all the fuss and fanfare of politics. But she did it for years and years and years.
Q: You feel it takes courage to be a member of a White House family?
A: Well, I don’t know that it takes courage. It takes a lot of stamina. I think women who sit at home, who don’t have careers, are very courageous. This takes an awful lot of courage, to decide that you want to be a wife and mother and that’s it. This is only my opinion, because I enjoy being a wife, and I like being a mother, but I don’t want to stay at home and just do that. It’s very monotonous. And if you have a career on the side, then it’s much more interesting. I’d always wanted a career. On the stage, as a singer, as an actress. I gave up the concert field because it was kind of going downhill. Not me, but the concert field in general. People don’t go to concerts the way they used to years ago. But I love the theater; I’ve always loved the theater the best. And I like to do television and radio.
Q: But you still think women who opt to stay at home demonstrate courage?
A: Well, maybe they don’t know the difference. I don’t know. But I think they are courageous, because I couldn’t stand the monotony of it. Courage is an interesting word, it has so many different interpretations. And it’s a word that should be applied to those who decide to stay home — especially the women who have known what it is to be out in the world. It takes courage of a kind. I’ve been doing this for a number of years now. I suppose I’m not courageous. I like having my career, my husband doesn’t object as long as I keep the house running properly. I don’t think he would object anyway, because he can cope with most anything. With the boys when they’re home, and he’s a very good cook. We have a very nice housekeeper, so that’s no problem, but somebody has to be there.
Q: What were your biggest problems as a White House daughter?
A: I had no problems that could compare with the problems of today, because it was many years ago, and the pressures were — I was going to say they were not as great, but they were. The times were slower.
Q: You think that Rosalynn Carter, as the president’s wife, is going to be in a very difficult position?
A: No, she’s going to be in the same position as any First Lady. It all depends on her, how she reacts to it.
Q: What do you think its effect will be on someone like the daughter, little Amy?
A: I have no idea. I’m sure she will adjust quite well if she has a sensible mother and father, and I’m sure she does. That’s the main thing.
Q: Why is it that White House families are put under such pressure?
A: Well, why not? They’re the number one family in the country, They should expect to be under pressure. They may come in unprepared, but they’re going to have it anyway, the pressure.
Q: Do you think a First Lady should have a specific role?
A: Yes, if she wants to. Why not? My mother worked very hard at meeting people and being polite and being a lady.
Q: Can you name any specific women that strike you as particularly courageous ?
A: Well, I thought Mrs. Roosevelt had a great deal of courage.
Q: Well, she’s not exactly contemporary. Can’t you think of one contemporary woman?
A: Well, you see, my mind isn’t on women.
Q: Where is your mind?
A: Well, I can think of more men than I can women. I don’t really know why, but I live in a man’s world. I have four sons and a husband, so I’m not all that much exposed to women. I’ll tell you one other career in general that I think takes a great deal of courage, is being a newspaper woman, or a newspaper person competing with men all the time, every day.
Q: How about courageous men?
A: I think my husband was very courageous to marry me. I’m opinionated and stubborn, but so is he, so we get along all right, I think. I think my father had great courage. But I think that Jack Kennedy had courage, especially with the missile crisis. I think Lyndon Johnson had courage. Sometimes it didn’t work out, but he had the courage of his convictions. There are many courageous men, there are the men in medicine who do the research. I think they’re very courageous. And how about the men who had to investigate that epidemic in Philadelphia, the so called Legionnaire’s disease, and another epidemic in Ethiopia. They all stood the chance of catching it. That’s very courageous.
Q: You feel like you live in a man’s world.
A: I don’t feel like it, I do. I’m surrounded by five men. I love it. I wouldn’t know what to do with a little girl after having all those boys.
Q: Who was it, Jean Kerr, who had about six boys before she finally had a little girl. She kept going til she got one.
A: Better Jean than me.
Q: Do you have women friends, close women friends who are part of your life?
A: Yes, I have two or three, but not very many. Most of my women friends have things to do the way I do, so we respect each other’s families and demands on our time.
Q: Do you think you get different things from a friendship with a man than a woman?
A: Yes, definitely.
Q: What kinds of things do you get good friendship with a woman?
A: I would say companionship, we go out and have lunch and talk about our families and what’s going on in the world. Nothing very serious, except with my theatrical agent, that’s serious. She’s a businesswoman. When we go out to lunch, we talk about what I’m going to do next.
Q: When you’re out with male friends?
A: That’s mostly business. Sometimes it’s not, but it usually has to do with writing or the theater.
Q: Do you talk about more important things with men than women?
A: No, not necessarily. I talk about more important things with my husband than I do with any of my friends, because he knows the news and he knows what’s going on, and I like to listen.
Q: What do you think of the women’s movement today?
A: I think that most of the women in my book would have backed the Equal Rights Amendment, without question. I’m in favor of it. These women in this book, not the three living ones — the women’s movement came shortly after their time — but the women back in history didn’t have any big, concerted movement to back them. They were on their own. And I think that, you call it the women’s movement, I don’t know what to call it, but anything like that that helps women get equal pay and equal opportunity, I think they would have welcomed this. They didn’t have it. The women today do at least have this help.
Q: Do you feel personally that you have benefitted because women have gone to the barricades again?
A: No, I was out doing my own thing long before that. But I must qualify that. I was not in any field that was in competition with men. And this is where I think women have needed the most help. I was a concert singer for years and years and years. I was an actress, and still am. I was in television and radio, but I was not competing directly with men. Different careers, doctors, lawyers, are much more difficult for women than what I’ve done.
Q: What were your roles in those plays?
A: I was the leading lady, what else?
Q: Would you like to do more theater, or television ?
A: I’d like to do both, and also some more writing. I like doing different things, I don’t like being put in one category. I never would be a writer like a newspaper-woman would be a writer, but if I can sit down and take a lot of time to do a book or magazine article. It’s very difficult for me. I’m not trained as a writer. But I like doing plays and I like doing television, and radio. I like to interview people.