By: Margaret Sanger
Date: May 1932
Source: Statement of Mrs. Margaret Sanger, National Chairman, Committee on the Federal Legislation for Birth Control. Birth Control: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 72nd Congress, 1st Session on S. 4436. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1932, 6–12.
About the Author: Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879–1966) argued for family planning education for all. As a nurse and one of eleven children (her mother had eighteen pregnancies and died at the age of fifty), Sanger saw firsthand how poor mothers were affected by having numerous children. Sanger established the first birth control clinic in 1916, which evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Various forms of birth control, including abortion, have been practiced since ancient times. While it is difficult to generalize, until the mid-nineteenth century, birth control was usually regarded as a personal issue. As stricter moral codes evolved in nineteenth century America, legislation at all levels of government began to restrict birth control and even the dissemination of information on the subject.
A particularly energetic...
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Statement of Miss Helen Hall, University Settlement, Philadelphia, Pa.
By: Helen Hall
Date: January 1933
Source: Statement of Miss Helen Hall, University Settlement, Philadelphia, Pa. Federal Aid for Unemployment Relief: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Manufactures, United States Senate, 72nd Congress, 2d Session, on S. 5125 Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1933, 380–385.
About the Author: The prominent social worker Helen Hall was director of the University Settlement in Philadelphia at the time of the testimony reported below. In 1933 she became the director of the Henry Street Settlement on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Hall became president of the National Federation of Settlements and was a member of the Advisory Council at the Conference on Economic Security. This committee produced the draft that resulted in the Social Security Act of 1935.
By 1932 an estimated one-third of the workforce was unemployed. Many of those who still had jobs were working reduced hours. American farmers were being pushed to their limits by record low prices for their products and high debts. The numbers were staggering, but worse was the human misery that accompanied the economic slump.
Never before had the United States witnessed such...
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"Will the New Deal Be a Square Deal for the Negro?"
By: Jesse O. Thomas
Date: October 1933
Source: Thomas, Jesse O. "Will the New Deal Be a Square Deal for the Negro?" Opportunity, Journal of Negro Life 11, no. 10, October, 1933, 308. Available online at http://newdeal.feri.org/opp/opp33308.htm; website home page: http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed August 29, 2002).
About the Author: Jesse O. Thomas (1883–1972) was an educator and social worker who helped create and administer educational, health management, and job-related programs aimed at improving the quality of life for African Americans. A graduate of Tuskegee Institute, Thomas spent most of his career with the Urban League and later the American Red Cross. He also served in a variety of special roles including as a member of the Mississippi Flood Relief Committee in 1928 and as the prime mover in establishing the School of Social Work at the University of Atlanta.
The second-class status of African Americans in U.S. society is well documented. Excluded from the fruits of American democracy by law and personal prejudice, African Americans were especially vulnerable during economic recessions. The Great...
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Lorena Hickok to Harry L. Hopkins
By: Lorena Hickok
Date: October 30, 1933
Source: Hickok, Lorena. Letter to Harry L. Hopkins, October 30, 1933. Reprinted in Lowitt, Richard, and Maurine Beasley, eds. One Third of a Nation: Lorena Hickok Reports on the Great Depression. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1981, 55–59.
About the Author: Lorena Hickok (1893–1968) was a reporter and author best known for her coverage of and friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. The product of a difficult childhood, Hickok became an important political reporter at a time when female reporters were usually confined to the social page. While working for the Associated Press, Hickok began covering Eleanor Roosevelt during the 1932 presidential campaign. They developed a close friendship that lasted until Mrs. Roosevelt's death in 1962.
In 1933, the federal government was small by contemporary standards. Nearly half of all government...
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By: Eleanor Roosevelt
Date: April 1934
Source: Roosevelt, Eleanor. "Subsistence Farmsteads." Forum 91, April 1934, 199–201. Available online at
About the Author: Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, married her distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905. Eleanor assisted her polio-stricken husband as he served as governor of New York and president of the United States (served 1933–1945). Following her husband's death, as a delegate to the United Nations, Mrs. Roosevelt was chairperson of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and led the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
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Harriet Craft and John Craft to President Franklin D. Roosevelt
By: Harriet Craft and John Craft
Date: November 22, 1934
Source: Craft, Harriet and John Craft. Letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, November 22, 1934. Private collection of John P. Craft.
About the Authors: Harriet and John Craft came to the United States from England in 1915. They settled in Detroit, Michigan. A bricklayer by trade, John Craft struggled to find work during the depression of the early 1920s, and the family considered moving back to England. Working steadily by 1923, they built a house in Highland Park, Michigan. When the Great Depression hit, steady work ceased, and they nearly lost their home. It was years before John was able to return to his trade on a regular basis. He died in 1948. Harriet lived until 1978.
The Depression hit homeowners all over the country very hard. When homeowners were unable to make payments, homes were foreclosed upon at an alarming rate. With roughly eleven million nonfarm homeowners in the country, an average of over two hundred thousand were evicted each year from 1930 to 1937.
A similar condition occurred on American farms. In 1930 there were 6.2 million farms in the United States. By 1933 over 150,000 farm mortgages were being fore-closed...
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Boy and Girl Tramps of America
By: Thomas Minehan
Source: Minehan, Thomas. Boy and Girl Tramps of America. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1934, 46–48, 62–65, 74–77, 92–93, 95–96.
About the Author: Thomas Minehan was a graduate student when he took to the rails in 1932 to research migrants in the Depression. He was surprised to find a large number of young people—boys and girls—among the transient population. The result of his research was a classic study of the impact of the Great Depression in the United States: Boy and Girl Tramps of America.
The drifter has long had a part in American mythology, from Daniel Boone to Johnny Appleseed. It was such a notable phenomenon that one philanthropist, Thomas McGregor of Toledo, planned to open a series of shelters for transient men in every major Great Lakes city to help meet their needs. The mission he opened in Detroit in 1890 provided shelter for fifteen thousand men per year during the forty years of its existence.
The Depression, however, changed the profile of American transients. Hundreds of thousands of people, usually unemployed men, took to the road. They did so not from the fabled wanderlust but from a sense of failure and destitution...
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Flash Gordon, Episode 2
By: Alex Raymond
Date: May 4, 1935
Source: Hearst Corporation. Flash Gordon. Episode 2, May 4, 1935. Radio program transcript. Available online at ; website home page: http://www.genericradio.com (accessed March 24, 2003).
About the Artist: Alex Raymond (1909–1956), an influential comic strip artist, created the popular strip "Flash Gordon." The artistry of the panels was the special attraction of Raymond's work. Drawing for King Features, Raymond teamed with writer Don Moore to create a competitor to a rival syndicate's popular science fiction comic strip, "Buck Rogers." The result, "Flash Gordon," appeared in January 1934. Raymond was killed in an automobile accident in 1956.
The first commercial radio program was broadcast in November 1920. By 1922 there were fewer than sixty thousand homes with radios. That number grew to ten million homes by 1929 and nearly twenty-eight million by 1939. The radio revolutionized how people in the United States and much of the rest of the world entertained themselves, learned about world events, and decided what products to buy.
In the 1930s, the radio supplanted the newspaper as the primary source of...
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Employed Women Under N.R.A. Codes
By: Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon
Source: Pidgeon, Mary Elizabeth. Employed Women Under N.R.A. Codes. Bulletin of the Women's Bureau, no. 130. U.S. Department of Labor. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1935, 1–5, 129–33.
About the Author: Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon (1890?–1979) was an economist for the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau.
The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was created in 1933 to establish an economic planning and management system based on a cooperative relationship between labor, business, and government. The short-term objective was to increase wages and employment, ensure businesses a fair profit, eliminate destructive competition, and improve working conditions. The anticipated increase in purchasing power was expected to stimulate the economy and help bring the country out of the Depression.
The primary vehicle for achieving these objectives was the voluntary creation of and adherence to NRA codes that established guidelines regarding hours, wages, prices, and working conditions. Nearly six hundred codes, each affecting a different market or industry, were ultimately approved. They were developed jointly by business and labor with...
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"The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch"
By: Richard Wright
Source: Wright, Richard. "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch." American Stuff: An Anthology of Prose and Verse by Members of the Federal Writers' Project. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, 39–52. Available online at http://newdeal.feri.org/texts/608.htm; website home page: http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed March 24, 2003).
About the Author: Richard Wright (1908–1960), novelist and short-story writer, was born near Natchez, Mississippi, to an impoverished family. Largely self-educated, he was one of the first writers to describe white treatment of blacks. His best known works, Native Son and Black Boy, are classic studies of racism in America. Wright, who had become a Communist in 1933, grew increasingly disen-chanted with the United States and moved to Paris in the late 1940s. Later, Wright often wrote about colonialism in Africa.
IntroductionDuring the Reconstruction period following the Civil War (1861–1865), progress was made in extending social and political equality to freed slaves. Backed by federal
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By: National Advisory Committee on Women's Participation
Source: National Advisory Committee on Women's Participation. Cultural and Social Aspects of the New York World's Fair, 1939, 8, 9, 13–18, 19–51.
The first world's fair was the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, England. The glass-and-iron structure housed exhibits from around the world, but, as might be expected, focused on the accomplishments of Great Britain and the British empire. Enormously popular, the London Exhibition set the tone for subsequent fairs in which a common theme was the celebration of technological achievement.
Two years later, New Yorkers opened their own Crystal Palace exhibition with a similar theme. Thereafter, a steady stream of "World's Fairs" and other significant exhibitions appeared every few years in Europe and the United States. In the United States, the most notable World's Fairs were the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.
The 1930s saw a resurgence of these great fairs in the United States with exhibitions in Chicago (1933–1934), San Diego (1935–1936), San Francisco (1939–1940), and New...
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The Grapes of Wrath
By: John Steinbeck
Source: Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Viking Penguin, 1939; 1992, 3–7.
About the Author: John Steinbeck (1902–1968), California-born and Stanford-educated, wrote novels about working-class people in the West. The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of migrants from Oklahoma who try to escape the combined disaster of the Dust Bowl, Depression, and farm consolidation by heading for California. In 1940 Steinbeck received the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath. In 1962 he received the Nobel Prize for literature.
Dust Bowl is a term that specifically applies to an area of western Oklahoma, western Kansas, and northern Texas that was frequently struck with severe dust storms in the 1930s. More generally, but perhaps less accurately, the term is applied to the entire Great Plains. Though properly confined to one section of the country, the term is useful in drawing attention to the broader problem of farmland erosion that was graphically illustrated in the photos of huge black clouds descending on isolated farming communities of the central Great Plains.
The United States is a vast and rich agricultural land. From the...
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Saga of the CCC
By: John D. Guthrie
Source: Guthrie, John D. Saga of the CCC. Washington D.C.: American Forestry Association, 1942, 11–45.
About the Author: John D. Guthrie was a member of the United States Forest Service. He collected and published poems about forestry and the Forest Service. He wrote Saga of the CCC in 1942.
Franklin Roosevelt's immediate objective upon taking office on March 4, 1933, was providing relief to the needy. One of the most popular New Deal programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The aim was to put young unemployed men to work on much-needed conservation programs.
Roosevelt proposed the CCC on March 21, 1933. It was signed into law on April 5, and the first recruit enlisted on April 7. The first camp began operation on April 17. By July, some 275,000 "boys" were at work in 1,300 camps all across the country.
Workers made $30 per month, with $22–$25 being sent home to their families. They were housed in barracks of 40 to 50 men with several barracks per camp. The camps were established and administered by U.S. Army officers. The work was usually supervised by the U.S. Forestry Service and "local experienced men" (LEMs)....
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