Exchange of Letters Between an Anonymous Patient and Dr. Karl Menninger
By: Anonymous and Dr. Karl Menninger
Source: Anonymous, and Dr. Karl Menninger. Exchange of Letters Between an Anonymous Patient and Dr. Karl Menninger, 1930. Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, 1932. Reprinted in Faulkner, Howard J., and Virginia D. Pruitt, eds. Dear Dr. Menninger: Women's Voices from the Thirties. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1997, 47–50.
The Human Mind
By: Dr. Karl Menninger
Source: Menninger, Karl A. The Human Mind. New York: Knopf, 1930.
About the Author: Dr. Karl Menninger (1893–1990), author of The Human Mind, studied medicine at Harvard and helped establish the still well-known Menninger Clinic. From 1930 to 1932, he had an advice column in the Ladies' Home Journal. American women living during the Great Depression sent him letters. The writers asked for advice about various personal problems, and Dr. Menninger answered each of them.
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Radio Address on a Program of Assistance for the Crippled
By: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Date: February 18, 1931
Source: Roosevelt, Franklin D. Radio Address on a Program of Assistance for the Crippled, February 18, 1931. Available at the New Deal Network online at http://newdeal.feri.org/speeches/1931a.htm; website home-page http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed March 17, 2003).
About the Author: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) was the governor of New York State in 1931, and in 1932 was elected president of the United States. Roosevelt is famous for leading the nation through the Great Depression and World War II (1939–45), in the process serving longer than any other president (1933–45). At age thirty-nine, Roosevelt was cripled by polio. Although he spent seven years working to regain the use of his legs, his rehabilitation efforts failed, and he was left unable to walk independently. He took great pains to hide the extent of his disability from Americans and never used a wheelchair in public.
The first major epidemic of polio, then called infantile paralysis because most of its victims were children, struck the United States in 1916, with twenty-seven thousand reported...
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"Preventing Disease in the Nation"
By: Joseph E. Ransdell
Date: August 4, 1931
Source: Ransdell, Joseph E. "Preventing Disease in the Nation." The New York Times, August 4, 1931.
About the Author: Joseph E. Ransdell, a U.S. senator from Louisiana, wrote the Ransdell Act, which transformed the National Hygienic Laboratory into the National Institute of Health. Ransdell was a proponent of publicly funded biomedical research, and he joined forces with scientists who also believed in the creation of an institute to supply such funding.
The U.S. government has had a role in medical research since 1887. The first small institution was the Marine Hospital Institute (MHI), created to provide health care for merchant seamen. The physicians who worked there also screened arriving passengers for signs of contagious disease. Because infectious disease was perhaps the most significant health problem of the time, the MHI researchers followed the findings of European researchers. To pursue its investigations, the MHI opened a one-room laboratory staffed by one physician/bacteriologist. This was called the "laboratory of hygiene" (hygiene was a term made popular by German physicians). Many scientists, though, continued to rely on private patrons or...
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"Children Hurt at Work"
By: Gertrude Folks Zimand
Date: July 1932
Source: Zimand, Gertrude Folks. "Children Hurt at Work." The Survey, July 1932.
About the Author: Gertrude Folks Zimand (1894–1966) was the director of research and publicity for the National Child Labor Committee, a private organization founded in 1904 and dedicated to controlling child labor, establishing fair laws, and protecting working children. The committee continued to operate in the early years of the twenty-first century.
The work of children is integral to the history of the United States. They worked on family farms and for family businesses. With the industrial revolution, however, they also began to labor in mills, mines, and factories. The 1900 U.S. census showed that almost two million children between the ages of ten and fifteen were employed. The National Child Labor Committee's work reduced the number of child workers during the 1920s. With the onset of the Great Depression, however, child labor increased. Employers could get away with paying children less than they would pay adult workers. Families needed money from whatever source, and if the only way they could survive was by sending a child out to work in a textile mill, factory, or coal...
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The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
By: Taliaferro Clark; Hugh S. Cumming
Date: August 29, 1932; September 20, 1932
Source: Clark, Taliaferro, Letter to J. N. Baker. August 29, 1932; Cumming, Hugh S. Letter to R. R. Morton. September 20, 1932. Reprinted in Reverby, Susan M., ed. Tuskegee's Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
About the Authors: Dr. Taliaferro Clark was the assistant Surgeon General in charge of the Venereal Disease division of the Public Health Service in 1932. He developed the idea of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and oversaw it for a year before retiring.
Hugh S. Cumming (1869–1948) was born in Virginia and graduated from medical school there in 1894. He then joined the Marine Hospital Service, later to be known as the Public Health Service (PHS). He worked up through the ranks and was appointed Surgeon General in 1920. He held this position until retirement in 1936. As Surgeon General, Cumming over-saw the expansion of the PHS. He was also ultimately responsible for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experment.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can now be cured with antibiotics. For centuries, however, it was incurable, though...
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Morale: The Mental Hygiene of Unemployment
By: George K. Pratt, M.D.
Source: Pratt, George K. Morale: The Mental Hygiene of Unemployment. New York: The National Committee for Mental Hygiene, 1933, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
About the Author: George K. Pratt, a physician who specialized in mental disorders, wrote various popular books on mental hygiene, including Your Mind and You. Pratt contributed to the government's efforts to fight all effects of the Great Depression by writing this pamphlet, which acknowledged that economic hardship affected people's mental health.
The Great Depression of the 1930s was not the first such economic downturn in U.S. history, but it was the first to occur in an era when the mental health of average people was taken seriously. The "mental hygiene" movement promoted the idea that people could, through a combination of self-help, professional health care, and clean living, improve their emotional and psychological well-being.
The Great Depression, however, posed a challenge to the mental hygiene movement. The movement was based, in large part, on the idea that once people understood the causes of their emotional pain, they could end it. The emotional distress that the Great...
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"Dear Mr. Hopkins"
By: Henry W. Francis and Martha Gellhorn
Date: November 19, 1934, and December 7, 1934
Source: Francis, Henry W., and Martha Gellhorn. "Dear Mr. Hopkins." November, December 1934. Hopkins Papers, National Archives/New Deal Network. Available at New Deal Network online at http://newdeal.feri.org/hopkins/hop04.htm; website homepage http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed March 17, 2003).
About the Authors: Henry W. Francis and Martha Gellhorn (1908–1998) were among the writer/reporters sent by Federal Emergency Relief administrator Harry Hopkins to travel around the United States and report on conditions that did not make the headlines of the national newspapers. On this project, he sent his observers out with instructions to describe conditions vividly and honestly.
The crowded, disease-ridden slums of American cities drew the attention of philanthropists and social activists at the beginning of the twentieth century, and they continued to be subjects of relief efforts throughout the Great Depression. People in rural areas, however, received less attention, although they were living in conditions that were as bad as those in the...
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Prenatal Care for Rural Poor
Social Security Act of 1935
By: U.S. Congress
Source: Social Security Act of 1935. Available at the Social Security Administration online at http://www.ssa.gov/history/35actv.html; website homepage at: http://www.ssa.gov (accessed March 17, 2003).
"The County Health Nurse"
By: Chlotilde R. Martin
Date: January 31, 1939
Source: Ingram, Mattie. Interview by Chlotilde R. Martin. "The County Health Nurse," January 31, 1939. South Carolina Writers' Project. Available online in a search for "The County Health Nurse" at http://memory.loc.gov/ (accessed March 17, 2003).
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Consumer Protection Expands
American Chamber of Horrors
By: Ruth deForest Lamb
Source: Lamb, Ruth deForest. American Chamber of Horrors. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1936, 123–127.
About the Author: Ruth deForest Lamb was the chief education officer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during at era when the public was being deluged with advertisements for quack remedies and useless and sometimes dangerous devices, cosmetics, and regimes. Her book, along with the work of other FDA officials, was instrumental in convincing the U.S. Congress to pass the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.
Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
By: U.S. Congress
Source: Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Sec. 351.—Adulterated drugs and devices. Available at the Legal Information Institute online at http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/21/351.html; website homepage at: http://www4.law.cornell.edu (accessed March 18, 2003).
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"Surgery Used on the Soul-Sick; Relief of Obsessions is Reported"
By: William L. Laurence
Date: June 7, 1937
Source: Laurence, William L. "Surgery Used on the Soul-Sick; Relief of Obsessions is Reported." The New York Times, June 6, 1938.
About the Author: William Laurence (1888–1977), science reporter, was born Leid Siew in the village of Salantai, Lithuania. He wrote about many important scientific breakthroughs in the 1930s and 1940s, one of which demonstrated his rare gift for reducing modern scientific theory to easily comprehended terms. Largely on the strength of that story, The New York Times hired him as its full-time science reporter in 1930. Later he became science editor, a position he held until his retirement in 1964. Known also as "Atomic Bill," Laurence wrote several books on atomic energy.
Insanity, lunacy, paresis, and dementia praecox were some of the names used to describe what is now termed mental illness. Until the early years of the twentieth century, people afflicted with what would now be called schizophrenia, depression, and other diseases were sent to asylums where they were looked after, although not treated; if a family could afford it, they were kept at home.
In the early twentieth century,...
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March of Dimes Poster
By: National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis
Source: "National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis Campaign." Poster, 1937. Available at the New Deal Network online at http://newdeal.feri.org/library/w23.htm; website homepage http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed March 17, 2003).
About the Organization: In 1937, President Frankin D. Roosevelt announced the creation of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, a private organization headed by his former law partner, Basil O'Connor. The campaign to raise private funds became known as the "March of Dimes" during a fundraiser in Hollywood, California, when radio personality Eddie Cantor suggested the name based on the idea that most Americans, even in the Depression, could afford to send ten cents to support the cause. (The name was also a take-off on the song "The March of Time.")
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office as president of the United States in 1933, he was a man who had already profoundly affected public opinion about polio, known then as infantile paralysis. As governor of New York, he had taken on the cause of crippled children. But he himself was a...
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Shadow on the Land
By: Thomas Parran, M.D.
Source: Parran, Thomas. Shadow on the Land: Syphilis, the White Man's Burden. New York: Waverly, 1937, 59–69.
About the Author: Thomas Parran, M.D. (1892–1968) was the director of the U.S. Public Health Service's Division of Venereal Disease in 1932, when the Tuskegee Experiment began. He was serving as U.S. surgeon general at the time he wrote this book.
No one knows the origin of syphilis. What is clear is that Africans brought to the United States as slaves did not suffer from the disease before they encountered white men. Because far more African Americans than whites were poor and uneducated, they were less likely to receive treatment when they did contract syphilis. The treatment did not cure the disease, but studies had by 1932 proved that it reduced death rates.
The 1930s were a time when paternalistic racism was the best treatment that many African Americans could expect. This view held that blacks were an inferior race and that it was the duty of whites to look after them. The living conditions of many poor blacks in the American rural South made it clear that no one did care.
Poor rural blacks were viewed as...
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By: Hilda Polacheck
Source: Polacheck, Hilda. "Dust." American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936–1940. American Memory digital primary source collection, Library of Congress. Available online at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/wpaintro/wpahome.html; website home page: http://memory.loc.gov (accessed March 18, 2003).
About the Author: Born in Poland in 1882, Hilda Polacheck moved to Chicago in 1892 in the neighborhood surrounding the Jane Addams Hull House. There she learned how to write. The author was one of many writers who would probably have been unemployed if President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal had not included the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers' Project.
The telltale hacking cough that produced bloody sputum, the gradual waning of physical strength, the pallor—all were signs of tuberculosis, one of the leading causes of death until the discovery of an antibiotic that killed the bacteria that caused it.
Until 1883, when bacteriologist Robert Koch identified the tubercle bacillus that caused the disease, many people believed...
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Source: Alcoholics Anonymous. New York: Works Publishing Company, 1939. Reprinted Malo, Wash.: Anonymous Press, n.d., 70–72.
About the Author: Although the book Alcoholics Anonymous is traditionally attributed to no single author, the organization acknowledges that it was written by one of the founding members of AA, William Griffith Wilson (1895–1971). Details of Wilson's early life are extremely sketchy. He attended Norwich University in Vermont and served in the U.S. Army in World War I. He worked as a stockbroker. Most important, he was an alcoholic, and he discovered a way to transform his life and help others as well.
The idea behind Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was conceived when Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. met in Akron, Ohio, in 1934. Bill W. recognized what was to become one of the fundamental principles of the organization: an alcoholic can best be helped by someone who has been there and come back, a sober alcoholic.
The organization itself, however, has its roots in an evangelical movement. Bill W. had achieved sobriety through his work with an organization known as the Oxford Groups. The Oxford Groups were started by an American, Frank Buchman, as...
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"Hot Lunches for a Million School Children"
By: Ellen S. Woodward
Date: c. 1939
Source: Woodward, Ellen S. "Hot Lunches for a Million School Children." Available at the New Deal Network online at http://newdeal.feri.org/texts/500.htm; website homepage: http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed March 17, 2003).
About the Author: Ellen S. Woodward (1887–1971) was born in Oxford, Mississippi. The daughter of a Congressman, young Ellen lived in Washington and developed an interest in politics and public affairs. In the 1930s she became an assistant administrator of the Works Progress Administration and later director of work relief programs for women. As a leader among women's clubs and political groups in the United States, she was an effective advocate for economic security for women and children.
The Great Depression encompassed more than ten years of hunger. When the family breadwinner, usually the man of the house, lost his job, the family often had no way to buy food. Sometimes another family member, a wife or child, would be able to find lower-paying work, but those few dollars a week were not enough to feed a family.
In the early years of the...
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