One Third of a Nation
Lorena Hickok

Richard Lowitt and Baurine Beasley, One Third of a Nation. Lorena Hickok

I. Harry Hopkins—difficult assignment
A. Fed. Relief administrator in charge of $500 million annually.
1. Took on Surplus Relief Corp. (Surplus food to the needy)
2. Then CWA (Create jobs to give wages to workers)
a. Based on work rather than social worker's evaluation.
3. Then WPA. Eliminated social worker and connotation of being on relief.
B. Overwhelming assignment. 4 million families destitute.
1. Most chosen to help were from the States and local agengies and most were women.
a. Probed into lives; faced facts of poverty and became hardened but not calloused.
2. Under CWA, however, 4 million put to work.
3. Also: Under FERA gave funds to states for transient relief. January 1933 there were 1,500,000 homeless.
a. Not all on the road. Some taken care of by CCC.
b. As it was, 300,000 received help.
c. Other unchartered waters. Provide food in a soup kitchen, a night in jail, and encouragement to move on.
4. All this made him harried and harassed Harry.
a. He needed to have good information. He was drowning in statistical data.
b. He gained little insight of the human dimension.

II. Hence Lorena A. Hickok
A. Experienced newspaper woman and a friend of E. Roosevelt.
1. Job. Travel over the worst areas of the country and to report fully and frankly on conditions with unvarnished truth.
2, Between '33 and '36 traveled everywhere but NW
B . Gave him what he needed. Esp. role of women and Communists and their influence on the unemployed.
1. Unearthed problems with Black and Hispanic. They did better on relief than employed. Whites not only lost jobs but status.
C. Came at the right time.
1. New Deal was getting under way and FERA was focused on the unemployed.
2. Grappled with the worst of the Depression.
3. Also influenced 1935 when New Deal went from Relief to Work.

III. Lorena: Product of "the Golden Age of Individualism."
A. Still farmers and pioneers when she was born in 1893. "We can go as far as our ability and determination will take us."
1. Whipped by her father, (traveling buttermaker), told to leave upon her mother's death. (She was 14), she began as: Hired girl (nine families in 2 years) then her mother's cousin in Battle Creek, MI.
2. Flunked out of Sara Lawrence, took job as cub reporter on Milwaukee Sentinel determined to follow footsteps of Edna Ferber.
3. Provoked ire of Schlitz family and moved to Minneapolis Tribute in 1917. Wanted to join Women's League of Death (Tangled maze of fighters in Russian Revolution). Fired from NY Tribune and resorted to police work—rescuing damsels from amorous sailors and soldiers. Couldn't get to Russia.
4. Tried U. of Minnesota but wouldn't live in a Dorm. Then success with Tom Dillian on M. Tribune. He taught her newpaper business and how to drink.
a. Interviewed Knute Rockne and Red Grange. Wrote about Wilson and circus performers.
B. Diabetes in 1926. Hence to SF for a year.
1. To NY and Daily Mirror. First woman hired by Associated Press. Hard-boiled interviewer.
2. Covered Lindbergh baby kidnapping story. (Crawled through the snow to see if the baby had been returned)
3. But then assigned to Eleanor in fall of 1932. Traveling with her during the campaign, developed friendship. (From shy and cool to confidante)
C. AP articles introduced Eleanor to public. High point: First reporter with on-the-record interview with a first lady in the White House.
1. Violated press standards by clearing all stories with ER or Louis Howe. Held a story at ER's request. Had pay slashed.
2. Arranged with ER to hold "women-only" press conferences. Encouraged by ER, LH quits.
a. Takes job with Hopkins as chief investigator. Took vacation together w/o secret service.
3. Wrote detailed but irreverent reports. FDR likes them.
a. Got "Bluette" with ER's help, traveled from 1933 to 1936 through 32 states. Typed mini-essays on the Depression.
D. Could analyze a community within hours of arriving in a Community.
1. She proved invaluable. Hopkins found a bridge between the gap of Washington and local relief programs.
2. True of mid-west and crucial period of unrest. Drought, dust storms, and grasshoppers. Opponents had attacked Hopkin's efforts in helping agriculture.
a. She knew the people and the territory and said the Communists were taking advantage of the situation.
3. Prejudice against some Indians and Mexicans. Wrote that Mexicans would be "perfectly contented" to stay on relief for the "rest of their lives." Theorized it was the Indian in them. But didn't treat individuals that way in her reports.
4. Minimized her relationship with Washington. Refused publicity, no interviews. Led to ER's efforts to help miners in WV in fall of 1933. Resettlement didn't succeed but helped establish ER as a humanitarian.
a. ER praised LH's reports to bolster ego. (She didn't have a byline)
E. Left in 1936 and depended on ER for assistance.
1. Publicist for World Fair from '37 to '40.
2. Ex. Dir. Of DNC from '40 to '45.
3. Lived at White House during WWII.
4. Last employed with NY Dem. State Committee. '47 to 52
5. Resident of Hyde Park thereafter. Diabetes caused partial blindness. Co-authored with ER "Ladies of Courage" 1954.
F. In sum—Gave human face to depression. Could sniff out a story and make it touch our hearts.
1. Did lament the loss of individualism. Thought that if she had been let loose at 14 she would have encounted social workers, psychiatrists, and juvenile court which would have made her a good house servant.
2. Died in 1968.

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