ONE THIRD OF A NATION: Lorena Hickok Reports on the Great Depression by Lorena Hickok

ONE THIRD OF A NATION: Lorena Hickok Reports on the Great Depression

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Were it not for newspaperwoman Lorena Hickok's relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, and its disclosure in Doris Faber's The Life of Lorena Hickok, her 1933-34 reports to federal relief administrator Harry Hopkins would probably be unpublished, still. But, as the editors intend, they will establish her as something other than just ""E.R.'s friend."" Traveling about the country, writing to tell Hopkins how the unemployed were faring and how the relief programs were going, she sounded a medley of notes that echo to this day: regional and local variations (unrest in the Pennsylvania coal towns, dim hopes in Aroostook county, Maine); the incursions of political patronage; sympathy for ""old"" Americans, prejudice against minorities; fear that relief might be ""too"" attractive, and so deter people from returning to work; impatience with ""outside"" agitators (a Syracuse U. student ""ought to be spanked and sent to bed without his supper""), along with much concern about Communists--largely hearsay on Hickok's part, unquestioningly reiterated by the editors. But there are also (in Hickok's only-half-mocking phrase) ""Unsung Heroes of the New Deal""--like mild Lowell Evans, emergency relief director of Thornton county, Nebraska: anathema to both the (broke) county commissioners and the (debtor) bankers. (Take money away from them? ""They'd soon fix THIS little bug!"") And there are the needy--who opened up to Hickok, provided her with insights, but don't, in the aggregate, make this a counterpart of Studs Terkel's Hard Times or Ann Banks' recent First-Person America. What one sees, rather, are the interconnections, the tangle. And, for guidance, the editors' introductory material is excellent: their detailed account of the relief programs enables one to understand Hickok's allusions; their biographical data importantly supplements, even slightly amends, Faber's differently-focused life-story. Spirited, often acerbic off-the-cuff reportage, then, and a distinctive addition to the record.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
ISBN: 0252010965
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press