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History_21__1934_FERA_reports_to_Harry_H

History_21__1934_FERA_reports_to_Harry_H - History 21-1934...

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History 21--- 1934 FIELD REPORTS TO FERA HEAD HARRY HOPKINS COMMENTING ON ADM. OF RELIEF & EXTENT OF DISTRESS [Source: New Deal Network, http://newdeal.feri.org/texts/subject.cfm ] The following three letters were written by FERA investigators (in the fashion of Lorena Hickok) describing conditions “in the field” to FERA head Harry Hopkins. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- REPORT, GASTON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA---NOVEMBER 11, 1934 Author: Martha Gellhorn My dear Mr. Hopkins: I came in today from Gastonia, and was as flat and grim as is to be expected. Miss Hickok very generously listened to what was on my mind; and suggested that I make out a supplementary report… I don't want to repeat: but my sources are the same as those cited for the report on South Carolina. This letter (or whatever) will deal with North Carolina as well. I got a notice from your office asking about "protest groups." All during this trip I have been thinking to myself about that curious phrase "red menace", and wondering where said menace hid itself. Every house I visited--mill worker or unemployed--had a picture of the President. These ranged from newspaper clippings (in destitute homes) to large colored prints, framed in gilt cardboard. The portrait holds the place of honor over the mantel; I can only compare this to the Italian peasant's Madonna. And the feeling of these people for the president is one of the most remarkable emotional phenomena I have ever met. He is at once God and their intimate friend; he knows them all by name, knows their little town and mill, their little lives and problems. And, though everything else fails, he is there, and will not let them down. I have been seeing people who, according to almost any standard, have practically nothing in life and practically nothing to look forward to or hope for. But there is hope; confidence, something intangible and real: "the president isn't going to forget us." Let me cite cases: I went to see a woman with five children who was living on relief ($3.40 a week.) Her picture of the President was as a small one… The children have no shoes and that woman is terrified of the coming cold as if it were a definite physical entity. There is practically no furniture left in the home, and you can imagine what and how they eat. But she said, suddenly brightening, "I'd give my heart to see the President. I know he means to do everything he can for us; but they make it hard for him; they won't let him." I note this case as something special; because here the faith was coupled with a feeling (entirely sympathetic) that the President was not entirely omnipotent.
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I have been seeing mill workers; and in every mill when possible, the local Union president. There has been widespread discrimination in the south; and many mills haven't re-opened since the strike. Those open often run on such curtailment that workers are getting from 2 to 3 days work a week. The price of food has risen (especially the kind of food they eat: fat-back bacon, flour, meal, sorghum) as high as 100%. It is getting cold; and they have no clothes. The Union presidents are almost all out of work, since the strike. In many mill villages, evictions have been
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