Skip to main content

Letters from the Field: Introduction

Letters from the Field

Lorena Hickok Reports on the State of the Nation

Lorena Hickok, Jounalist
Lorena Hickok, Jounalist

Editor’s Note: In 1933 Harry Hopkins, Director of the Federal Emergency Relief Organization, asked journalist Lorena Hickok to travel through the United States and report on the state of the nation. Hickok was in the Tennessee Valley during June, 1934, and sent two reports to Hopkins recording her impression of the local scene and the local reaction to TVA.  The dates of those reports are:  Letters from the Field: June 6, 1934 and June 11, 1934

Hickok also sent this brief personal note to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt concerning TVA during the same period.

From Lorena Hickok

To Eleanor Roosevelt

 Florence, Alabama Wednesday, June 6 [1934]

 Dear You:

 . . . Today has been strenuous. A field representative of the Tennessee relief administration came down with us, and this morning a field representative of the Alabama administration and the Alabama state transient director joined us.

 We spent the morning in conference, took a quick look at the transient setup–thousands came here looking for work, you see, and present quite a problem–and spent the afternoon looking over Muscle Shoals–Wilson dam and power house, Wheeler dam, the houses they are building there for the engineers and their families, the construction camp, and so on. It’s all on such a huge scale! But darned interesting. Always in the background, though, is this dreadful relief business– dull, hopeless, deadening. God–when are we going to get out of it? As nearly as I can figure it out, most of the relief families in Tennessee are rural, living on sub-marginal or marginal land. What are we going to do with them? And, so low are their standards of living, that, once on relief, low as it is, they want to stay there the rest of their lives. Gosh! TVA is now employing some 9, 500 people. But it doesn’t even make a dent! . . .

Source: Hickok, Lorena, “Letters from the Field: Reports on the State of the Nation,” New Deal Network, (April 18, 2014).