Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters from Children of the Great Depression [NOOK Book]

Overview

Impoverished young Americans had no greater champion during the Depression than Eleanor Roosevelt. As First Lady, Mrs. Roosevelt used her newspaper columns and radio broadcasts to crusade for expanded federal aid to poor children and teens. She was the most visible spokesperson for the National Youth Administration, the New Deal's central agency for aiding needy youths, and she was adamant in insisting that federal aid to young people be ...
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Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters from Children of the Great Depression

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Overview

Impoverished young Americans had no greater champion during the Depression than Eleanor Roosevelt. As First Lady, Mrs. Roosevelt used her newspaper columns and radio broadcasts to crusade for expanded federal aid to poor children and teens. She was the most visible spokesperson for the National Youth Administration, the New Deal's central agency for aiding needy youths, and she was adamant in insisting that federal aid to young people be administered without discrimination so that it reached blacks as well as whites, girls as well as boys.

This activism made Mrs. Roosevelt a beloved figure among poor teens and children, who between 1933 and 1941 wrote her thousands of letters describing their problems and requesting her help. Dear Mrs. Roosevelt presents nearly 200 of these extraordinary documents to open a window into the lives of the Depression's youngest victims. In their own words, the letter writers confide what it was like to be needy and young during the worst economic crisis in American history.

Revealing both the strengths and the limitations of New Deal liberalism, this book depicts an administration concerned and caring enough to elicit such moving appeals for help yet unable to respond in the very personal ways the letter writers hoped.
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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
A world of deep need comes into focus through a sampling of letters written by young people to Eleanor Roosevelt during the 1930s, the years when the Great Depression caused great economic and social distress. Ninety percent of the letters requesting aid of the president and his wife during this time were written by adults, but Cohen's search through archives reveals that children and teens, girls more often than boys, also wrote. Mrs. Roosevelt composed columns for the newspapers of the time and made radio broadcasts in which she spoke of great concern for the poverty-stricken state of the population, especially the youth, and invited listeners to write to her. President Roosevelt, in a memorable speech, said that one third of the nation was "ill clothed, ill housed, and ill fed," and here is very human evidence that he was correct. Cohen introduces the letters at length, and examples of the letters are clustered in chapters, which also begin with interpretive material. The letters almost always start with a note of apology for writing, and then reveal a heartrending desperation. The great majority of the writers requested clothing and imagined that Mrs. Roosevelt could dip into an extensive wardrobe of her personal discards or into a trove of used clothing it was rumored was stored in the White House attic. They believed that she could send them a package by return mail. It appears that the lack of proper clothing meant not only that the young people could not protect their bodies from the elements, but that it degraded them socially and prevented them from participating in important events surrounding high school graduation. Many asked for money and often offered to pay it back withinterest. They wanted it for daily needs (requests for food are surprisingly largely absent, and doctors reported little evidence of starvation), for gifts and bicycles, for medical and dental care for themselves and their families, and for books, tuition and typewriters. Government agencies developed income scales with which they estimated the lifestyle achievable at varying levels, and many of the correspondents clearly fell well below the minimum at which a family could sustain life with dignity. A final brief chapter comments on the response of Mrs. Roosevelt and her staff to the letters. A very few were answered fulfilling the request; most received rather cool form letters telling the writer that, because of the many similar letters Mrs. Roosevelt received, she could not send the desired aid. The editor feels the staff could have done a better job of personalizing the replies. The editor's essays are scholarly and will be challenging reading for most high school students, but they will appreciate the letters for how, through them, their counterparts of the 1930s become real persons. Teachers who treat the period will be delighted to find this fresh material on the library shelf. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Univ. of North Carolina Press, 266p. illus. notes. index., Boardman
From the Publisher
An honest, splendid depiction of the hopes, fears, vulnerability, and aloofness that both Eleanor Roosevelt and the children who wrote her needed to survive the Depression. (Allida Black, editor of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers)

Poignant, heartfelt, and brimming with childlike faith, these missives represent a portion of the population often overlooked by historians. (Booklist)

A must-read for anyone concerned about poverty and its impact on the young. (David N. Dinkins, former mayor of New York City)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807861264
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 863,924
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Robert Cohen is director of the Social Studies Program in the School of Education, associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, and an affiliated member of the History Department at New York University.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments Introduction Chapter 1. Ill-Clothed, Ill-Housed, Ill-Fed Chapter 2. Education Chapter 3. Social Life Chapter 4. Minorities Epilogue: Responses to the Letters Notes and Sources Index

Illustrations
Sketch of Eleanor Roosevelt by a sixteen-year-old Missouri boy, 1935
Ernestine Guerrero with sculpture sent to President Roosevelt, 1937
Float in the 1937 inaugural parade paying tribute to the National Youth Administration Cartoon from the New Yorker showing Mrs. Roosevelt with miners, 1933
Children in a depressed neighborhood in Pittsburgh, 1933
An elegantly attired Eleanor Roosevelt in the Monroe Room of the White House Enclosures from an Ohio teen's letter, 1936
Enclosures from an Oklahoma teen's letter, 1937
Students in West Virginia traveling to school by truck Enclosure from a St. Louis girl's letter, 1934
Graduation announcement accompanying a Maryland girl's letter, 1935
Boys outside a movie theater, Scott's Run, W.Va., 1935
Eleanor Roosevelt with Salvation Army Santa, Washington, D.C., 1939
Sketches from a Puerto Rican girl, 1934
Picture of a Shirley Temple doll sent by a Chicago child, 1935
African American teens employed by the National Youth Administration, 1936
Eleanor Roosevelt with a student at the Haskell Institute Indian School, Lawrence, Kan., 1938
Letter from fourteen-year-old Massachusetts girl Eleanor Roosevelt visiting disabled students at the Langdon School, Washington, D.C., 1938
Letter from a high school senior asking the Roosevelts for graduation clothes

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  • Posted February 29, 2012

    For All the History Buffs

    Dear Mrs. Roosevelt : Letters from the Children of the Great Depression is a magnificently arranged nonfiction novel which includes hundreds of actual letters from children growing up in the 1930’s asking for help. All of the letters are courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York. The book has fantastic organization of the letters into the groups of ill-clothed, ill-fed, ill-housed, education, social life, and minorities. Along with the multitude of sorted letters, each section has it’s own chapter giving detail and insight to the issues and events going during the time period. The added chapters help to learn new unique facts and brush up on what it would’ve felt like to be growing up during the Great Depression. As if the ease and eloquence of the book isn’t enough, the letters from the children reach your heart and make the connection with the history deeper than the average text. The struggles that many of these children went through are remarkable. I found to read the letters from the humble children who only asked for the means to get by, but held heads high with money or not. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to gain insight on the average child’s perspective of the Great Depression. In fact, it also happens to be a phenomenal first-person documentation of the Great Depression for those doing projects or reports on the 1930’s. Overall, Dear Mrs. Roosevelt is a marvelous read. Anyone and everyone who interested in American history should check this book out. It’s easy follow, eloquently written, well organized, and truthfully touching. Anybody who reads it can easily find a child who’s letter is relatable and incites feelings of sympathy. This book is not one to be forgotten.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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