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FDR’s Ears and Eleanor’s Heart- Lorena Hickok

Lorena Hickok was a brilliant pioneer journalist, capturing some of the best accounts of the grim poverty during the Great Depression. She was also known for her close relationship with humanities activist and First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Her accounts often made it directly into the President’s ears, painting for him first hand experiences of the suffering of his country.

Raised in Northern Wisconsin in a terribly abusive household, Lorena was no stranger to poverty. She wrote the details no one wanted to, yet must hear. For instance, her father once threw her kitten against the wall, splattering it’s brains all over her as a punishment. Her own childhood left such a mark, scorned and determined to rise above her destitute position, she completed her degree and befriended many reknown men journalist. She travelled to the thick of it, the places most elite pretended didn‘t exist, hearing their pain, which then became her pain. Her greatest source of joy was writing to her dearest Eleanor.

The place that haunted Hick most of all was Scotts Run, near Morgantown, W.Va., where the coal mines were shuttered. Families who had come to the region decades before for work were now stranded in the hills, some living in company housing for which they still had to pay rent despite their unemployment, some living in tents. They used the creek polluted with mine runoff for drinking and bathing. Children ran around naked, some covered in sores. Diphtheria and dysentery were common, and many babies died of typhoid every year. People were so hungry they could not wait for the vegetables to mature in their gardens and dug up the tiny, bitter potatoes and ate them raw. Hick called Scotts Run “the worse place I had ever seen.”

A woman in rural Kentucky once shouted to Lorena, ”Don’t forget about me!” In doing so, the woman in Kentucky also made certain she returned the favor.

Here is the wonderful article quoted above and used as my main source for additional reading.

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