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Back to the Land: Arthurdale, FDR's New Deal, and the Costs of Economic Planning by C. J. Maloney

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Chapter 2

The Angel of Arthurdale Arrives

“Got a lot of sinful idears—but they seem kinda sensible.”

—From John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

Lorena Hickok was only in that car headed toward the Run because her close friend and confidante Eleanor Roosevelt had asked Harry Hopkins (head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration) to put her on the payroll, and when the president’s wife asks you to do something, well, you know.1 Being no fool, Hopkins hired Hickok as an investigator and defined her role as “What I want you to do is go out around the country and look this thing over. I just want your own reaction.”2 Her “going around” the country saw her in Scotts Run during the summer of 1933, and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) worker Alice Davis gave her a tour of the coal camps. Needless to say, Hickok was appalled.

Eleanor Roosevelt first visited Scotts Run on August 18, 1933, driving herself without escort into Morgantown.3 How exactly that visit was set up and by whom depends on the source you consult. Some say she had purchased a piece of furniture from Godlove’s workshop and, having her own little furniture shop on the Roosevelt estate in upstate New York, asked about the co-op and became interested to see the Friends work in the area.4 Another says Lorena Hickok urged her to visit,5 but whatever the reason, on August 18, there she was.

She was escorted through the camps and at that time in her life, no one had any idea as to who she was. She saw “American ...

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