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America 1933: The Great Depression, Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Shaping of the New Deal Hardcover – June 4, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Though much has been written and speculated about the nature of the personal relationship between renowned reporter Lorena Hickok and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Hickok’s 18-month journey across the country during the worst period of the Depression, and her subsequent influence on Eleanor and FDR’s response to the economic and social crisis, is by far the more fascinating and historically significant story. Unearthing masses of primary resources, including the daily letters that passed between Lorena and Eleanor, Golay provides an intimate glimpse into the afflicted heartland as Hickok crisscrossed the nation at the behest of FDR advisor Harry Hopkins. Her razor-sharp eyewitness accounts of the poverty and the desperation that afflicted ordinary Americans on a daily basis in 1933 constituted a humanized touchstone for architects of the New Deal still ironing out the specifics of the unprecedented economic-recovery programs. An invaluable contribution to the scholarship of the era. --Margaret Flanagan


“[A] masterful re-creation” (The Miami Herald)

“Provides an intimate glimpse into the afflicted heartland as Hickok crisscrossed the nation…An invaluable contribution to the scholarship of the era.” (Booklist)

"A moving and memorable account of the impact of the Great Depression." (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“[A] highly detailed, richly referenced portrait.” (Concord Monitor)

“[A] gripping, painful account.” (Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)

“Eminently readable and accessible.” (Hudson Valley News)

“A gem of narrative history. Michael Golay weaves together Lorena Hickok's beautifully observed field reports for Roosevelt public works czar, Harry Hopkins, with her moving personal letters to Eleanor Roosevelt, to give us a powerful account of the immense human tragedy of the Great Depression. He shines new light on the inventiveness of the Roosevelt relief efforts and provides an inspiring tale of a government that worked effectively to meet the needs of its people. This book should be assigned reading for the Obama White House and for all those in Congress who stand in the way of the president's efforts to lead us through our own challenging times.” (Ellen Chesler, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and author of Woman of Valor)

“During Lorena Hickok’s harrowing journey among angry farmers, defeated miners, and frightened shop owners, a desperate old woman took her arm and whispered: ‘Don’t forget me, honey. Don’t forget me.’ No one who reads America 1933 will forget her or the rest of them. There may be no finer documentary account of the Great Depression—not only the material deprivation but the psychic costs.” (James Tobin, author of Ernie Pyle’s War: American Eyewitness to World War II)

“A vivid and event-filled snapshot of a pivotal year during some of the darkest days in U.S. history. With fluid and affecting prose, Golay looks at the role Eleanor Roosevelt and her intimate friend Lorena Hickok played in helping shape some of the most important aspects of FDR’s New Deal. America 1933 offers historical delights, outsized characters, wonderful vignettes, two seductive central characters, and a feeling that you are really seeing America as it was then. It is particularly resonant as the country once again tries to emerge from a profound economic crisis and its concomitant social unease.” (Amy Wilentz, author of Farewell, Fred Voodoo)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143919601X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439196014
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,072,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By David F. Mcginnis on September 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Whenever I see a new book at the library that deals with the Depression, I grab it. I saw "1933" on the cover of this one, looked no further and took it home. When I turned to actually read it I saw what it was and was prepared for it to be not much at all. A lady toured the country and was a friend of Elanor Roosevelt, could be anything, give it a try.

Well, it turns out Harry Hopkins knew where to send her. She went to coal country in eastern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky; farm country in the Dakotas and High Plains; the Imperial Valley; the San Francisco docks.

In all these places we see the plight of Everyman and he is not taking it lying down. She reports on strikes in the mines, on the farms, on the docks, Communists. Law enforcement is reinforced by the National Guard. Hundreds are killed, arrested, ruined in these activities. We also see the results of the budding safety net as unemployment insurance, etc., collectively called 'relief', take hold and social tension declines.

Ms. Hickok is changed by her journeys. She sees things differently at the end. This theme knits the book together nicely. By the end she is much more sympathetic to the little guy.

The interplay of 'relief' and strikes, etc., shows that these measures were essential to maintaining order. America was literally on the verge of revolution which was (fortunately) co-opted by cash payments.

The story emerged naturally on its own, a very impressive piece of writing and editing on the part of the author. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel wrote a magnificent book in 1970 recounting the oral history of survivors of the Great Depression. I wouldn't go so far as to claim Michael Golay's book to be on equal footing, but for those interested in more than statistical summations of devastation, America 1933 is an interesting and almost unimaginable story.

Golay's recounts the documentation of Lorena Hickok, a former Associated Press reporter who had been hired by Harry Hopkins to review and evaluate the actual conditions of the country as he distributed assistance funds following FDR's initial election. Gloay writes that Hickok's relationship with Eleanor likely aided in Hopkins selecting her, and he notes that the First Lady and the journalist shared more than a friendly relationship with Hickok often visiting the White House and staying In a suite connecting to ER's bedroom.

The book presents an eerie opportunity to compare attitudes towards today's government assistance with that of The Depression, for instance, when he explains that miners in Pennsylvania balked at accepting aid without working for it despite the fact the many we're trying to raise families on less than $1.00 per week.

Golay and Hickok present a story as intense and horrific as Terkel's and others who have documented events and situations of that time. It re-tells a familiar story, but perhaps from another perspective. We learn more about the lives of miners, how children fared in textile mills, the frustrations of business and social charities, the plite of farmers...

Unquestionably people of The Depression sought relief from oppressive business owners, meddlesome labor unions, an unimaginable life of poverty and need, and corrupt politicians. It makes you wonder how far we've really advanced
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Format: Hardcover
I had never heard of Lorena Hickok before (actually, I think I read some of her juvenile biographies as a kid). I picked up this book because I am interested in the period and in FDR's multifaceted attempts to bring the U.S. out of Depression. The book recounts Hickok's travels through America and her reports to Harry Hopkins who headed the Civil Works Administration, one of the alphabet soup of agencies providing jobs and relief payments to the long-term unemployed.

The book uses several devices to bring home to modern readers the conditions Hickok saw. First and foremost are numerous excerpts and summaries of her written reports to Hopkins. Hickok is a close observer of conditions and people, a trained journalist with 20 years of experience, who can make the most of an interview and size up the usefulness of a source. As she travels everywhere from Maine to Florida to North Dakota to California, she discovers both the depths of the Depression and the inadequate methods that were being used to alleviate it. The author often includes the leading stories from the local paper on the day Hickok arrived in a town, to give a flavor of conditions as people would have seen them at that time.

Although the author doesn't make a point of comparing the Depression to our modern "Great Recession," comparisons arise naturally. Back then, the only social safety net was private charity, and it was tapped out by 1933. People would do nearly anything to avoid going on the "dole," and seemed able to live on nearly nothing compared to our modern requirements. Organizations working for a living wage were deemed Communistic and labor relations were poisonous. Relief efforts were often riddled with graft and even more often ineffective.
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