Women’s Place in the Present Emergency

by Hoover Archivist, Matthew Schaefer
In honor of First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s birthday, March 29, 1874

#31-1928-f03 First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.
#31-1928-f03 First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.

At 5:15 in the evening of Sunday, November 27th, 1932, First Lady Lou Hoover gave an address, ‘Women’s Place in the Present Emergency,’ over the NBC national radio network.  The speech was part of a series of weekly radio talks by the National Women’s Committee of the Welfare and Relief Mobilization to address challenges posed by unemployment in the Great Depression.

Hoover started with the obvious.  Winter is coming.  Men have been out of work for months.  Families were facing the wolf at the door.  She bright-sided the situation by noting that there is enough food, enough clothing, and enough fuel for all Americans and that with efficient cooperation all needs would be met.  Lou Hoover exhorted: “We must give generously, individually, so that generous provision must be made by city and town, by county and state.”

The most significant barrier facing the women’s ability to deal with the present emergency was misplaced pride.  Hoover observed: “The last person in town to ask for help will be the self-respecting man or woman, unemployed for the first time in his or her life.’  It was incumbent on women assisting in this emergency to tactfully approach their neighbors and provide the requisite aid.

Lou Henry Hoover did just that, quietly donating $300 to help the unemployed and their families in Palo Alto in January 1933.  According to online inflation calculators, 300 dollars in 1933 would have more than $5000 purchasing power in 2017.  As was her wont, Hoover asked that this charitable enterprise not be publicly acknowledged.

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