Mrs. Hoover and Washington Housing Shortages: Part 2

One of the U. S. Food Administration “Girls Club” lunchrooms established by Lou Henry Hoover, ca. 1918.

Herbert Hoover issued a circular for the employees of the US Food Administration stating: “For some time I have felt that the Food Administration should make a special effort insuring satisfactory living quarters for our women workers.  Mrs. Hoover has consented to take this matter directly under her charge and we have arranged to add to our own staff, Mrs. Frances E. Weston Morse, who will be glad to meet any of our women workers who had been unable to secure adequate housing accommodations and consult with Mrs. Hoover.”  As noted in a previous post, Mrs. Hoover successfully leased three homes to provide affordable housing for nearly 300 single women working for the US Food Administration.  But the plan went beyond housing as summarized in a letter to Lou by Frances Morse, head of the Information Division of the US Food Administration: “I have mentioned the plan of having one house run like a cafeteria, and another like the Food Administration Club, to several of the girls, and have received their enthusiastic welcome of such a plan.”

The original concept moved from affordable housing to affordable meals in addition to safe social settings for the single women workers.  A constitution was written and approved with the purpose: “The Food Administration Club shall be social in character.  It shall aim to give the girls of the Food Administration an opportunity for the social life which is difficult under the living conditions of Washington.”  Officers were duly elected and drew up “House Rules” which set the terms for paying rent, use of living spaces, and expectations of visitors.  As noted, “callers must leave at eleven PM.”

The success of the Food Administration Club cafeteria surprised everyone involved.  Given the media attention on the Hoover’s own adherence to “Hooverizing,” the cafeteria followed the substitution requirements of the US Food Administration.  According to Herbert Hoover, the Food Administration Club: “came near being overwhelmed with employees from the other departments looking for good cheap food.  They served thousands of meals daily—and made a profit on it.  They devoted the profit to their other activities on behalf of the women employees…”

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