Ohio History Journal

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Depression and New Deal

in Ohio: Lorena A. Hickok's

Reports to Harry Hopkins, 1934-1936


Lorena A. Hickok, newspaperwoman and friend of Eleanor

Roosevelt, served as Harry Hopkins' Chief Field Investigator during

his tenure as head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration

(FERA) between 1933 and 1935 and the Works Progress

Administration (WPA) from 1935 to 1938. Born in East Troy,

Wisconsin, in 1893, Hickok began her journalistic career with the

Milwaukee Sentinel and the Minneapolis Tribune. She moved to New

York in 1926 and worked for the Mirror before joining the Associated

Press. There she covered the political activities of Franklin and

Eleanor Roosevelt and in 1932 accompanied them on campaign

swings across the nation. By inauguration day she was one of Eleanor

Roosevelt's most intimate friends. Realizing that her close

relationship with the First Lady was affecting her detachment as a

journalist, Hickok resigned her job with the AP to work for Harry

Hopkins in the new relief administration. After her service with the

New Deal, Hickok returned to newspaper work but retired in 1945

because of poor health. She then collaborated with Mrs. Roosevelt in

writing Ladies of Courage, which was published in 1954. Hickok also

wrote The Story of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1957), Reluctant First

Lady (1962), and biographies of Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan Macy,

and Walter Reuther. She died in 1968.1

Hickok recalled Hopkins' instructions when he hired her in 1933:

What I want you to do is to go out around the country and look this thing

over. I don't want statistics from you. I don't want the social worker angle. I

just want your own reaction as an ordinary citizen. Go talk with preachers

and teachers, businessmen, workers, farmers. Go talk with the unemployed,

those who are on relief and those who aren't, and when you talk with them,

don't ever forget that but for the grace of God you, I, any of our friends might



Dr. Sternsher is Professor of History at Bowling Green State University.


1. New York Times, May 3, 1968, 54; Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin (New

York, 1971), 464-65, 483.