Submitted by The Chrisman Shakespeare Club
Eight members met at the home of Nancy Harper on July 8 for the Shakespeare meeting. Regretfully, co-hostess Marilyn Fischer was unable to attend. Nancy prepared three different pies for the meeting! Several of us had just a “sliver” of each of the delicious pies… lemon meringue, butterscotch, and cream pie, along with iced tea.
The amusing roll call for this month was “A Food you Dislike.” The foods mentioned are as varied as our members. Head cheese and mincemeat pie were definitely on one member’s list. Seafood, as well as shell fish and octopus are definitely not on the menu for a few of our members. Mushrooms, parsnips, brussels sprouts, black olives, asparagus, cooked spinach seemed to turn off more than a few of us. Diversity is what makes the world go round…and it also seems to turn some stomachs at the same time.
Marilyn Fischer’s program presented by Penny Cook. Below is a condensed account of The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky.
The historical fiction book The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michelle Richardson, instilled a curiosity to learn more about the real Pack Horse Librarians because Marilyn’s family was from Kentucky. Marilyn’s research is described as follows. Kentucky was hit hard by the Depression and the 1930 flood of the Ohio River. In 1933 unemployment in the Appalachian Mountains had risen to 40%. Hundreds of coal mines had closed. About 31% of the people in Eastern Kentucky were illiterate and had no access to libraries. In 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt created the relief program known as the New Deal.
In 1935 he expanded the program to the Works Project Administration (WPA) to get people back to work and to promote social and cultural awareness with the arts and literature. By 1935, many women we heading households and relief rolls. It became clear that women needed jobs. Eleanor Roosevelt was influential in promoting the WPA Program…Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky. The program was started in Leslie County by a Presbyterian minister who allowed the use of a community center. In 1935, it became the first WPA library. The WPA paid $28 a month to nearly 1000 “Book Women” to carry books throughout the counties. These women had to maintain the libraries in each county. The WPA did not pay for the center, the books, or food for the horses or mules. The women provided their own horse or mule. There were usually 4 to 8 carriers assigned to a center. They went out 3 or 4 times a week, taking a different route each day. They traveled 100 to 120 miles a week on the horse or mule. A typical day would begin in the dark around 4:30 am.
They traveled in freezing rain, snow, or blazing sun in order to bring books to these isolated communities.
The most desired children’s books ranged from Robinson Crusoe to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Adults treasured magazines such as Popular Mechanic, to Ladies Home Journal.
2653 scrapbooks made from old magazines, adding recipes, mountain ballads, quilting patterns, government pamphlets were stitched together.
These became cultural artifacts that offer a window into the lives and interests of the readers of Kentucky. One of these scrapbooks was given to Eleanor Roosevelt and can be found in her husband’s library today.
One of the teachers who had a bookwoman visit his one room school in the 1930’s in rural Knott County was Carl D. Perkins.
He saw the difference the bookwoman made on his student. He became Kentucky’s US Congressman.
In 1956 he sponsored the Library Services Act (LSA) which made the first federal appropriations for library serviced in the whole nation.
The LSA provided funds for establishments of ne libraries, building new branch libraries, purchasing bookmobiles, procuring library collections and hiring librarians. The LSA built systems of libraries we have today are considered the world’s best.
After presenting this program on behalf of Marilyn, I think many of us will be reading the book The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michelle Richardson.