Sparking Change

Sparking Change

(Cooperative Connections, Nov. 2019, Vol. 20, No. 7)

The Great Depression

The 1929 stock market crash triggered the Great Depression, which brought even darker days on the rural frontier. Farmers were forced to sell their once valuable products for pennies on the dollar and, because they were unable to make farm payments, many faced foreclosure. Despite surging unemployment and a decimated national economy, the federal government refused to intervene.

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 24 Oct. 1929)

"Sometimes I think these Depression days are growing darker and longer. Unquestionably there are signs of   an early winter this season and this would be a very great hardship to many people, both in the city and  out in the country."

-The Depression Diary of Iowa farmer, Elmer Powers, 1932-1933 (University of Northern Iowa, 14 Sept. 1932) 

"Christmas dinner in home of Earl Pauley. Near Smithfield, Iowa. Dinner consisted of potatoes, cabbage, and pie." (Library of Congress, Dec. 1936)

Thus, a suffering, frustrated American public was primed for 1932 presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign promise of a new deal, which proposed expanding the federal government to rescue the economy, as well as ease the burden of those who lacked basic necessities, such as rural electricity.

Franklin Roosevelt

"Electricity is no longer a luxury. It is a definite necessity. It lights our homes, our places of work and our streets... It can relieve the drudgery of the housewife and lift the great burden off the shoulders of the hardworking farmer."

-Franklin Roosevelt, Campaign Address (The American Presidency Project, 21 Sept. 1932)

Roosevelt’s desire to electrify the rural frontier grew out of his experiences in Warm Springs, Georgia where he owned property and frequently traveled for polio rehabilitation. After witnessing the hardships of rural life and noticing his rural Georgia electric bill was four times higher than that of his urban Hyde Park, New York home, Roosevelt used his political power to change the situation.

 "FDR swimming in a Warm Springs, Georgia  pool, October 1925." (FDR Presidential Library and Museum)

                        FDR's rural Georgia home                          (Library of Congress, N.d.)

"And so, my friends, it can be said with a great deal of truth that a little cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, was the birthplace of [rural electricity]."

-President Franklin Roosevelt, Address at Barnesville, Georgia (FDR Presidential Library and Museum, 11 Aug. 1938)