Social History for Every Classroom


Social History for Every Classroom

menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

A Worker Warns Eleanor Roosevelt of Growing Class Unrest

As the Great Depression dragged on through the 1930s, critics on the left blamed the Roosevelt Administration for not going far enough. They maintained that New Deal measures had mostly shored up banks and industries without sufficiently providing for the needs of workers and ordinary people. The ongoing economic crisis was a "powder keg" that could explode into social and political upheaval. The lopsided victories of Roosevelt and the Democrats in the elections of 1936 further indicated that voters wanted more relief programs and an expansion of the social safety net.


Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Dear Lady

Will you please warn the people of what's going to happen to America if these property owners dont quit making industrial slaves out of their laborers, and working them on starvation wages, paying them a wage whereby they cannon obtain the desires of life, or else installing machinery and laying the common laborer off of his job to starve to death.

We dont want a revolution in this country where innocent men, women, and children will be shot down without mercy like they are doing in spain and also like they did in Russia. We want peace on earth good will toward men. You know mrs. Roosevelt with the majority of us poor people we desire good things as well as the higher class of society. For instance we desire a nice home to live in with sanitary surroundings. we desire a nice refrigadaire, electric stove, fan, nice furniture, radio, a nice car with money to take a vacation, but one cannot have these desires of life at a wage of 8.00 10.00 or $12.00 per week, and if we could, we could not accumulate no money and would have to go on being industrial slaves and our children would fall under the same yoke of bondage that we and our fore parents were under. And never be considered no more than ordinary slaves....

There would not be so many crimes committed if every man and boy were out from under bondage of hard labor and were getting the desires of life. we have plenty of young John Dillingers, pretty boy Floyds, Jessie James roaming all over our land today wanting jobs, desiring to marry and settle down and live a comfortable life and cannot get hold of enough money to buy a marriage license. and the next thing we know they strike back at the ones that are responsible for their being in that condition.

Mrs. Roosevelt this nation is hanging over a giant powder keg just waiting for someone to light a match. You see I am forced to mingle with the poorer classes and I hear what they have to say. As far as I am concerned I dont believe in taking the carnal weapon against my fellow man. Therefore all I can do is stand still and see the salvation of the lord. I am thirty four years old married and have one daughter. I have a eighth grade education. I got a job last week as a labourer on the new courthouse here, although I am a painter by trade....

I cannot see a very bright prospect in life. Although my wife slaves in a cotton mill but I want a job so as I can get her out of it, for I am afraid she has contracted tuberculosis. hoping an answer I remain

D.B.P. [male]

Source | Robert S. McElvaine, ed., Down & Out in the Great Depression: Letters from the "Forgotten Man" (Chapel Hill: The University Of North Carolina Press, 1983), 193-4.
Creator | Anonymous
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Anonymous, “A Worker Warns Eleanor Roosevelt of Growing Class Unrest,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 30, 2023,

Print and Share