FEBRUARY 2, 1945
WASHINGTON, Thursday—At 12:30 today I attend a luncheon of the Washington Junior Board of Commerce, and at 2:30 I go to the celebration held by the Forestry Service to commemorate their fortieth anniversary. When we think what the Forestry Service has accomplished in the last 40 years, we should all be celebrating, because their work is helping to preserve one of our great national assets. We do not begin to reforest sufficiently anywhere in our country, but year by year we are learning more about trees, their care and their value, and eventually we may discover that each one of us owning any land has a responsibility to the nation to keep some of it in trees.
Perhaps I am particularly conscious of this because so much of my husband's land at Hyde Park is tree land. One has to look far ahead when one cultivates trees, but it certainly provides one with a great deal of interest and the few trees about my own small cottage are cared for yearly very meticulously.
I promised yesterday to tell you a little bit more about the "Joads in New York." Among these migratory workers, the group which interests me most is, of course, the children. There are just a few facts about them which I think the general public should realize, because they can be duplicated in practically every state where migratory workers are used in rural areas.
"Most children over six are pickers as well as their parents," says the Consumers' League report, "and spend long hours in the fields—rarely less than 10, not infrequently 12 and occasionally 13 or 14 hours a day." We are concerned about child labor, I am told, but apparently not about child pay, for the report continues: "The young children are not listed on the payroll, since payment is usually on a piece work basis. The more they can pick the greater the family income will be."
"At one New York camp," the report also states, "sixty school-age children were working in the field on school days long after the school term had begun. Little or no effort seems to be made in most local communities to enforce school attendance laws for these migrant children."
In other words, we are bringing up the illiterates of the future. The living conditions are very undesirable, sanitation is poor, medical care very difficult to obtain. I wonder if we ever will learn that prevention is better than cure. Here we have a perfect setup for recruiting inmates for our state institutions, such as prisons, insane asylums and tuberculosis hospitals. Once there, they cost every taxpayer far more per year than it would have cost to provide the environment necessary to make them self-supporting, healthy and educated citizens.