My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK, Friday—I was very much interested the other day to receive an article sent to me from Pageant Magazine on a New Jersey community which has changed its name from Jersey Homesteads to Roosevelt. This is one of the homesteads started in the days of the depression, and it has had a hard and discouraging career.

A small group of New York City garment workers originally moved out there from the slum areas of the city. Each contributed a small amount of money, and their plan was to run their own factory, live on small garden or farm plots, and have the stores municipally owned. It didn't work, partly because the experience was not there to run this type of community.

Today things are privately owned and run, but I judge from this article that a spirit of cooperation still exists and the community is politically active. They have a high rate of actual voters in elections. The borough council meetings are open to the public, and public issues are discussed there and at specially called town meetings in which the citizens take part.

* * *

I was very glad to see this article because so often we are told that these experiments of the depression years have produced nothing but loss to the taxpayers. The other day, for instance, I received a long letter from the minister at Arthurdale, West Virginia, who runs the community church. It is an encouraging report on the success of the people in the community. Yet I had just read, rather sadly, a diatribe in some paper quoting the cost of the original experiment and stating that the people had not liked the paternalism of government control, that the government had now sold the community and only recovered about 5 percent of the original expenditure.

All this may be true, even the part about the people not liking to be helped, and yet I can hardly believe that this was universal when I remember the conditions from which those people came. If at that time some kind of government help had not come, they and their children today might be costing the taxpayers far more than the loss on that investment in the Arthurdale community.

Children brought up in utter misery, with scant food, children whose parents are too worried to really do anything constructive for them, are the ones we find today in reformatories and later in prisons, or in state hospitals. All of these institutions are supported by the taxpayers, and the greater the number of inmates, the greater the cost.

* * *

I am glad that the Arthurdale experiment, like the Jersey Homesteads, is now owned by the people; that a private company has taken over the factory buildings; that the school buildings are run by the school system of West Virginia. I cannot help believing that the people who now own those houses and live in those communities have healthier, happier children, and that these children have grown in the past fourteen years to better citizenship than they could have achieved if there had been no Jersey Homesteads and no Arthurdale, or the equivalent in various parts of our nation.

E. R.

(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1946, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.; REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR PART PROHIBITED.)

TMs, AERP, FDRL