August 1939

US and World Events plus Additional Resources


Hilda Smith was an advocate for workers education programs. Eleanor wrote about Hilda Smith’s work in her August 2, 1939 “My Day” column. “Yesterday was a busy day. I rode in the morning, did the mail and my column, and then Mrs. Charles Fayerweather brought a young friend to lunch with me. We had a pleasant time together, but I had to “speed the parting guest,” for I was due across the river, at the Hudson Labor School at 3:00 o’clock. Miss Hilda Smith owns this property and is very happy to have it used as a summer school for women workers. The group was gathered in front of the house under the trees before I arrived and they asked me some interesting questions. “What did I think they should try to get out of the seven weeks spent on the banks of the Hudson?” “How would one go about interesting people in a community in working conditions?”, etc.

They have two English girls, a German refugee and a Swedish girl at the school this summer. While we were all having tea, I was amused to have one of the English girls say to me: “What a contrast between what you are able to do and what our Queen is free to do. I wonder if she would not give a great deal to have the same amount of freedom?”

I am sure this school does a great deal to develop the mental abilities of the girls, but I think it is equally valuable because of the health which they acquire, for they do all their studying practically out of doors, eat on the balcony, and swim and play together.” To read the full article, visit the “My Day” archives hosted by George Washington University.

Hilda Worthington Smith (1888-1984) first met Eleanor Roosevelt when ER visited Bryn Mawr College’s Summer School for Women Workers in 1925.  ER and Smith believed that worker education could foster responsible citizenship.  As a result of ER’s support, Smith accepted an appointment in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and then became director of worker education in the WPA in 1935.  Smith designed a network of residential camps for needy women that became known as “she-she-she” camps, where women received education and vocational training, free housing, and much needed moral support.  The camps were later transferred to the National Youth Administration and then phased out completely in 1937.  Later, as part of the Federal Public Housing Administration, Smith worked on education and recreational programs for war worker.  She left government in 1945 to lobby, write, and consult on issues related to worker education.