I found a great website on the New Deal that is sponsored by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. Now there is a boatload of great material here, but what I found fascinating was section called "Dear Mrs. Roosevelt." This section talks about how the Depression affected children and even includes some of their letters to Mrs. Roosevelt asking for specific things - from things like clothes to bicycles. The site then puts her response with it so you can see what she and her staff wrote back to them. It also includes lesson plans for those of you are who are teachers out there.
I thought I'd include one of the letters and the response to it for you:
Star Route One
January 1, 1936
Dear Mrs. Roosevelt,
For some time I have wished to be aqainted with you. Or merly to receive a letter from you. I haved wish much to see you, but as I am a poor girl and have never been out of our state that will be impossible I guess.
Mrs. Roosevelt since I have been in high school I have been studying modern things and conveniences. I took your family for my study. I have found the study to be the most interesting subjects I could have found. In the study I, at all times know where you are, by reading all papers I find at school and elsewhere. I find what you are doing. You may never had given this a thought, but to think over our daily lives there is a good story to it.
My life has been a story to me and most of the time a miserable one. When I was 7 years old my father left for a law school and never returned. This leaving my mother and 4 children. He left us a small farm, but it could not keep us up. For when we went back to mother's people the renters would not give us part. and we were still dependent. I have been shoved to pillow to post that I feel very relieved to get off to my self.
I am now 15 years old and in the 10th grade. I have always been smart but I never had a chance as all of us is so poor. I hope to complete my education, but I will have to quit school I guess if there is no clothes can be bought. (Don't think that we are on the relief.) Mother has been a faithful servent for us to keep us to gather. I don't see how she has made it.
Mrs Roosevelt, don't think I am just begging, but that is all you can call it I guess. There is no harm in asking I guess eather. Do you have any old clothes you have throwed back. You don't realize how honored I would feel to be wearing your clothes. I don't have a coat at all to wear. The clothes may be too large but I can cut them down so I can wear them. Not only clothes but old shoes, hats, hose, and under wear would be appreciated so much. I have three brothers that would appreciate any old clothes of your boys or husband. I wish you could see the part of North Alabama now. The trees, groves, and every thing is covered with ice and snow. It is a very pretty scene. But Oh, how cold it is here. People can hardly stay comfortable.
I will close now as it is about mail time. I hope to hear from you soon. (ans real soon)
Your friend, M. I.
Reply to the letter:
January 4, 1936
My dear Miss I:
Mrs. Roosevelt asks me to acknowledge your letter and to express her regret that because of the great number of similar requests, she has found it impossible to comply with them, much as she would like to assist all those who appeal to her.
Assuring you of Mrs. Roosevelt's sympathy, I am
Very sincerely yours,
Malvina T. Scheider
Secretary to Mrs. Roosevelt