In the late 1930's outside Gallup, New Mexico people lucky enough to have any food sat down to their evening meal of a can of beans and loaf of bread. Along Route 66 at this roadside encampment, police motorcycles appear guarding a large luxury car. The car stops in front of the onlookers and out steps Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady of the United States.
She asks questions of the people in the camp. Do they have enough food? How long have they been there? The answers she receives are discouraging. The price of cotton is dropping, farmers are being forced into foreclosure, the dust storms have ruined the land and people are starving. A few days later ER returns home to her husband Franklin Delano Roosevelt, urging him to take action in aiding the Dust Bowl refugees. (Wills, 1997).
Scots run was a scattering of mine camps in West Virginia, overrun with extreme poverty and unfit living conditions during the years of the Great Depression. A Quaker women recalls an exhausted poor mother sitting in a dirty hovel telling her story of grief and hunger to ER who sat listening intently. The mother's baby rested on Eleanor's lap while she rocked her gently. (Youngs, 1985). ER immersed herself completely, mentally, physically, and spiritually in the problems plaguing the nation.
To help at Scots Run ER would make personal and financial contributions however she quickly realized those individual acts alone could not cure the sickness of poverty, the government must take some responsibility for the needy. ER created Arthurdale as her pet project and worked to develop this subsistence homestead community for the people of Scots Run. .
Once again she had seen, heard, and acted upon the problems of the disadvantaged. This characteristic of ER redefined the role of First Lady as well as the role of the American government in general. Scots Run and the Dust Bowl refugees are only two examples of the many humanitarian efforts taken on by ER in an effort to help heal the nation.