Women librarians protected literary freedom by delivering books on horseback in tough times

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Women librarians protected literary freedom by delivering books on horseback in tough times

The 1930s in America were tough, to say the least. It was a time when the country was wrestling its way through what would come to be known as the Great Depression.

Amidst this chaos, however, a group of extraordinary women emerged and became the unsung heroes of literary history.

They were called the “bookwomen”.

librarians who took to the rugged Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky on horseback, determined to bring literacy to the most isolated communities.

YouTube – KET

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YouTube – KET

It began with the Pack Horse Library Initiative, a gem encrusted within President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.

Funded by the Works Progress Administration, this initiative wasn’t just about creating jobs.

It was a heartfelt mission to deliver books to places where libraries were unheard of, a true lifeline to the outside world.

YouTube – KET

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YouTube – KET

Each day, these women would ride through then uncharted terrains, burdened with saddlebags filled with books.

These women were brave adventurers and educators, navigating the wilderness to quench the thirst for knowledge in remote corners of the country.

YouTube – KET

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YouTube – KET

The book women brought stories to life by reading aloud to groups of eager listeners.

This personal touch turned their visits into something magical, far beyond the scope of regular library service and more akin to the ancient days of bards or traveling storytellers

YouTube – KET

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YouTube – KET

Over eight years, these women reached around 100,000 people, traveling over a hundred miles weekly.

Their dedication was remarkable, delivering not just books but hope and a connection to the wider world.

YouTube – KET

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YouTube – KET

The desire for reading in these remote areas was intense.

Children and adults alike were so starved for reading material that any book became a treasured gift.

These librarians were opening doors to new worlds.

YouTube – KET

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YouTube – KET

The significance of their work even caught the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited the Packhorse Library in 1937.

Her visit confirmed the national importance of this initiative and recognized the librarians’ invaluable service.

Explore UK – University of Kentucky

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Explore UK – University of Kentucky

Unfortunately, as World War II began, the nation’s focus shifted and in 1943, the Pack Horse Library Initiative came to an end.

Still, the impact of the book women and their efforts lived on in the communities they served and in the hearts of those they enlightened.

YouTube – KET

Source:
YouTube – KET

The book women were pioneers of literary freedom, ensuring that even in the hardest of times, the flame of knowledge kept burning in the heart of Appalachia.

Their legacy is a powerful reminder of the difference one can make, one book and one ride at a time.

Learn more about these incredible women and the incorruptible mark they left on the world below!

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