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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches
Speeches at Dinner in Honor of M. Carey Thomas by Affiliated Schools for Workers
October 24, 1933
Speeches aired on radio, Thomas discusses the significance of the NRA and the rights of workers, ER remarks from the White House on the importance of worker education
The National Broadcasting Company takes pleasure in bringing you the principle speeches in connection with a dinner given tonight in New York City by the Affiliated Schools for Workers in honor of their founder Miss M. Carey Thomas, president emeritus of Bryn Mawr College. The Affiliated Schools for Workers offer to workers in industry from all parts of the country special courses at several colleges and universities. The speakers, in addition to Miss Thomas, the guest of honor, will be Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dean Joseph H. Willits of Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, who is the toastmaster. We present Dean Willits.
Now, having applauded me, may I ask that you applaud no one else because time is too precious over the radio and Dr. Thomas' and Mrs. Roosevelt's speeches are to be broadcast, so let's omit all applause no matter how great the temptation may be. We are here tonight to express our regard for the Affiliated Summer Schools. Not merely as one more accrescent on that sprawling octopus which is our educational system, but because it represents a step forward at a point where advance is more needed perhaps than any other today; because it is education that recognizes the vital demands of the workers for a better society; because it recognizes that leadership of workers is having its responsibility vastly increased today. And that mere good will is not enough to ensure the lives and effects of that responsibility-of that responsibility, and still more-still more that that offense must be restored-be restored to the historic leaders-leaders from among the ranks. But still more than the honor that we do to the Affiliated schools, we wish to do honor - we and the twenty-five other city groups that are gathered here, that are gathered uh in other cities at the same time, to do honor to this movement - still more do we wish to honor the founder of that movement, Dr. M. Carey Thomas of Bryn Mawr. Some of you, perhaps many of you, are familiar with the story that um she first had the idea that the summer school while on a camel in the Sahara desert and that the vacant buildings of Bryn Mawr and the vacant mines, [unclear term: might be "trap doors" (2:47)], and factories ought to be uh jointly advantageous. I want to say to Dr. Thomas that the industrial world is very grateful to that camel, for the idea that it bore constitutes not only one of the best testimonies for vacations but it also is the median by which her imagination, her will, her courage, and her skill, for to add one more to that significant list of firsts would span to her credits. So it gives me, ladies and gentlemen, a great deal of pleasure to present our guest this evening: the founder of the summer school, a first class social pioneer, a first class fighter, and a first class educational executive-executive, Dr. M. Carey Thomas.[applause]
That's so thoughtful, Dr. Smith and friends of the Affiliated school. We are dining together tonight with the exhilarating feeling that we are facing the future with a new vision. The United States is at last beginning to organize socially. The NRA call to President Roosevelt and his advisors are necessary social reforms of great significance. American men and women workers are to be given for the first time - not as a temporary concession, but as an unalienable right - some hours of leisure every day, a longer weekend holiday, and fairer (if not yet adequate) wages. No one who has not come as we have, in the Bryn Mawr summer school, in close contact with workers can realize how imperative this leisure is. For those that come to us are so exhausted by long hours of work that the grass and the breeze of the college seem to them something they have never seen before. Some of them have never had time to look at the stars, or though they have all been through the third grade of the grammar school, many have been so overworked from the age of twelve or thirteen that they have forgotten the meaning of words. They cannot even understand the newspapers.
Why is it that we are only now just beginning to-to apply our intelligence, already so gloriously successful in scientific achievement, to organize our community life? Our alarming neighbors, the bees and the ants and all the great insect pride, have been socially organized for centuries. Each-each contented insect has its appointed niche and all work for the good of the whole. Indeed so efficiently organized are they that had not scientific research armed us against them they might easily have destroyed the human race. All ancient civilizations in the history of the past seem to have born within themselves the seeds of decay and to have [coughs] and to have miserably perished. No one of them seems to have foreseen and provided against the pros-approaching destruction. And now suddenly this same terrifying disintegration seems to be taking place again in our western civilization. The handwriting is on the wall for all to see. We must reform ourselves drastically and at once or we too shall meet the same warning.
Miss Smith is to tell us of the government's educational program to be offered to adult workers in their new leisure. We are delighted that her unique experience - twelve years in workers' education and eight years in college administration - is to be utilized in organizing this great federal insurance against revolution. Our residential summer schools are now more necessary than ever before. Labor leaders, as well as all other leaders, are desperately needed. We hope that we are developing them. Miss Mary Anderson tells me that the so called Bryn Mawr group has already made for itself a reputation in labor con-[unclear term (8:03-8:08)]. In the Bryn Mawr School, the Bryn Mawr college campus for eight weeks is given every summer. The students sleep in the dormitories, use the gymnasium, swimming pool, athletic field, and the academic buildings and the college library. The professors and the student tutors are all their own for eight weeks to teach them only and to answer their questions. The progress they make, their appreciation of the beauty of the campus and the buildings, the sympathy between them and their professors and student tutors is a constant wonder to all who follow their work.
Our summer school students come from all over the United States, carefully selected by our two hundred workers' education centers in different parts of the United States. Twenty-five of these centers are dining together tonight to hear us over the air. One-half of the summer school students are American-born, one-half foreign born, one-half are unorganized, and one-half belong to labor unions. We try to keep this same proportion, summer after summer. There is absolute freedom of discussion and no propaganda. The value of the education they receive from this contact while there, with each other, with their professors and tutors, in-in the setting of beautiful and quiet lawns and buildings, cannot be overestimated. Whatever may be destroyed in the future, workers so educated will save our schools and colleges. The school managing committee is organized on a fifty-fifty basis: one-half workers or women who have given their time working for and with workers, and one-half college and faculty representatives. I have had to preside over many committee meetings in my life, but I do not remember anything so exciting, so touching, so rewarding as these all-day meetings when the la-lat- 1921 and 1922 we worked out a curriculum of study for workers.
In the Victorian 1880s and '90s, when girls first began to go to college, and in nineteen hundred and twenty, when American women first became citizens with vote, we rejoiced in the possibilities of social betterment. Brought into our national rights by those additions of many women voters as yet uncorrupted politically, but above all we rejoiced because we believed that a splendid, new source of leadership had been tapped. No one who is not an early Victorian can, I believe, appreciate the tremendous change in women's outspoken achievements that have already taken place in only thirteen years. Miss Francis Perkins, our Secretary of Labor, a college woman of great ability, integrity, and experience, standing four-square as she does for justice for labor, is a splendid example of what we may hope for in the immediate future.
As we Victorian women rejoiced in the '80s and '90s over what a few college women may mean, so we rejoice tonight over what it will mean to the United States when millions of men and women workers enter into their heritage of leisure and more educational opportunities under the NRA codes. They form for the children of the United States and to a great extent they too are not yet financially and politically corrupt, and they also will furnish a great untapped source for leaders. If we could only feel assured that in the next generation leaders, or even one great leader - man or woman, industrial or white collared worker, or even a rebel son or daughter of the House of Morgan - could be now being nourished on the knees of the gods, we should feel more courage. Such a leader will have at hand scientific knowledge unknown in ancient civilizations. We now know how to limit our population and how to space our industrial work so as to do away with all unemployment, underfeeding, and starvation. We know how to eliminate the half-witted and the criminal-minded strange which are slowly but surely outnumbering our better stock, and giving many nations moral majorities. We shall then be able to, we shall then be able to have a decent heredity of good education, a comfortable home safeguarded by every hygienic advice, and ample playground for every child born. We shall also be able to give every adult worker limited hours of daily work and opportunities for relaxation and nourishment and for intellectual development throughout life. The new psychology is teaching us how to collect boys and girls of genius and those heaven-sent qualities of personality and imagination that have marked every advance of the human race. We shall then be able to give our embryo leaders the best conditions of development, which is all that they need - their genius will do the rest. But it seems too much to hope that our generation can put through this glorious program. We have been too many; we have too many Victorian, Edwardian, and Georgian inhibitions. Our hands are not clean. We have permitted the Great War, which has killed millions of the youth of the world, but we at least can take now the first comparatively easy steps by giving support to President Roosevelt's code and his other remedial legislation. Through them we can at once give the younger generation a fairer deal than ever before. If we do our part, so the- if we do our part, what-be, in the time that the English-speaking races may perhaps call the Second Elizabethan Age, the next generation may save our western civilizations from their present disintegration, and rebuild for the future a happier and a fairer world.[applause]
Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt will speak to us from the White House in Washington.
My interest in these schools dates back to my first visit to the Bryn Mawr summer school some years ago when my friend Maurine Bickerman was teaching there. I sat with some of the classes and talked to many of the students and was impressed everywhere with the quality of eagerness which brings back [unclear term: might be "the code" (17:23)] to minds which are denied the opportunity of studying certain things and when they find that opportunity within their grasp they at once respond with greater eagerness because their hunger for knowledge and their need for the special kind of knowledge they are attempting to acquire is far greater than that of the average student. [coughs]
Many of us fight the importance of that time, of educating the workers of the nation, but as the years have gone on and particularly in the last few months, we realized that the importance of education for the records of our land is more necessary than ever before. We have talked of a new deal, we are certain to achieve our aim, but only the mouths of our people can successfully bring to fruition the theories which have been formulated in the minds of some of our leaders. The people must understand the aims and the ideals back of these theories. They must do more than that. They must understand what it is in the car which propelled it back. Listen ourselves in human nature as a whole which must be passed down if we are successfully to have a new deal. The workers of our country must know English; they must know the principles of economics; they must know psychology; they must know history; and they must have help in many vocational courses or some people will never gain worth at the thing they worked at before. And some people will need two skills in the future instead of one. All people will need one vocation at least, and many avocations for the measure which must come with the development of the machine can only be utilized youthfully and happily if people have learned avocations as well as their vocation. These are the things which the Affiliated Schools, the summer schools in the colleges of Bryn Mawr, Wisconsin, Barnard, and in the south, Vineyard Haven Shore school at West Park, New York, all of these schools have attempted to achieve these things in adult education. They are now ready to form a path and to give assistance to a very much wider plan which must be carried on if the whole of our adult group that need assistance in education today is to have its needs met.
Thomas Jefferson said, "I know of no safe depository of the utmost powers of the society, but the people themselves, and if we think they're not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretions by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." And because he was a great man, with a very wide vision, these words are still true today. We do not wish to take the power away from the people, but we do wish to give the people the tools so that they may work out their own salvation wisely and well.
The Emergency Relief Administration under Mr. Harry Hopkins has a wide vision of thought emergency relief news. There are thousands of unemployed teachers and other people in other professions who for one reason or another cannot find work at the moment and who could therefore instruct along these various lines. It has been decided to take advantage of this opportunity and under the able direction of [unclear term: might be "Nikota" maybe Miss Hilda? (22:57)] Smith, who has had so much experience as director of the Affiliated Schools for Workers, a new program of work relief and education is being planned. Eighty thousand or more teachers are unemployed and many of the unemployed in every occupation are losing their skill and their self-confidence, and the hardships and sufferings of the present time are breaking down their morale. Therefore, the time has come to launch in every state new programs of adult education. This is an opportunity for teaching vocational work and for comprehensive adult education along many lines. We do not stop to realize sometimes that four million people in this country cannot read or write the English language, and added to everything else, we have the opportunity now to teach the obligations of citizenship in this new social order which depends so largely for its success on the responsibility accepted by each individual worker as a citizen. The schools to which this big relief program will have to turn for experience and guidance in many ways are the schools which you have supported during these past years, and they will need your support again this year, and in the future because there are always new people needing the kind of help which these schools give. And it is not only the students in these schools who will be helpful to the nation, but the teachers trained in teaching adults are going to form the backbone of any new program for adult education. So I'll beg that you will continue to give in every way your support and interest to the Affiliated Schools for Workers' Education. Thank you.
You have just heard Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking from the White House in Washington. Her address was made in connection with a dinner given in New York City by the Affiliated Schools for Workers, in honor of their founder Miss M. Carey Thomas, president emeritus of Bryn Mawr College. The other speakers heard during this broadcast were Miss Thomas and Dean Joseph H. Willits of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. The Affiliated Schools for Workers, an educational project inaugurated at Bryn Mawr in 1921, and later adopted by several other women's colleges, offer to women workers in all parts of the country special summer courses designed to equip them for more intelligent and effective participation in the life of their community. The schools offering these courses are Barnard College, New York City; Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; Vineyard Shore School for women workers in industry, West Park on Hudson, New York; Wisconsin Summer School for workers in industry, University of Wisconsin; and the Southern Summer School for women workers in industry in North Carolina.
This program has come to you from New York City and Washington, D.C.[piano music]
About this document
Speeches at Dinner in Honor of M. Carey Thomas by Affiliated Schools for Workers
October 24, 1933
- National Endowment for the Humanities
Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches is a project and publication of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, Academic Building, Post Hall, Room 312, 2100 Foxhall Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007
Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27
Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library