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WPA Pack Horse Library Project, 1936-43

July 22, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Primary source, Social history

Though Kentucky politicians today and in the past have regularly bemoaned intervention from outside state, women and minorities  benefit from the influx of federal funds.  One of the most interesting projects that the federal government subsidized in Kentucky is the Pack Horse Library Project of the Works Progress Administration. The WPA hired women in Appalachia to deliver books and other reading material to remote mountain schools and homes from 1936-1943.

The usual library extension services in the mountainous region had declined by the 1930s, but the wonderful work of Cora Wilson Stewart and the brave teachers of the Moonlight Schools before World War I had whetted locals’ appetite for literacy. The Pack Horse Library Project eventually reached nearly every resident in the nearly 10,000 square mile region of Appalachian Kentucky. More details about this library project can be found in Donald C. Boyd, “The Book Women of Kentucky: The WPA Pack Horse Library Project,” Libraries & the Cultural Record, Vol. 42, No. 2 (2007): 111-128. You can see some of the wonderful photographs in a project by Angelia Pulley, now a graduate student in UK Library Sciences program. The images and their captions come from the Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection in the Goodman-Paxton papers (PA64M1,Special Collections, University of Kentucky).

Visual Display of Packhorse Librarians in Kentucky - a WPA Project

Packhorse Librarians in Kentucky, 1936-1943

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