Female Librarians on Horseback Delivering Books, ca. 1930s
In the 1930s, many people living in isolated communities had very little access to jobs, let alone a good education for their children. In Kentucky, they had isolated mountain communities which could only get their books and reading material from one source… librarians on horseback.
President Franklin Roosevelt was trying to figure out a way to resolve the Great Depression of the 1930s. His Works Progress Administration created the Pack Horse Library Initiative to help Americans become more literate so that they’d have a better chance of finding employment.
These librarians would adventure through muddy creeks and snowy hills just to deliver books to the people of these isolated areas.
The horseback librarians were mostly made up of women. They were paid salaries by the Works Progress Administration. The rule was that libraries had to exist in the counties where books would be delivered. Many of the local schools contributed to this effort by donating literature, such as newspapers, magazines, and books.
These adventurous women on horseback would ride as much as 120 miles within a given week, regardless of the terrain or weather conditions. Sometimes, they would have to finish their travels on foot if their destination was in a place too remote and tough for horses to go.
In 1943, the horseback book delivery program had ended because employment skyrocketed during World War II.
These women had to be locally known to people too or else those living in the mountains would not trust them.