Hard Times in Illinois, 1930–1940
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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January 22, 1934

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Prior to the Social Security Act which became law on August 14, 1935 few Americans were protected by any form of societal safety net. The threats of unemployment, illness, disability, old age, and death were very real but only a handful had the resources to cushion these blows for any sustained period of time. Policemen, firemen, and school teachers were the most likely to have pension plans prescribed by state law. Breadwinners often worked until they died. In some instances, particularly on farms, family cared for those no longer able to work. Life insurance was not unheard of but most frequently it was administered by fraternal associations and payments mainly were used to pay burial expenses. Public charity took the form of the poorhouse or "outdoor" relief. Private charity was the favored course but resources were limited and mostly exhausted by 1934.

The General Assembly had passed and the governor had signed a bill which provided "for the relief of indigent widows and children of deceased World War veterans" on July 14, 1929. A total of $101,804 had been appropriated for this purpose. The circumstances of petitioners were to be investigated but in no instance was a case to be awarded more than $400. This money was long gone in 1934. In his response to this letter the governor's secretary suggested that Mrs. Huber contact her U.S. congressman.

Points to Consider

What was Mrs. Huber asking Governor Horner to do?

Locate Litchfield on a map.

Which war had John Huber probably served in?

Explain Martha Huber's circumstances.

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