Travel Kentucky These Kentucky Librarians Traveled Miles on Horseback to Deliver Books During the Great Depression The "book women" rode 100 to 120 miles a week, on their own horses or mules, no matter the weather or terrain. By Meghan Overdeep Meghan Overdeep Meghan Overdeep has more than a decade of writing and editing experience for top publications. Her expertise extends from weddings and animals to every pop culture moment in between. She has been scouring the Internet for the buzziest Southern news since joining the team in 2017. Southern Living's editorial guidelines Updated on June 4, 2023 Fact checked by Jennifer Hawk Fact checked by Jennifer Hawk Jennifer Hawk is a former English professor with 24 years of experience guiding even the most reluctant through the labyrinths of writing, rhetoric, and research. brand's fact checking process Share Tweet Pin Email In the depths of the Great Depression, groups of librarians known as the "book women" loaded up their horses with books and journeyed deep into the Kentucky mountains to deliver reading material to the state's poorest, most-isolated communities. Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection/Kentucky Digital Library Though long since forgotten, The Pack Horse Library initiative was one of the most unique aspects of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Implemented and managed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) between 1935 and 1943, the program was created to help lift America out of the Great Depression. Even by Kentucky standards, one of hardest hit states, the situation was most dire in Appalachia. According to Smithsonian Magazine, food, education, and economic opportunity were nearly impossible to come by in the remote mountain towns. The national government realized that reading and education were essential parts of the recovery of these communities. Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection/Kentucky Digital Library The Pack Horse Library Project not only distributed books but also provided reading lessons. Sometimes the book women would even read aloud to groups and families. The book women rode 100 to 120 miles a week, on their own horses or mules, no matter the weather or terrain, earning $28 a month. By the end of 1938, there were 274 librarians riding out across 29 counties. By 1943, the project helped employ around 200 people and reached approximately 100,000 residents in rural Kentucky. Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection/Kentucky Digital Library Funding for The Pack Horse Library Project dried up in 1943, the same year the economy rebounded thanks to WWII. While the brave women on horseback are only a memory, the idea of mobile book services was resurrected a decade later in the form of the bookmobile, which remain popular in the area even today. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Boyd DC. The Book Women of Kentucky: The WPA Pack Horse Library Project, 1936-1943. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 2007;42(2):111-128.