Badass Lady Librarians Rode Hard Miles to Deliver Education and Joy

By Anna Brones for

woman stashes a collection of books and magazines into her saddle bag. She mounts her horse and prepares for the long day, heading off into the Appalachian hills, following creeks and the contours of hillsides. Armed with the power of words, she tackles exhausting days in the saddle, insufferable weather, and impassable routes. All to bring books to her community.

In the wake of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted the Works Progress Administration (WPA), part of the New Deal and an enormous public effort aimed at relieving the economic hardship that had come with the trying times. Employing more than 8.5 million people on 1.4 million public projects, the WPA focused on not just infrastructure, but also arts, culture, and education. It employed people to do everything from building bridges to writing great works of literature to sewing dresses. The endeavor was so large that it led one researcher to write in a report: “An enumeration of all the projects undertaken and completed by the WPA during its lifetime would include almost every type of work imaginable.”

That work also included librarians. But not just any kind of librarian. Librarians on horseback.

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