An Independent Woman: The Life of Lou Henry Hoover

By Anne Beiser Allen; Jon L. Wakelyn | Go to book overview
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Chapter 13
Shadows Begin to Fall

Like many thoughtful observers of the American economic situation in 1929, Herbert Hoover had anticipated some sort of slump in the overheated stock market, and a corresponding slowdown in the nation's economy. Such things had happened before; in fact, most economists regarded such periodic "corrections" of the system as inevitable. What no one foresaw was how long it would take for this particular economic crisis to end, or how widespread its effects would be.

Black Thursday, when the stock market fell abruptly, dropping the value of securities by a total of $26 billion, set off a descending spiral of wages, prices and production that affected not only the working classes, but many seemingly wealthy people as well. While there were only two actual suicides on Wall Street as a result of the stock market crash, thousands of people saw their life savings evaporate. Many of the Hoovers' friends were among them.

Edgar Rickard, like Hoover, had anticipated the market's downturn and moved his money out of speculative stocks. He was able to keep the Hoovers' money relatively secure, too, although the overall value of their investments, like everyone else's, decreased sharply. Rickard's son-in-law, Rex Mohun, lost $2,500, not all of it his own. The stress of this loss, coupled with the birth of his first child, drove the young man into a nervous breakdown. Rickard was forced to assume fiscal responsibility for his daughter's family, as well as his own.

Sarah L. Arnold, the seventy-year-old retired dean of Simmons College who had succeeded Lou as president of the Girl Scouts in 1925, had invested her meager savings in a company that went under in the wake of the crash. She spent her last years leading a very restricted existence on a farm in New Hampshire, sup

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