Freedom First

The Hoovers & Public Service

Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover, 1932. Berton W. Crandall Photographs, Hoover Institution Archives

Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover, 1932. Berton W. Crandall Photographs, Hoover Institution Archives

“Within the soul of America is freedom of mind and spirit in man. Here alone are the open windows through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit. Here alone is human dignity not a dream, but an accomplishment.”

– Herbert Hoover, “The Meaning of America” speech, August 10, 1948

The Cornerstone of Prosperity poster by Ino Cassel, 1921. Poster Collection, US 1844, Hoover Institution Archives

The Cornerstone of Prosperity poster by Ino Cassel, 1921. Poster Collection, US 1844, Hoover Institution Archives

Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover were always thankful for the extraordinary opportunities afforded them by the American way of life. This gratitude deepened the couple’s commitment to giving back to their country and community in the form of public service.

Food Administrator Herbert Hoover by Underwood & Underwood, 1917/18. Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Herbert Hoover’s preeminence in relief work led to a career in government, with eight years as the nation’s secretary of commerce and four years as president of the United States. Lou Henry Hoover’s dedication to public service also brought her national attention, especially during her time as First Lady, when she made effective use of her position on behalf of various of causes, becoming the first First Lady to give public addresses over the radio.

Lou Henry Hoover and girl scouts giving a radio address, n.d. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

The Hoovers were particularly devoted to ensuring equal opportunities for children, supporting the Girl Scouts, Boys Clubs, and the National Amateur Athletics Federation–Women’s Division. Their commitment to children’s rights also led to the landmark White House Conference on the Health and Protection of Children (1930) and Herbert Hoover’s drafting of the Child’s Bill of Rights (1931).

Photograph of Herbert Hoover's Boys Club of America keyring and keys (found with him upon his death in 1964). From the Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, at the Hoover Institution Archives

Herbert Hoover's Boys Clubs of America keyring and keys (found with him upon his death in 1964). Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Herbert Hoover's Boys Clubs of America keyring and keys (found with him upon his death in 1964). Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Photograph of Food Administrator Herbert Hoover  by Underwood & Underwood, 1917/18. From the Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, at the Hoover Institution Archives

Food Administrator Herbert Hoover by Underwood & Underwood, 1917/18. Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Food Administrator Herbert Hoover by Underwood & Underwood, 1917/18. Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Photograph of Lou Henry Hoover and girl scouts giving a radio address, n.d. From the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum

Lou Henry Hoover and girl scouts giving a radio address, n.d. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

Lou Henry Hoover and girl scouts giving a radio address, n.d. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

Championing Liberty

Herbert Hoover

Official Program of Inaugural Ceremonies (for President Herbert Hoover and VP Charles Curtis), March 4, 1929. Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Official Program of Inaugural Ceremonies (for President Herbert Hoover and VP Charles Curtis), March 4, 1929. Herbert Hoover Subject Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Considered a humane reformer with an idealistic vision of America, Herbert Hoover was, at various times in his life, both the most highly regarded American of his generation for his humanitarian work and vilified for the Great Depression, which began during his presidency. Yet he never wavered in his support of policies that he believed would ensure freedom and American individualism.

Herbert Hoover presidential campaign pins, circa 1928. Thomas Williams Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Herbert Hoover’s most ardent initiatives in later years grew out of his commitment to resisting collectivist policies and fighting communism. Hoover expounded on his ideas for preserving the American way of life through his countless public addresses and publications and his several memoirs, including the posthumously published The Crusade Years and Freedom Betrayed.

Herbert Hoover presidential campaign pins, circa 1928. Thomas Williams Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Herbert Hoover presidential campaign pins, circa 1928. Thomas Williams Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Cover of the book Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath by Herbert Hoover, edited by George Nash, published 2011 by Hoover Press

Hoover Press publication, 2011

Hoover Press publication, 2011

Cover of the book The Crusade Years, 1933–1955: Herbert Hoover’s Lost Memoir of the New Deal Era and Its Aftermath by Herbert Hoover, edited by George Nash, published by Hoover Press in 2013

Hoover Press publication, 2013

Hoover Press publication, 2013

Cover of the book The Crusade Years, 1933–1955: Herbert Hoover’s Lost Memoir of the New Deal Era and Its Aftermath by Herbert Hoover, edited by George Nash, published by Hoover Press in 2013

Hoover Press publication, 2013

Hoover Press publication, 2013

Memoir Drafts from the Herbert Hoover Papers at the Hoover Institution Archives

The Girl Scouts

Lou Henry Hoover

Christmas card from Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover, 1937. Thomas Williams Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Christmas card from Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover, 1937. Thomas Williams Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Lou Henry Hoover believed the Girl Scouts of America gave girls of all backgrounds the training to develop a wide range of skills to prepare them for adult life, including physical fitness, for which she was a strong advocate.

Lou Henry Hoover in Girl Scout uniform, March 1936. Berton W. Crandall Photographs, Hoover Institution Archives

Her dedication to the organization began after World War I and continued throughout her life. Whether as the national president or as a campfire speaker to local troops, she remained closely involved in the activities of the organization.

Photograph of Lou Henry Hoover (seated in front of tree) with Girl Scout troop, Camp Procter, Ohio, by Nancy Ford Cones, July 28, 1922. From the American Pictorial Collection, at the Hoover Institution Archives

Lou Henry Hoover (seated in front of tree) with Girl Scout troop, Camp Procter, Ohio, by Nancy Ford Cones, July 28, 1922. American Pictorial Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Lou Henry Hoover (seated in front of tree) with Girl Scout troop, Camp Procter, Ohio, by Nancy Ford Cones, July 28, 1922. American Pictorial Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Lou Henry Hoover served as the president of the Girl Scouts of America from 1922 to 1925, while her husband was secretary of commerce. After Herbert Hoover served as president of the United States, she resumed her leadership of the Girl Scouts from 1935 to 1937. It was during her second term that the Girl Scouts leadership approved a national plan to bake and sell cookies in support of scouting, a tradition that continues to this day.

Letter from Lou Henry Hoover to Alice Conway, September 25, 1934.  From the Alice Conway Letters Received, at the Hoover Institution Archives

Letter from Lou Henry Hoover to Alice Conway, September 25, 1934. Alice Conway Letters Received, Hoover Institution Archives

Letter from Lou Henry Hoover to Alice Conway, September 25, 1934. Alice Conway Letters Received, Hoover Institution Archives

Photograph of Lou Henry Hoover in Girl Scout uniform, March 1936.  From the Berton W. Crandall Photographs, at the Hoover Institution Archives

Lou Henry Hoover in Girl Scout uniform, March 1936. Berton W. Crandall Photographs, Hoover Institution Archives

Lou Henry Hoover in Girl Scout uniform, March 1936. Berton W. Crandall Photographs, Hoover Institution Archives

American Individualism

Herbert Hoover & the ARA

Herbert Hoover was chairman of the American Relief Administration (ARA), initially a US government agency formed in 1919 and charged with distributing food in Europe. He converted the ARA into a quasi-private relief organization, and over the next several years—often working in conjunction with other private American relief organizations—it would distribute several hundred million dollars in food and medicine to twenty-two countries in Europe and the Near East.

ARA Food Drafts placard, 1921. American Relief Administration Russian Operational Records, Hoover Institution Archives

ARA Food Drafts placard, 1921. American Relief Administration Russian Operational Records, Hoover Institution Archives

ARA Children's Relief Fund poster by Roska, circa 1918. Poster Collection, US 3236, Hoover Institution Archives

American aid was inspired by a combination of interrelated motives, from pure humanitarianism to the promotion of US economic interests. An essential goal to the aid program was, as Hoover phrased it, “to stem the tide of Bolshevism.” The Bolsheviks had come to power in Russia in 1917, and in the aftermath of the First World War Bolshevik ideology was threatening to gain a foothold in Europe. One common perception of the day was that the cure for the “disease of bolshevism” was food, and the United States was the only country capable of delivering it.

Photograph of a poster [From America to Starving Russia] poster by Larionov. From the Poster Collection,  RU/SU 1213, at the Hoover Institution Archives

[From America to Starving Russia] poster by Larionov, circa 1921. Poster Collection, RU/SU 1213, Hoover Institution Archives

[From America to Starving Russia] poster by Larionov, circa 1921. Poster Collection, RU/SU 1213, Hoover Institution Archives

The ARA’s largest undertaking was its final operation: a two-year rescue mission to Soviet Russia to fight the Great Famine of 1921–23. It was at that time that Hoover, who was then serving as secretary of commerce, published a book of reflections on the American national identity. Hoover’s book made a case for what today would be called American exceptionalism. At its core was the notion that individualism was a uniquely American quality, far superior to the collectivist alternatives, notably the communist experiment then under way in the Soviet Union. “In Russia under the new tyranny,” Hoover wrote, “a group, in pursuit of social theories, have destroyed the primary self-interest impulse of the individual to production.” In American Individualism (1922), Hoover maintained that the individualist spirit of the American people, together with equality of opportunity, would ensure progress and prosperity.

Cover of the book American Individualism by Herbert Hoover, edited by George H. Nash, published by Hoover Press in 2016

Hoover Press publication, 2016

Hoover Press publication, 2016

ARA Children's Relief Fund poster by Roska, circa 1918. Poster Collection, US 3236, Hoover Institution Archives

ARA Children's Relief Fund poster by Roska, circa 1918. Poster Collection, US 3236, Hoover Institution Archives


The Hoover Institution Library & Archives wishes to receive notifications of alleged copyright infringement on this website. If you are a rights holder and believe that our inclusion of certain material on this website violates your rights, please contact:  https://www.hoover.org/library-archives/collections/get-help/rights-and-permissions

© 2020 by the Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University.