• June Hopkins
Part of the The World of the Roosevelts book series (WOOROO)


One hot summer day in 1935, federal relief administrator Harry Hopkins presented his plan for alleviating the effects of the Great Depression to a group of shirt-sleeved Iowa farmers, not noted for their liberal ideas. As Hopkins began to describe how government-sponsored jobs on public projects would provide both wages for the unemployed and a stimulus for foundering businesses, a voice shouted out the question that was on everyone’s mind: “Who’s going to pay for all that?” Hopkins, with his characteristic flair for the dramatic, slowly took off his coat and tie, rolled up his sleeves, and looked out at the now-fascinated audience sitting outside on the Iowa University campus. Everyone knew the extent of Hopkins’ influence in Washington. He spoke for the president. “You are,” Hopkins shouted, “and who better? Who can better afford to pay for it? Look at this great university. Look at these fields, these forests and rivers. This is America, the richest country in the world. We can afford to pay for anything we want. And we want a decent life for all the people in this country. And we are going to pay for it.”1 Ever optimistic as to the future of America, even during the dark days of the Great Depression, Hopkins was convinced that there was no good reason “for any American to be destitute, to be illiterate, to be reduced by the bondage of [unemployment and poverty] into either political or economic impotence.”2


York City Great Depression American Worker Decent Life Pension Program 
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  1. 1.
    This incident occurred at University of Iowa when Hopkins announced Hallie Flanagan’s appointment as head of the Federal Theatre Project. Flanagan, who attended Grinnell with Hopkins, declared that he “was never above a certain amount of hokum, and on that occasion he pulled a piece of business that would delight any stage manager.” Joanne Bentley, Hallie Flanagan: A Life in the American Theatre (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), 192.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Harry L. Hopkins, “What Is the American Way?” July 16, 1938, 1, The Harry L. Hopkins Papers, Part IV, 1:52, Special Collections, Lauinger Library, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (Here after Hopkins IV, GUSC).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    John Kingsbury, “Roosevelt and Hopkins, Personal Reminiscences,” 4, John Adams Kingsbury Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. (Hereinafter JAKP), B81: Autobiography.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Gwendolyn Mink, The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State 1917–1942 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995), viii.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Donald S. Howard, The WPA and Federal Relief Policy (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1943), 693.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Robert Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (New York: Harper & Bros., 1948), 14.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Henry Adams, Harry Hopkins (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1977); Searle F. Charles, Minister of Relief: Harry Hopkins and the Depression (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1963); Paul A. Kurzman, Harry Hopkins and the New Deal (Fairlawn, N.J.: R. E. Burdick, 1974); George McJimsey, Harry Hopkins: Ally of the Poor, Defender of Democracy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987); Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins; Matthew B. Wills, Wartime Missions of Harry L. Hopkins (Raleigh, N.C.: Pentland Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    For example, James T. Patterson, America’s Struggle Against Poverty (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986); James Leiby, A History of Social Welfare and Social Work in the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978); Michael B. Katz, Poverty and Policy in American History (New York: Academic Press, 1983) and In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America (New York: Basic Books, 1986); Alan Dawley, Struggles for Justice: Responsibility and the Liberal State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991), 9; Edward Berkowitz and Kim McQuaid, Creating the Welfare State: The Political Economy of 20th Century Reform (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988); Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1992); Linda Gordon, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare, 1890–1935 (New York: Mac-millan, 1994); Mink; Martha Swain, Ellen Woodward: New Advocate for Women (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995); Molly Ladd-Taylor, Mother-Work: Child Welfare and the State, 1890–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); Seth Koven and Sonya Michel, Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of the Welfare State (New York: Routledge, 1993); and Dorothy Brown and Elizabeth McKeown, The Poor Belong to Us: Catholic Charities and American Welfare (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).Google Scholar

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© June Hopkins 1999

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  • June Hopkins

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