Poverty and Unemployment in New York City
During the first two decades of the twentieth century, New York City presented a political arena for energetic social workers faced with a myriad of new problems arising from industrialization and increased immigration. There Harry Hopkins came into contact with politically active progressive reformers. Many of these men and women vociferously blamed the eastern industrialists and financiers for the country’s economic and social ills and called for positive government action to correct an unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity. The echoes here of Midwestern populism must have been unmistakable to Hopkins.1 But unlike the populists, these urban reformers had a comprehensive plan for social action. Reformers such as Lillian Wald, Homer Folks, John Kingsbury, William Matthews, Mary Dewson, Frances Perkins, and now Harry Hopkins were part of a tightly knit, interactive coterie of New York City welfare administrators who were later called upon by President Franklin Roosevelt to implement his New Deal programs.2 They brought from their diverse backgrounds common social, religious, political, and economic precepts that both shaped and reflected progressive values. Their shared experiences working in private and public social welfare agencies in New York City instilled in them a new attitude toward poverty. Blaming poverty on structural defects inherent in a capitalist society, they created preventive rather than ameliorative programs to help the needy.
KeywordsYork City Unemployment Insurance Unemployed Worker Work Relief Unemployment Problem
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