The New York City Charities Controversy
Harry Hopkins’ association with a new breed of professional social workers dedicated to modern methods of providing help for the needy placed him in opposition to many of the ideals held by entrenched and largely religious charitable institutions. He watched from the sidelines but with active interest while a controversy raged across the political landscape of New York City from 1913 to 1916, one that would have a significant impact on both public and private relief agencies. It began with the Mitchel administration, during the height of the Progressive Era. Newly appointed charities commissioner John Kingsbury appointed an Advisory Committee in 1914 to investigate the activities of private child-caring institutions in New York City, which had been receiving public funds. When city investigators working for the committee reported shockingly substandard conditions in many of these institutions and accused the State Board of Charities of not supervising them properly, the governor ordered a state commission headed by Charles Strong to look into the charges. The ensuing Strong Commission hearings polarized the city’s caregivers and led to the publication of defamatory pamphlets, to charges of libel and conspiracy, to wiretaps, and to a criminal indictment against Commissioner John Kingsbury. For Hopkins, this controversy became a living textbook in his postgraduate course in social welfare methodology. Because it clarified a significant number of important issues, this face-off between public and private caregivers did much to influence Hopkins’ belief in public responsibility for relief of the needy.
KeywordsDust Depression Expense Arena Defend
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- 1.This chapter relies heavily on sources in two collections: The John Adams Kingsbury Papers at the Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress (JAKP) and the Tierney Collection, Special Collections, Lauinger Library, Georgetown University, Washington, D. C. (Hereinafter Tierney, GUSC). See also Dorothy Brown and Elizabeth McKeown, “Saving New York’s Children,” U.S. Catholic Historian (Summer, 1995): 77–95, and Brown and McKeown. For a comprehensive study of welfare in New York State, see David M. Schneider and Albert Deutsch, The History of Public Welfare in New York State, 1867–1940 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941).Google Scholar
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