Harry Hopkins pp 149-173 | Cite as

The Great Depression and Work-Relief

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

Abstract

Harry Hopkins seemed to be at the peak of his career in the late 1920s. He ran a prestigious organization, had a national reputation as a social work administrator, and took an active role in shaping standards for his profession. He had worked his way through personal tragedy and, while relations with his family would always remain problematic, he had arranged his private life to suit his public pursuits. Yet he was merely on the threshold of a career about to skyrocket. The Great Depression set the stage for Hopkins to display the talents he had refined during the past fifteen years. The enormity of the disaster forced him to draw on his entire reserve of energy and imagination, yet he never transcended the bounds of “the American Way,” remaining committed to democracy and capitalism. If he did not feel as suspicious of the poor as most Americans did, Hopkins still shared in the general attitude that government handouts without some rather strict rules would enfeeble recipients. The federal programs that Hopkins eventually set up in order to alleviate destitution may have seemed radical to the business elite, but, at least before 1936, they operated within a culturally conservative ideology, emphasizing self-reliance, personal industry, and the sanctity of the traditional American family. Like Roosevelt, Hopkins often spoke in defense of the newly destitute American worker, but his solutions to the economic disaster always fell well within the traditional format for public assistance.

Keywords

Depression Europe Income Tuberculosis Assure 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Kenneth Davis, FDR: The New York Years, 1928–1933 (New York: Random House, 1994), 239.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Bonnie Fox Schwartz, The Civil Works Administration, 1933–1934: The Business of Emergency Employment in the New Deal (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984), 14–16; Schneider and Deutsch, 299; Matthews, Adventures in Giving, 182–198; Barbara Blumberg, The New Deal and the Unemployed: The View From New York City (Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1979), 20–22.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew (New York: Viking Press, 1946), 93.Google Scholar
  4. 24.
    Harry Hopkins, Spending to Save: The Complete Story of Relief (New York: W. W. Norton, 1936), 58–62.Google Scholar
  5. 30.
    Harry Hopkins, “I lived in New York in October of 1929…,” 1–2; Corrington Gill, Wasted Manpower: The Challenge of Unemployment (New York: W. W. Norton, 1939), 148. Hopkins, Spending to Save, 91–95.Google Scholar
  6. 31.
    Herbert F. Powell, “People Still Starve to Death in New York City,” Better Times 14 (March 6, 1933): 4–5, HHP, 7: FERA, FDRL.Google Scholar
  7. 32.
    The Reverend John A. Ryan, “Will the Depression Ever End?” Better Times 14 (March 6, 1933): 8–9, HHP, 7: FERA, FDRL.Google Scholar
  8. 53.
    Josephine Brown, Public Relief, 1929–1939 (New York: Octagon Books, 1971, c. 1940), 184–186.Google Scholar
  9. 57.
    Charles, 46; McJimsey, 56–59; Sherwood refers to Gompers’ 1898 “Day Labor Plan” as Hopkins’ basis for overcoming labor’s objection to work-relief. For more on Gompers’ stance on public works see: “Work, Not Charity,” American Federationist 1 (March 1894): 11–12; Donald L. McMurry, Coxey’s Army: A Study of the Industrial Army Movement of 1894 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1968, originally published 1929); Proceedings of the American Federation of Labor, 1893, 35; Louis Stark, “Labor on Relief and Insurance,” Survey 65 (November 15, 1931): 186–187; “Employment Ideas Started by Labor Men,” Federation News 33 (November 25, 1933): 8; Williams, “The New Deal: A Dead Battery,” 76.Google Scholar
  10. 58.
    Stuart B. Kaufman and Peter J. Albert, The Samuel Gompers Papers, Vol. 3, Unrest and Depression 1891–1894 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 365, 387.Google Scholar
  11. 68.
    Susan Ware has shown how the extensive network that women fashioned for themselves during the early years of the twentieth century played a crucial role in the New Deal, which was never really “a strictly male affair.” Women exerted significant political influence through the Children’s Bureau and the Women’s Bureau, and there is no doubt that Hopkins’ programs “produced important if small steps for women workers.” Susan Ware, Beyond Suffrage: Women in the New Deal (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 1–2, 89–110.Google Scholar

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© June Hopkins 1999

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  • June Hopkins

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