Save your child from autocracy and poverty.
Photo: Library of Congress
Digital ID cph 3g03171



Articles concerning the issue of poverty


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  • A Brief History of Government Charity in New York (1603 - 1900)“The first Legislature of the State of New York met at Kingston on September 10, 1777, and the first statute was enacted February 6, 1778. Of the great majority of the laws which have been enacted in this State affecting the administration of charity and the care of the poor, it is possible to give a brief abstract only, referring the student of these questions to the laws themselves for fuller information should such be desired. To facilitate reference, however, especially of those to whom the laws of the State may not be accessible, a few of the more important statutes, such as the general poor laws, are printed in full."
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  • Caring for Paupers in 1881The class which suffers at all our almshouses is the class for whom almshouses are presumed to be maintained, the unfortunate and self-respecting poor. A more horrible existence than a modest woman must endure at very many of our almshouses it is impossible to imagine. She lives amid unclean disorder and constant bickering; she is always hearing oaths and vile talk, the ravings of madmen and the uncouth gibberings of idiots; she is always seeing scarred and blotched faces and distorted limbs, hideous shapes such as one encounters in the narrow streets of Italian towns, but which, here, we hide in our almshouses. She is exposed to a hundred petty wrongs; Mrs. Jens's case, already described, may give the reader an inkling of their nature. Often she is treated with absolute cruelty; in some almshouses she cannot protect herself from the grossest insults.
  • Carrots from California (1939)"How much is stoop labor paid in a day?""Almost everything is piece rate here. A Mex, working ten hours, can make $2 at pulling and tying carrots, but he has to go like hell. In the pea fields it's a penny a pound. A white man is good if he can pick more than two hundred pounds a day. Other wages are about the same.
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  • Disease of Mendicancy (1877)Leprosy is not more incurable than mendicancy. When the disease has once fastened itself upon a man, -- when, through long months or years, he has willingly and gladly lived on the industry of others, and roamed around without a home, -- he becomes a hopeless case, and nothing but the strong arm of the law can make him a self-supporting man.
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  • Family Life Of The Negro In The Small Town-- 1926Even the briefest account of the family life of the Negro must include a consideration of the history back of the present Negro family. This history naturally divides itself into three periods: Africa, slavery, and freedom. While the African period, it must be remembered, does not claim our attention because an unbroken social tradition still affects the present formation of the Negro family -although traces of the African tradition were detected in marriage ceremonies near the opening of the present century —it is necessary to call attention to this period because of subsequent events. In Africa the Negro lived under regulated sex relations which were adapted to his social and physical environment. It was through the destruction in America of these institutionalized sex relations that slavery was able to bring about complete subordination.
  • From the Ground Up: 1936An informal description of demonstration projects of the Resettlement Administration on the West Coast during the Great Depression.
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  • Hamilton-Madison House: Reaching the Hard Core of Poverty...it is the settlement's responsibility to seek out those youngsters and families whose inability to cope with the complexities of urban living makes them chronic problems to the schools, to law-enforcement agencies, to landlords, to their neighbors, and to themselves. These families and individuals are not able to be served by the more structures set up for "the poor", for they can neither conform to clinic or case-work-agency appointment schedules nor travel half way across the city. We are the neighborhood resources that intercedes for them with the courts, the Welfare Department, the Board of Education, or the Health Department, which gives meaning to their lives, which coddles them at times, perhaps, until they are ready to take their place again in a highly competitive society. Our intercession never denies people the right of decision; instead it prepares them to exercise that right as soon as they are able.
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  • Indoor And Outdoor Relief (1890)At what precise time these terms came into use-Indoor Relief and Outdoor Relief--we cannot say; but they sprang up in England long ago, and were used to signify relief given to the public poor inside the parish workhouse, as distinguished from relief given to the same class outside the workhouse. Now, the whole universe could surely be divided into two (very unequal) parts; namely, the inside of the parish workhouse (at Barton-Regis, for instance) and all the rest of the world outside of that little edifice. Consequently, so far as the Guardians of the Poor in that parish were concerned, all aid given to their beneficiaries, except within their workhouse, was technically Outdoor Relief. But, then, they might be supporting insane persons in a county asylum, sick persons in one or more hospitals, blind and deaf persons in special schools, and others of the public poor in other places where they would be subject to restraint and discipline, perhaps as careful as that given in the parish workhouse; and the expense of the support of these different classes might be as strictly under the eye of public officers as if it were paid in the workhouse itself.
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  • Long, HueyAs the Great Depression worsened, Long made impassioned speeches in the Senate charging a few powerful families with hoarding the nation’s wealth. He urged Congress to address the inequality that he believed to be the source of the mass suffering. How was a recovery possible when twelve men owned more wealth than 120 million people?....In 1934 Long unveiled a program of reforms he labeled “Share Our Wealth” designed to redistribute the nation’s wealth more fairly by capping personal fortunes at $50 million (later lowered to $5 - $8 million) and distributing the rest through government programs aimed at providing opportunity and a decent standard of living to all Americans. Long believed the programs he initiated in Louisiana were effective in lifting people out of poverty, and he wanted to implement this philosophy nationally.
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  • Massachusetts Report On Public Charities: 1876There is one class of the poor, however, which constantly increases in numbers and in cost, whether the times are good or bad -- the chronic insane. We have a great number of this class in Massachusetts and it is steadily growing larger. We do not find that recent insanity is any more common than formerly, it may be so, but there is no conclusive evidence. But that the chronic insane are more numerous is self evident, and the proper place and means of providing for them are continually under discussion in our State Board of Charities...
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  • One Means Of Preventing Pauperism (1879)These women and their children, and hundreds more like them, costing the hard-working inhabitants of the State annually thousands of dollars for their maintenance, corrupting those who are thrown into companionship with them, and sowing disease and death among the people, are the direct outcome of our system. The community itself is responsible for the existence of such miserable, wrecked specimens of humanity. These mothers are women who began life as their own children have begun it, inheriting strong passions and weak wills, born and bred in a poorhouse, taught to be wicked before they could speak plain, all the strong evil in their nature strengthened by their surroundings and the weak good crushed and trampled out of life.
  • Over The Hill To The Poor-House (1872)A Poem Written in 1897Over the hill to the poor-house I'm trudgin' my weary way -- I, a woman of seventy, and only a trifle gray -- I, who am smart an' chipper, for all the years I've told, As many another woman that's only half as old.
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  • Pea-Pickers' Child (1935)The death notice in the county paper was not more than two inches in depth but it had, nevertheless, its modest headline: PEA-PICKERS CHILD DIES. Already there had been three deaths in the pea-pickers' camp: a Mexican had been murdered, stabbed; a child had died of burns; a baby had died of what his young mother referred to as "a awful fever in his little stomach." And now the shallow headlines spoke of Zetilla Kane, the seventh child and only daughter of Joe and Jennie Bell Kane.
  • Poor House Conditions: Albany County, New York - 1864In 1824 the New York State legislature enacted the "County Poorhouse Act," a measure that called for one or more poorhouses to be built or established in each county. Thenceforth, all recipients of public assistance were to be sent to that institution. All expenses for building and maintaining the poorhouse(s) and supporting its inmates were to be defrayed by the county out of tax funds. The Act also created a new body of relief officials: County Superintendents of the Poor.
  • Poor Relief and the AlmshouseGradually American reformers hoped to move those they considered the “undeserving poor” into almshouses or poorhouses, if they gave them any help at all. Aid for those who received help at home was called “outdoor relief,” as you did not have to give up your home and independence to move into an institution, which was called “indoor relief.” Settlement was extremely hard for poor people to achieve. Particularly after the great immigration of the mid-nineteenth century, many states raised the number of years a person had to live and pay taxes in one town to as high as seven years to qualify for residence. Women, who were not seen as citizens, could gain settlement only if their husbands or fathers had this record of settlement. Of course, no recent immigrant could achieve such settlement, so they were often denied aid by the Overseers of the Poor, and if they got aid at all, it would be in a poorhouse.
  • Poverty: An Anthropologist's View - 1961This means that we must give money in amounts generous enough to be really constructive, to people who have done nothing to earn or deserve it. This brings us back to the barrier of the relative values prevailing in our society. The necessary generosity will be forthcoming only when our society really accepts the premise that people are deserving simply because they are people; that is, because they are fellow human beings.To be realistic, this acceptance will not develop magically or through appeals to conscience. Power rests in the middle class. And we in the middle class are notoriously anxious and defensive in the presence of people whose way of life is more primitive and violent than our own. We are threatened, and hence our response is rejection, not acceptance.
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  • Social Darwinism and the PoorExtrapolations from Darwinism, with its emphasis on evolutionary progress, offered reason for hope that a new and better social order could emerge from the turbulence. At the same time, by highlighting competition and the survival of the fittest as the drivers of evolution, it seemed to explain both the emergence of the fittest -- fabulously wealthy elites and giant corporations, as well as the unfit -- the masses of poor in the teeming city slums.
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  • Tewksbury Almshouse InvestigationAs can be seen in this excerpt from the Lowell Weekly Sun’s coverage of the Tewksbury investigation, people with disabilities made up a significant proportion of the population of poorhouses. By the 1860s, many states had established institutions to educate deaf, blind, and cognitively disabled children and people deemed temporarily insane. People with other impairments—and especially disabled adults—whose families could not support them had no recourse other than the poorhouse. Moreover, conditions within almshouses often proved disabling or even deadly.
  • The Management Of Almshouses In New EnglandTHE poorhouses of New England are generally called almshouses, and have been since their first establishment, more than two centuries ago; using the old English name which in England is now given to private charitable establishments, while what in New England is called an almshouse is in the mother country termed a workhouse. Like the English "workhouse," our "almshouses" were originally parish establishments, the New England town and parish having formerly been the same jurisdiction, although there may now be fifty parishes in a single large town like Boston.
  • The Plan to End Poverty in California (EPIC)The nomination of an avowed socialist to head the Democratic party ticket was more than the California establishment could tolerate. Sinclair's radical candidacy was opposed by just about every establishment force in California. The media virtually demonized Sinclair through a concerted propaganda campaign based largely on smears and falsehoods. Sinclair's candidacy also set off a bitter political battle both within the Democratic party and with many groups who were opposed to various aspects of the EPIC plan. Sinclair was denounced as a "Red" and "crackpot" and the Democratic establishment sought to derail his candidacy. Despite all of this, Upton Sinclair was very nearly elected Governor of California in 1934.
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  • Women, Settlements and PovertyThis article uses primary source documents from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s to discuss women’s roles in the reconceptualization of poverty in America. It studies the belief drawn from colonial religion that poverty was a result of personal immorality and traces the changing public perception through the turn of the 20th century. The view of poverty that evolved, a conceptualization based in the social research of women settlement house leaders, was one that also considered environmental contributors to individual poverty, thus redefining poverty as a multi-dimensional social problem.