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Widows and Waifs: New York City and the American Way to Welfare, 1913-1916
by June Hopkins, Ph. D.
Associate Professor, Armstrong Atlantic State University
In New York City, during the early decades of the 20th century, progressive reformers made deliberate use of the child-saving impulse to initiate a new welfare methodology. This had a decided impact on the development of America’s welfare system during the 1930s. From about 1913 to 1916, heated debates raged across the state’s charity landscape over two interrelated issues: the New York City subsidy system whereby private child-caring institutions under the supervision of state agencies were supported by city money; and public pensions paid to poor, single mothers so their children could remain at home and out of these institutions. The former, a highly dramatic and well-publicized controversy among the state’s philanthropic community, has been largely ignored by historians. The latter, a dispute over public outdoor relief, took place largely outside of the public’s eye but has recently excited the interest of scholars investigating the roots of welfare in America.1 When the dust settled in 1916, a new approach to poverty and dependence reflected a shift from private to public agencies, from voluntarism to professionalism, from religious to secular, and from institutionalization to home relief. Concern for removing children from public almshouses evolved into a debate over the manner in which private agencies spent public money. Concern for the well-being of dependent children blended into concern for the behavior of dependent mothers.
Social workers brought these welfare initiatives to Washington during the Great Depression. Widows’ pensions became a template for Aid to Dependent Children. An aversion to the subsidy system was manifest in a preference for federal employees over locals in New Deal work programs. Therefore, a clarification of the connections between these debates can increase our understanding of the nature and evolution of the American welfare system. The particular cultural attitudes that animated these debates—a commitment to the work ethic, conflicting ideals of woman’s proper place in society, a national predilection for voluntarism, and a persistent tendency to blame poverty on the individual—remain with us today and invigorated the dismantling of the nation’s welfare system in 1996.
In the early twentieth century, statistical analyses of casework records taken by urban social workers indicated that families became destitute for a variety of reasons: illness, death, desertion, industrial accident, unemployment, insufficient wages. In many cases, poverty forced families to place children in institutions.2 Replacing the family’s income would remedy the situation but private charitable agencies were unable to generate enough donations to meet the growing need of the poor in New York City. Public funds raised by taxation could possibly meet the need. However, New York City had been legally prohibited from using public money to provide outdoor relief since 1874. Ironically, it could and did subsidize private orphan asylums and foster care, under what was known as the New York System. Yet the city was legally barred from giving these funds to a child’s own mother, even though this was known to be a cheaper and more humane system. Many progressive reformers found this situation intolerable.
New York City and the Beginning of Widows’ Pensions
The New York City experience carried special significance because of the sheer size of the problem. The city had both the legal right to support private institutions with public money (which the state did not have) and the legal obligation to remove children from the public almshouses.3 By the end of the nineteenth century there were about 110,000 children in 1200 private orphan asylums in the United States; 23,397 of these children, 21 percent of the national total, were cared for in New York City institutions which received city subsidies amounting to approximately $5 million annually. Moreover, Catholic institutions housed a large majority of these children–almost 16,000–and obviously had a vested interest in the perpetuation of a system that not only had become an entrenched part of the city’s charitable landscape, but provided them with huge sums of money for their charitable work.4
The New York System led to an awkward and potentially adversarial relationship between the city and the state. Those institutions receiving public funds were, of course, supposed to be in compliance with the rules and regulations issued by the New York State Board of Charities, led by Robert W. Hebberd. The New York City Commissioner of Public Charities, John A. Kingsbury, had the responsibility for committing dependent children to private institutions as public charges and authorizing payments to such institutions. Because it was left up to the State Board to certify that the institution complied with its rules and regulations, the city only had to ensure that the child was a proper public ward. However, problems soon arose over the actual supervision of the private orphanages receiving city funds. Because of a lack of investigators, the State Board of Charities had been accepting the institutions’ own affidavits that they were indeed conforming to state standards, a situation reminiscent of the fox watching the henhouse and one which would eventually give rise to enormous dissension.5 This situation eventually led to the demise of the New York System, but only after an extremely divisive and mean-spirited controversy pitted Catholics against non-Catholics, city against state, and professional against voluntary child-savers.
The reform administration of fusion mayor, John Purroy Mitchel, an Irish Catholic, anti-Tammany attorney who held office from 1913 to 1917, played a central role in what soon turned into a municipal morality play. When Mitchel was inaugurated mayor in 1914, he almost immediately sought to ameliorate what he considered substandard conditions in the city’s orphanages. To this end, he appointed Kingsbury as his Commissioner of Public Charities and instructed him to oversee the allocation of the $5 million given each year by the city to private institutions. Mitchel reported that almost immediately there began “a subterranean opposition . . . to obtain undue control over the Department of Public Charities, and failing that, to wreck its administration and the administration of the Mayor.”
Kingsbury was exactly the type of Progressive reformer the Catholics resented. Kingsbury had been General Director of the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (AICP) since 1910 and before that he had been Assistant Secretary of the State Charities Aid Association (SCAA).6 He believed that poverty could be prevented through the modern methods of scientific philanthropy. Stating that “impulsive benevolence is selfish, indolent, indiscriminating and generally produces evil,” Kingsbury wanted to discover and eliminate the causes of poverty, whether illness, irresponsibility, unemployment, or widowhood.7 As far as Kingsbury was concerned, there was no religious issue involved. He insisted that investigating the city’s subsidy system was not meant as an attack on Catholic institutions. He said he believed that they were doing valuable work in the community. Yet a series of events made it impossible to avoid the religious issue.
Despite claims on the part of Mayor Mitchel and Commissioner Kingsbury that they were not “out to get the State Board of Charities” and were only interested in improving the conditions in orphanages,8 evidence indicates that the investigation was launched by the reform administration for political reasons and carried out by social welfare professionals for ideological reasons. Both groups had the same agenda: to end the domination of the Catholics in the charitable arena. For the political reformers, this meant a blow against Tammany Hall; for the social reformers this meant the domination of modern social welfare practices and elimination of any charitable impulse “tainted” by religion. While the reformers protested that no religious bias lay behind their activities, it is indisputable that their targets were mainly Catholic institutions and their supporters. And if their bias had no theological or doctrinal basis, it nevertheless was aimed in the direction of the church.
The Strong Commission
In 1914 Kingsbury appointed an Advisory Committee to inspect the institutions and report back to him. It consisted of Dr. R.R. Reeder, a Protestant and Superintendent of the New York Orphan Asylum at Hastings-on-Hudson, Dr. Ludwig V. Bernstein of the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society, Reverend Brother Barnabas of the New York Catholic Protectory, and, at the helm, William J. Doherty, Second Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Charities and former Secretary of the Catholic Home Bureau. All were opposed to the New York System. The investigations, furthermore, implied that the State Board of Charities, officially responsible for the regulation and certification of private agencies caring for children with public funds, had not been doing its job.9
Kingsbury’s Advisory Committee inspected thirty-eight child-caring institutions receiving public funds and under the supervision of the State Board of Charities and found that twenty-six of them were substandard. Of those institutions placed on the controverted (substandard) list, fourteen were Protestant and twelve were Catholic. Kingsbury’s Final Report cited “serious defects affecting the physical, moral and mental welfare of the inmates of New York City institutions” and noted: “Naturally, when we found on the certified list of the State Board institutions in which the beds were alive with vermin, in which antiquated methods of punishment prevailed, and in which the children were given little else save religious instruction, we found it necessary to decline to commit children to these institutions and to discontinue to accept as reliable the official reports of the Board.” Three days later, on November 18, the governor appointed his old friend, Charles H. Strong, whose credentials included a law degree form Harvard Law School in 1890 and a background of civic and social work in New York City, to head up a commission to investigate the activities of state agencies having to do with charitable institutions and to make recommendations for changes.10
The Strong Commission held hearings in New York City from January 31 to April 24, 1916.11 It immediately faced a barrage of criticism. Catholics, including Monsignor James J. Higgins, Secretary of Brooklyn’s Catholic Charities, accused Mayor Mitchel and Commissioner Kingsbury of writing “fiction” in reporting on the condition of children in institutions, claiming that the Mayor merely sought to improve his own political position by discrediting private religious institutions caring for children. An article in the August 1916 Nativity Mentor asserted that the Strong Commission was out to “get” Board member Hebberd because he believed strongly in the New York System and was outspoken in his opposition to professional philanthropists. The article accused the Strong Commission of bias and partiality and cited political issues behind the appointment of John Kingsbury, “a renegade Jew,” and his deputy , “a thing named Doherty.”12 As the hearings progressed, emotions boiled over and the press gave the combatants ample and often inflammatory coverage, with the New York City papers supporting the administration and the Brooklyn papers supporting the Catholics.13
The hearings outraged those supporters of the New York subsidy system. Father William B. Farrell, a Brooklyn priest who was a vigorous defender of the independence of Catholic charitable institutions, wrote an open letter to the governor charging that bias and prejudice against Catholics and their institutions lay at the bottom of the inquiry. This letter, published on February 16 as a pamphlet entitled “A Public Scandal: Being an Analysis of Men and Motives Underlying the Investigation of the Charitable Institutions”, led to what can only be referred to as an incredibly mean-spirited pamphlet war which lasted from about mid-February to mid-March of 1916. Accusing the Advisory Committee of anti-Catholic bias the pamphlet charged that “the habit of these ‘experts’ in endorsing each other is one of the farcical features and joys of professional philanthropy.” The pamphlet summed up the author’s (and the Catholic) attitude: “The Department of Charities, to gratify its hatred of the State Board, under the advice of the ‘Charity Trust,’ has used the institutions for its own purposes, and the earmarks of conspiracy stick out all over the proceedings. . . The exploitation of Doherty’s Committee, with its abusive and violent descriptive adjectives, is an unseemly farce. The whole thing should come to an immediate end . . .”14 This first pamphlet was quickly followed by several more including “How the Strong Commission discredited Itself,” “Charity For Revenue,” and “Priest Baiting in 1916.” These pamphlets, all lambasting the city investigation and the testimony of the Advisory Committee, were printed by the hundreds and distributed in churches all over the greater metropolitan area.15
There was the expected angry response from the city. Edward Moree, who did publicity work for the SCAA, produced an anonymous, twenty-four page pamphlet consisting of a montage of newspaper headlines and copies of articles, editorials and testimony.16 Especially prominent on the cover of the pamphlet was the headline from the New York Heraldwhich asserted that at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loreto, a Catholic institution on Staten Island, pigs and orphans were fed from the same receptacle. It was wholly untrue. Moree later admitted that this newspaper report was indeed a “misrepresentation of the evidence” but justified his actions by declaring that the pamphlet had already been printed when he found this out and that he did not think it was important enough to worry about. Catholic Charities called the Moree Pamphlet “craven, dishonorable and despicable.”17
Another unfortunate result of the divisiveness of the Strong hearings and a direct outgrowth of the pamphlets was Kingsbury’s request to tap the telephones of three of the Strong Commission witness. It had been the practice of the New York City police to use wiretaps to establish facts in criminal cases, with the consent of the New York Telephone Company. Mitchel and Kingsbury both claimed that “perjury, criminal libel, conspiracy to utter a criminal libel, and conspiracy to obstruct the administration of the law” were being committed.18 Consequently, from March 18 to March 30, 1916, police officers on the wiretapping squad listened in on the telephones of Father Farrell, Daniel C. Potter, and his son, Dean Potter. William Hotchkiss, attorney for the city, then received the transcriptions of the conversations overheard by the officers and used them in his questioning of witnesses during the Strong hearings.19 This led to an indictment against John Kingsbury and his attorney William Hotchkiss for unlawfully and willfully tapping the telephone of Father Farrell. The defense attempted to justify the wiretap on the grounds that both Kingsbury and Hotchkiss had reason to believe that crimes were being committed and that therefore “they were immune from prosecution.”20
Six weeks later, in mid-July, William Doherty appeared before Justice Samuel Greenbaum of the Manhattan Supreme Court and signed a complaint against Father Farrell, Monsignor John J. Dunn, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of New York, Potter, and Hebberd, charging them with crimes against the city, including libel, obstruction of justice, and perjury based on information obtained through the wiretaps. Greenbaum took testimony from the principals to determine if there was sufficient evidence to present to a Grand Jury. Defense counsel argued that the records proved that the phonograms were incomplete and inaccurate.21 22
On July 26, 1916, Kennel, distraught and close to mental and physical collapse, made his way to an office at 50 Church Street, the venue where the wiretapping had taken place, drew his service revolver and shot himself in the chest. The next day, headlines on the front page of The New York Times reported “Shunned, Wire Spy Tries to End Life—crazed by criticism he brought upon himself as a witness in the wiretapping proceedings.” Colleagues reported that he had indeed been devastated by his “botched” testimony in the courtroom, testimony called by the press a “fiasco” which only weakened the city’s case. Rushed to the hospital in critical condition and in extreme pain, the barely conscious Kennel insisted that he had told the truth but could no longer endure “the criticism and the jeers inspired by his failure to prove the accuracy of phonograms.” Even more than his remorse over having brought discredit on the city, he said, “he could not stand the resentment of his coreligionists who snubbed him because he, a Catholic, had taken the stand as a witness against two Catholic priests.”23 The emotional despair that led to Kennel’s attempted suicide points to the vehemence of the controversy which permeated the city’s administration.
The charges against Kingsbury and Hotchkiss were dropped by the Kings County Grand Jury. All charges against Farrell and Hebberd pending in the Manhattan Supreme Court were likewise dropped.24 Judge Greenbaum declared that truth was a defense of libel, that no malicious intent was proved and that, in any case, criticism of public officials rarely could be deemed libel.25 Everyone seemed to be satisfied with the results, except, of course, the unfortunate Detective Kennel.
In late October of 1916, Commissioner Strong issued his long-awaited report. It criticized the effectiveness of the State Board in carrying out its duties and obligations and declared that the “failure on the part of the state Board to demand proper compliance with its advice can only serve to breed disrespect for the State Board.” Remarking that one result of the controversy attendant upon the hearings was “to arouse public interest as never before in the welfare of dependent children,” Strong recommended that a new Bureau for Dependent Children be created within the State Board of Charities in order to select children out of institutions and place them in homes, with the municipality paying for their cost and maintenance.26 Strong made very clear his position on the issue of church and state and clearly stated that “the state must dominate the partnership between it and private institutions, and that “private charity is a public trust and should be amenable to reasonable state supervision.”27 The State Board protested against Strong’s criticisms and claimed that the job of managing and inspecting should fall to the city. It adamantly denied any negligence in the discharge of its responsibilities and appealed to Governor Whitman for recourse “from the unwarranted and often erroneous findings of Commissioner Charles H. Strong.”28
If Kingsbury and Mitchel, of course, felt vindicated, the Catholics had a different reaction. The journal, America, printed an article asserting that the Strong hearings “found Catholic Charities refusing to pay tribute to the modern pagan philanthropy.”29 It also ran an article, written by Robert Hebberd, which stated that the recommendations of the Strong Report would allow for more political manipulation by making the Board “more responsible to dictation from self-seeking representatives of certain private organizations, representative of organized charity which “had completely fallen down in its attempt to provide adequate help for such children.”30 While the Catholics felt that the investigation was fueled by religious bias, Survey, a journal dedicated to modern philanthropic methods and therefore reflecting the feelings of the city and professional social workers, claimed that the charities investigation was not really about public subsidies to private institutions, that it was not a religious issue but rather an issue of whether or not children were better off in institutions or in homes.31
In April of 1917, Senator Ogden Mills introduced a bill to translate into law the recommendations of the Strong Report. Kingsbury called this bill the most important measure to come before the Legislature in the past 25 years and social work professionals lent their wholehearted support. However, by this time the European war monopolized the public’s attention. Welfare professionals who had been embroiled in the controversy complained that “the twenty-three thousand helpless children in private institutions have been forgotten. No organized effort is being made at Albany to see to it that the recommendations made by Commissioner Strong are translated into law. Unless some such effort is made immediately and in earnest, all the work, the sacrifice, the anxiety, the bitter controversy, the public interest, and the official courage which attended the progress of Mr. Strong’s investigation will have proved futile. . . “32 Although the efforts of the social work community did not lead to child welfare legislation in 1916, in the long run they were certainly not futile.
Changes is NYC’s Welfare System
Whatever the true intentions of the progressive reformers, the investigations they instigated, the ensuing trials, the wiretappings, and the pamphlets all combined to foster changes in New York City’s welfare system. The creation of the Children’s Home Bureau and the Children’s Clearing House in late 1916 marked an increased commitment on the part of all of those concerned with the welfare of dependent children—Protestants, Catholic, and Jew—to place them in carefully selected homes. By mid-1917, city authorities were convinced that it was clearly possible to adopt this more progressive method of child-care and that the Children’s Home Bureau was no longer an experiment but a demonstrated success. The city, therefore, took over the work of finding homes for children as part of the recognized activities of the Department of Public Charities and applied scientific methods to ensure that the children received proper care.33 The Catholics also redoubled their efforts at placing-out children from their institutions, making sure that they were placed in approved Catholic homes, heeding the warning of Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York, that they “must not allow our children to be smuggled out of the Church.”34
From 1913 to 1916 another effort on the part of the child savers stirred up the philanthropic community in New York. The widows’ pension movement shared issues and actors with the charities controversy. Although New York City spent millions to support children in institutions, it could not spend public funds to help poor women support their children in their own homes. Reformers in New York City mounted an effort to change this and took a radical step in the direction of public outdoor relief.
The widows’ pension movement and the charities controversy both took place against the background of an austerity budget for New York City. The need for economy impelled John Kingsbury, as New York City’s Commissioner of Public Charities, to make sure that every dollar the city spent, was spent wisely. The campaign to remove children kept in private institutions at city expense undoubtedly served both the economic and political ends of Mitchel’s fusion administration. Nevertheless, the national attention given to the importance of home life and the sanctity of the family added a significant impetus to efforts to deinstitutionalize children.
In 1909 social workers attending the 1909 White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children wholeheartedly endorsed President Theodore Roosevelt’s pronouncement that “home life is the highest and finest product of civilization. . . Children should not be deprived of it except for urgent and compelling reasons.” It concluded that “deserving mothers” should be enabled to raise their children in their own home.35 This pronouncement had the support of those who later ended up on both sides of the charities controversy and on both sides of the debate over public pensions for widows. They all agreed that children could act as the “anchor which holds the woman to a good life,” as old-age insurance for their mothers, and as a natural resource which needed to be conserved.36
Agreeing that children should never be removed from their homes for reasons of poverty alone, progressive reformers began to look for new ways to conserve home life for destitute families. This fit in neatly with Mayor Mitchel’s fiscal policies and with Commissioner Kingsbury’s efforts to deinstitutionalize dependent children. Yet this movement to keep children in their own homes further complicated the relationship between private relief organizations and public officials. Although President Theodore Roosevelt made clear his preference that private charities rather than public agencies should provide assistance to “mothers who are without breadwinners,” many states began to enact legislation allowing governmental authorities to issue funds to needy mothers (called variously mothers’ aid, mothers’ pensions, or widows’ pensions). In 1911 Illinois passed the first state mothers’ pension law, with other states rapidly following suit.
Charity workers had long characterized public outdoor relief as pauperizing, dangerously open to political corruption, placing an unfair burden on the taxpayer, lacking in proper supervisory methods, and discouraging help from relatives, friends and private contributors. They believed that public relief always encouraged “the pernicious notion that the State is bound to support all who demand assistance; a notion which leads to the recipient of relief administered in this way to accept it without gratitude and to use it without discretion. . . Relief acknowledged first as a gift, and gratefully received, is at length demanded defiantly as a right.”37 Furthermore, the widespread perception that public officials were not able or qualified to spend taxpayers’ money in an efficient and wise manner also worked against public outdoor relief. Josephine Shaw Lowell of the New York Charity Organization Society (COS) expressed another objection to public relief: the fact that it was paid out of taxpayers money. “It is not right to take money by law from one man and give it to another,” she declared, “unless for the benefit of both.” She repeated the most common objection to relief in general. “Human nature is so constituted that no man can receive as a gift what he should earn by his own labor without a moral deterioration.”38
Case studies compiled by private charities using new scientific case-study methods, demonstrated that mothers who stayed at home and supervised their children rendered an important social benefit. Children from these families were less liable to turn to a life of crime and more likely to become productive citizens. Private agencies such as the Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor (AICP) recognized the preventive and socially beneficial effect of mothers’ aid and established their own programs for these families. They stressed especially the importance of home life for the child as a way to prevent juvenile delinquency.39 Ironically, when the movement for public pensions for needy widows began to spread across the nation, the Charity Organization Society (COS), an agency strongly in favor of de-institutionalization, actively opposed it. The COS not only regarded this movement as an outright criticism of their methods but also as a threat to their power and funding.40
Support for widows’ pensions (whether public or private) dovetailed into the controversy over public subsidies to sectarian child-caring institutions. If half-orphans could be either removed from these (Catholic) institutions or prevented from entering them by enabling their mothers to care for them at home, they would inevitably lose funding and therefore power and influence. COS leader Edward Devine, probably one of the most outspoken foes of outdoor relief in general, admitted that assisting the families of poor widows might improve conditions for the family but warned that these needy women might be “the least efficient, the least capable, the degenerate, the unfit” and beyond the help of any relief agency, public or private. His argument against widows’ pensions echoed the conservative view of poverty as being predestined and usually the fault of the individual. Devine claimed that single mothers would be capable of supporting themselves and their children if obstacles to women’s work were removed, i.e. low wages, insufficient training, and irregularity of employment. He advocated a “liberal, inexpensive, and safe system of social insurance” as a partial remedy against destitute, fatherless families.41 Arguing that widows’ pensions were based on need and sympathy rather than on any right or fair exchange Devine declared that only organized charity with all of its scientific principles–investigation, casework, the encouragement of self-help–combined with social insurance, institutional relief, and especially personal responsibility for one’s own welfare could solve the problem of family destitution caused by the death of the breadwinner.42 This attitude might today seem incredibly farsighted and liberal, yet lurking beneath these sentiments was a traditional attitude toward dependent women. Devine knew full well that women would not readily find jobs paying a family wage, that social insurance would not cover dependent motherhood, and that self-reliance would never lead to complete economic security in a modern, industrialized nation. COS objections to widows’ pensions epitomized the persistent belief that any form of assistance to the poor without the close moral supervision of friendly visitors would encourage recipients to regard relief as their right, a dangerous principle when the withholding of private charity was so useful as a lever for inducing proper behavior.43
Mary Richmond of the Russell Sage Foundation’s COS, argued that public pensions would lead to women’s exploitation in the labor market because while they often prohibited women from working outside of home, they did not provide adequate support, thus forcing women into low paying homework. In addition, such pensions worked against women who preferred waged work outside the home over domestic duties. Theda Skocpol points out that Richmond’s opposition to widows’ pensions, although ostensibly based on the fear of political corruption attendant upon social spending by a public agency and on the resultant retardation of social insurance and social reform measures, also reflected the wide-spread belief in the pauperizing effect of all public outdoor relief.44 Richmond stated that Civil War veterans “able and anxious to seek their own way had no thought of seeking a government pension until it came to them fourteen years after the war in the overwhelmingly tempting guise of a large check for arrears.” Because no inquiry was made into a veteran’s need, these pensions fostered degeneracy and fraud. Drawing a parallel between this deleterious effect and the pending legislation for widows’ pensions, Richmond, like Divine, supported alternative solutions including social insurance and improved health care.45
Despite strong opposition from private charities, legislation for mothers’ aid spread through the nation like wildfire.46 A unique coalition of middle-class activists, labor leaders*, journalists, juvenile-courts judges, settlement workers, women’s associations, and progressive reformers generated “positive momentum” for mothers’ pensions.47 This powerful coalition behind mothers’ pensions marked what Skocpol called an “exception to the usual reluctance of middle class public opinion during the Progressive Era to countenance public social spending.”48 Those who spoke out strongly for legislation that would allow the state to assist destitute fatherless families in their homes used an appeal based on women’s helplessness and their unique status as mothers to legitimate public outdoor relief. The focus subtly shifted from child-saving to protecting (and controlling) women as mothers.
Most social workers by this time agreed that children should not be removed from their homes and institutionalized merely because of poverty and most agreed that a woman’s primary and most valuable role was as a wife and mother.49 Poor widows trying desperately and unsuccessfully to support their children by working outside of the home presented a particularly appealing needy population. No one could accuse them of being responsible for their poverty unless, of course, they were blatantly immoral. Sexual laxness could always be used as a reason to withhold help. But for the vast majority of poor mothers, their poverty did not arise from unemployment but from the nature of their “employment.” Poor mothers did not lack a job; as far as progressive reformers were concerned their job was raising children. What they lacked was an income from that job. Their alternatives were extremely limited. They could either let someone else care for their children and work, they could find a job that would pay a high enough wage to pay for child care in the home, or they could accept a pension from the state. Child care was almost impossible to come by and expensive; homework did not bring in enough money to support a family. State pensions seemed a logical alternative in light of the failure of private charities to meet the problem.
The issues surrounding widows’ pensions had to do with politics and power and responsibility for the poor. What really defined the argument over mothers’ pensions was the issue of who was responsible for the relief of a dependent population in a complex industrial society and how this relief should be administered. Gender politics certainly played a significant role, both for those who supported and those who opposed state pensions for dependent mothers. In 1915 the normative family consisted of a male breadwinner earning a family wage and a female caretaker concerned with domestic duties. The image of the mother as a powerful nurturing and disciplinary element within the family, held sway on both sides of the debate. Supporters of widows’ pensions, essentially protective legislation for women, used the image of idealized motherhood to advance their agenda for publicly controlled and funded pensions. Opponents of the pensions claimed that they were attempting to preserve the dignity and independence of women. As Roy Lubove pointed out, the issue of whether a public or private agency would administer the pensions became a much more divisive aspect of the discussion than gender politics. The cultural implications of mothers’ pensions thus legitimized public outdoor relief. Its association with deserving motherhood allowed this form of relief to transcend any negative image as a mechanical dole encouraging indolence and vice.50
Opponents to public pensions for widows formed a committee of twenty-two representatives of private relief agencies in New York City and published their findings in a document, most of which was written by Edward Devine, entitled “A Report of an Investigation of Matters Relating to the Care, Treatment and Relief of Dependent Widows with Dependent Children in the City of New York.” The Report stated clearly that children should not be removed from the care of mother for reasons of poverty alone and that adequate relief should be given to needy widows to enable them to care for children in the home. However, it emphasized the need for preventive measures. Dependent widowhood and the consequent institutionalization of their children could be prevented through safer working conditions, social insurance, and vocational training of working-age children. Although the committee recognized the need for an adequate home-relief policy until such recommendations could be instituted, it insisted that the problem had been overstated; they found that in 1912 only 190 children from 100 different families were placed in institutions for reasons of poverty alone. Therefore, they insisted that the need could be addressed through increased cooperation between relief societies and the bureaus of dependent children. It further claimed that “the relief of widows and their children in this city is more nearly adequately performed by the societies now engaged in this task than is any one of the important duties assumed by the municipality or the State in the care of the dependent classes. . .”51
Just after this Report had been produced, Cornelius Bliss, president of the AICP sent a letter to AICP director, Bailey Burritt, reiterating his support of its conclusions. If private charities could not meet the need to keep these destitute families together, the solution was not to relinquish the task to public officials but rather for the private agencies to raise more money. He suggested that one way to do this would be to consolidate the AICP and the COS, with possibly the SCAA and the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) joining in because only through close cooperation between the large charitable societies could the requisite money be raised.52 The fact that he suggested this radical merger indicated how strongly private charities opposed public administration of these pensions.
Supporters of widows’ pensions, discouraged by the repeated failure of various widows’ pension bills to pass the legislature, also produced a report. The New York State Legislature established a fifteen member* fact-finding commission in order to inquire “into the practicability and appropriate method of providing by statute for pensions or other relief for widowed mothers.” Nine months later, the Commission submitted a report which began with the surprising statement, “The normal development of childhood is one of the main functions of government.” The State of New York had the responsibility to conserve the home “whenever factors, other than the improper guardianship of the parents, threaten its destruction.”53
The Commission found that private charities in New York City had been unable to do an adequate job of assisting destitute families “on account of both insufficient funds and an absence of a sympathetic attitude.” The insufficiency of funds could be quantitatively proven. They estimated that more than 2,000 children had been taken away from their mothers and institutionalized for no reason other than poverty. An unsympathetic attitude was more difficult to establish although it was assumed that private charity workers tended to over-investigate and impose their own middle-class cultural norms on these families.54
Recognizing that a comprehensive system of social insurance was not likely to be adopted in the near future, the Commission therefore recommended “a system of direct governmental aid to the widowed mother with children.” Mothers’ aid, it declared, should not be considered an alternative to, but as a necessary and integral part of social insurance. This assistance, given to a unique and wholly deserving class of dependents, was not to be charity but “an indemnity for the earning capacity of the husband, so that the mother may be enabled to bring up her children as they would have been brought up had their father lived and worked for them.” Thus, the Commission considered the pension to be payment for future service to be rendered by the mother so that the children will “become intelligent, industrious, and responsible citizens, that add to the industrial prosperity of the community.”55 Women’s domestic duties were of utmost importance to the social order; a mother’s value in the home far outweighed any value she would have in the labor market.56
Based largely on its observation that private charities had failed in their endeavor to support dependent motherhood, the Commission recommended that the state legislature mandate the establishment of local boards of child welfare which would be enabled (not required) to grant an allowance to widowed mothers with dependent children under sixteen years. This assistance would be given, however, “only when the mothers are suitable persons to bring up their children properly and require aid to do so.” The family would be given $20 per month for the first child and $15 per month for every additional child, with a maximum of $60 per month for any family. This law, the Commission stated would be “democratic, fundamental, conserving, and constructive . . . and an essential part of the social code necessary to advance the welfare of the citizenry of New York.”57
A third report issued in 1914, this one by the AICP revealed the complexity of the issues surrounding the debate over widows’ pensions. The AICP had long recognized the unique problems facing poor single mothers and had been providing them with assistance so that they would not have to place their children in orphanages. Its leadership was convinced that assistance for widows and their children lay legitimately within the purview of private charitable agencies and at first opposed public aid for widowed mothers. However, a close, hard look at the actualities of the relief situation in New York City soon changed their minds.58 Because of the economic downturn in 1915, private agencies were indeed finding it more and more difficult to provide for families that had lost their breadwinners. John Kingsbury wrote to Bailey Burritt that “private relief organizations must raise more funds in order to deal adequately with the widows’ cases. The only alternative to this would be the adoption of a program for the relief of widows by the state. . .” And he did not think that this would be best.59
During 1913 and 1914, Harry Hopkins, a young social worker just hired by the AICP, worked with William Matthews on a project to investigate the best way to provide for poor fatherless families.60 The 1914 AICP Report is important not only because Harry Hopkins, one of the New Deal architects of the American welfare state, helped William Matthews write it, but because it marked an important change in attitude of one of the foremost private charitable institutions in New York City, if not the nation, towards public outdoor relief. The AICP did not express clear opposition to widows’ pension legislation, as did other private relief agencies. The Report emphatically stated that widows with children should be given regular financial assistance “to remove from their lives that constant crushing anxiety that surely deadens hope and aspiration, not only in the mother’s life but that also gradually lays its withering, paralyzing hand on the lives of the children, creating a downward pressure on life. . .”61 The social work community generally agreed that it was virtually impossible for a widowed or deserted mother to work in order to support her children and at the same time to provide a healthful environment for them. If she did attempt this, her health would break down, she would neglect her children, and they would eventually become delinquent, a burden on the state instead of upstanding citizens. This attitude formed the basis for most of the arguments in favor of widows’ pensions. As such, it reinforced the assumption that a mother’s proper duty was to stay at home and raise productive citizens. According to Grace Abbott, mothers’ pensions “constituted public recognition by the states that the contribution of the unskilled or semiskilled mothers in their own homes exceeded their earnings outside of the home and that it was in the public interest to conserve their child-caring function.”62
Hopkins and Matthews both knew that pension was the wrong word to use. Mothers’ aid was not money earned through past service but was merely a replacement of a breadwinner’s wage through public charity. Hopkins, who had administered AICP aid to needy mothers, wrote that he “doubted whether widow’s pensions could be dissociated from the idea of relief” and thus from the stigma attached to it. He believed, however, that if widows’ pensions could be given in the proper spirit, in the same spirit in which social insurance is given, the recipients would avoid this censure to a great degree. “It will always be a fair question as to whether it is relief itself or the methods by which it is administered that encourages dependency and creates pauperism. There is always the danger that in our dread of making people dependent we shall cease to do good for fear of doing harm.”63 Throughout his career Hopkins consistently felt that proper administrative procedures could overcome any stigma attached to public assistance.
The AICP Report concluded that because preventive efforts such as workmen’s compensation and proposed social insurance could only go so far in reducing the number of destitute, fatherless families, many widows with dependent children needed the immediate benefit of public pension. Stronger advocates of widows’ pensions such as Sophie Loeb and William Hard believed that these pensions would have to remain part of the entire system of social insurance, while the AICP felt that any comprehensive plan for social insurance would obviate the need for widows’ pensions. But no matter what position was taken on the issue of private insurance, most agreed that there was an immediate need that private charities could not meet. The AICP estimated that it would need an additional $120,000 annually to provide material relief for all needy fatherless families under its care, money it did not expect to raise.64
The AICP, therefore, passed a resolution to support the pending legislation for public funds for widows’ pensions. Although most other private relief agencies opposed such legislation on the grounds that this was outdoor relief and therefore properly fell within the purview of private agencies, the AICP declared that “it was not opposed to such relief being given by the City of New York, provided the relief be adequate and that it be administered effectively and impartially.”65 This conclusion is especially interesting in light of the fact that Cornelius Bliss, president of the AICP, had recently endorsed the report issued by the group of private agencies opposing widows pensions, a report also signed by John Kingsbury, late of the AICP and now embroiled in the charities controversy.66 Why, then, would this agency come out in favor of public pension legislation? One reason might be that the AICP fully expected to have administrative control over the public program.
Matthews and Hopkins had emphasized that widows and children were especially deserving of help and should not have to undergo the humiliation of excessive investigation.67 They recommended that “women of high grade and of rare tact and sympathy” be hired to look into “the delicate needs of these families,” families that should always be given the benefit of the doubt during the assessment process. These latter administrative policies were identical to those advocated by the coalition supporting public pensions for widows and seem to be an effort on the part of the AICP to indicate that their agency was exceptionally able to carry out this program. On the other hand, the “vigorous and searching investigation” seems to be trying to engage the opponents of widows’ pensions by emphasizing their commitment to scientific charity. This evidence suggests that the AICP was campaigning energetically for administrative control of the widows’ pension program.
A rather complex debate evolved out of this three-tiered controversy: private charities (represented by the COS) almost unanimously opposing the legislation on the basis that public relief would encourage pauperism and only private charities had the expertise to flush out the undeserving; the reform coalition arguing that only public funds could meet the need and that these families had a right to assistance without intrusive and demeaning investigation; and the AICP, one of the largest private charitable agencies, breaking ranks and asserting that it could not meet the financial needs on its own but could administer a widows’ pension program in such a way that, while care would be taken to eliminate the fraudulent application, any needy widow who applied for help would be allowed to retain her dignity.
The legislative battle for widows’ pensions was long and hard-fought. Almost every year since 1897 widows’ pension bills had been introduced to the New York State Legislature. Six bills had failed since 1913. Activist Hannah Einstein, along with journalist Sophie Irene Loeb (both on the New York State Commission), led the fight for this legislation. Einstein referred to it as “a six year’s war–which knew not a day of rest until the struggle closed with victory in our hands.”68 Many social workers from the private sector took an active role and vigorously opposed the widows’ pension program because it would take away a good deal of their own power and control. Despite the strength of the opposition, the bill passed the State Assembly by a vote of 129 to 8 and the State Senate concurred unanimously. On April 7, 1915, Governor Whitman signed the Child Welfare Act and it became effective in July. He stated that “experience has shown that where because of misfortune the widowed mother is compelled to give up her home and her children are provided for by persons who have no natural interest in them, such children are injuriously affected thereby and they do not become as capable as would have been the case if they had remained under the care and control of their real mother.”69
The law, although it was permissive rather than mandatory, did require each city or country to establish a Board of Child Welfare. It included requirements that the sum paid to the child should not exceed the allowance which would have been paid to an institution to support that child; that the widow be “a proper person mentally, morally, and physically;” that the husband had been a citizen at the time of his death and that the family had been in residency for two years. In New York City, Mayor Mitchel appointed Hopkins’ boss and AICP colleague, William Matthews, as chairman of the newly-established Board of Child Welfare (BCW).70 When Matthews was subsequently elected president of the BCW, he accepted the position on the condition that his assistant, Harry Hopkins, be appointed as executive secretary.71
The BCW made every attempt to administer sufficient funds and to preserve the self-respect of the women in receipt of allowances. Yet the hard fact was that in 1915 widows’ pensions were grossly underfunded and the families rarely received enough financial aid to allow the mother to stay home. There was also age-old fear that if these mothers did not show that they were indeed willing to work–either inside or outside the home to help support their children–they might be “welfare chiselers.”72 Nevertheless, as Linda Gordon claimed, the “inadequacy of mothers’ aid should not mask its historical significance as a welfare accomplishment.”73
Widows’ pensions played a significant role in reversing the ban against public outdoor relief. Central to this program was the diminution of scientific charity methods so as to present a sympathetic attitude while at the same time insuring that immoral undeserving women were eliminated from any assistance. It did not seem to matter that the children would suffer from a withdrawal of funds from women found to be unworthy mothers. For the administrators, a wayward child was redeemable–if he or she had proper maternal love and supervision. If a mother strayed, the family was doomed.
Our entrance into World War I no doubt influenced the expansion of governmental activities in areas previously dominated by private enterprise. However, the New York charities controversy and the movement for widows’ pensions both added important foundations for this in the area of child welfare. In a 1917 report, Kingsbury wrote that while we had given generously to the children of Europe who suffered from the war, “our own children have been forgotten. . . You must make the public realize that this is not a religious controversy or a political struggle, but a plain cleat-cut issue affecting the welfare of the City’s children. You men* who understand the issue and have your hearts in it must take the lead in mobilizing against the foes of honest and efficient public charity.” Kingsbury declared that, in the wake of the war, care for dependents “can only be assured by a society as a whole functioning through its agencies of government. The old controversies between public and private philanthropy will be automatically decided by the social necessities.”74
In 1917 Kingsbury made a rather remarkable statement which resonates today as affirmative action. Regarding the recent efforts to humanize the care of dependent children and reiterating the evils of the subsidy system, he declared that the “old fashioned almshouse is rapidly passing away into the obscurity of worn-out institutionalism. The orphan child in the blue gingham dress, her wistful budding personality repressed and cramped into the hard and fast moulds of serfdom will soon, I hope, be no longer visible. . . The child who because of an accident of birth should not be condemned to a life of mediocrity, but should be given a better opportunity than children in normal homes to compensate for their initial handicaps.” And, he stated, “the leadership in developing this ideal has now passed from private philanthropy to agencies of municipal welfare.”75
The demise of the New York System brought about by the charities controversy and the accompanying victory of public outdoor relief in the form of widows’ pensions directed American welfare policy down a new road. The charities scandal clarified the debate and polarized the philanthropic community in such a way that the scientific charity of the COS appeared the wave of the future. Government subsidy of private agencies performing mandated public duties proved to be unworkable. Advocates of widows’ pensions, by supporting public outdoor relief and a new child-centered social policy, valorized home life and maternal care. The traditional reliance on institutionalism ended and placing-out became the accepted strategy of the child-savers. Most importantly, leadership in developing welfare standards passed from private, often sectarian, philanthropy to municipal agencies practicing new and less flexible methods of care giving. Influential New Yorkers (among them Harry Hopkins, President Franklin Roosevelt’s federal relief administrator; Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins; and Lillian Wald, Homer Folks, John Kingsbury, William Matthews, Mary Dewson) absorbed the policy lessons taught by the charities controversy and the fight for widows’ pension. Almost twenty years later, they brought these policies to Washington and applied them to ameliorate the effects of the Great Depression. Hopkins, no doubt remembering the contentiousness caused by the New York subsidy system and seeking to standardize the quality and ensure the effectiveness of his work relief programs, insisted that the WPA projects be run by federal employees, rather than by local social workers.
How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Hopkins, J. (2011). Widows and waifs: New York City and the American way to welfare, 1913-1916. Retrieved [date accessed] from /?p=973.
1 See Linda Gordon, Barbara Nelson, and Theda Skocpol on widows’ pensions. On the charities controversy, see Dorothy Brown and Elizabeth McKeown, “Saving New York’s Children,” U.S. Catholic Historian Summer, 1995): 77-95 and their The Poor Belong to Us: Catholic Charities and American Welfare, Harvard University Press.
2 In 1912 a total of 2,283 children were put into orphan asylums merely because a parent was too poor to take care of them. NYS Archives, Albany, NY. A3106-78, Reel 4, Folder 32, unpaginated. According to Frederick E. Bauer, Superintendent of the Children’s Bureau in Manhattan, for the year 1912 the following number of children in Manhattan were committed to institutions:
3 The Children’s Law of 1875 mandated that all children between the ages of three and sixteen be removed from public almshouses, away from the dangerous influences of adult paupers and criminals, and placed either with families or in institutions exclusively for children. This law also required that “as far as practicable, a child shall be committed to an institution controlled by officers of the same religion as that of the parents of that child.” Charles H. Strong, “Report of Charles H. Strong to Governor Whitman,” October 24, 1916, 10. Tierney Collection, Georgetown University, Lauinger Library, Special Collections. (Hereinafter Tierney GUSC.)
4 “The Strong Report;” Thomas Mulry, “The Government in Charity” 1912; James J. Higgins to Mayor Mitchel, June 2, 1916. Tierney GUSC.
5 James J. Higgins, Letter, June 2, 1916. Tierney GUSC.
6 John Adams Kingsbury Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. (Hereinafter JAKP), A37 Folder: 251 Political; JAKP A1 Folder: AICP 1914-1916.
7 John Adams Kingsbury, “With reference to Family Welfare…” JAKP A30 Folder: 13-3.
8 William Hotchkiss, “Brief on Behalf of the Commissioner of Public Charities of the City of New York,” Tierney GUSC. 6.
9 Reeder, who asserted that New York was the “worst institution ridden state in the US,” had been accused of bigotry by the Catholics. He had claimed that private child-caring institutions “scrambled for children” because of the funds attached to their commitment. Doherty blamed the inadequacies of these institutions not on a lack of money but on “the attitude, spirit and underlying purpose of the institution.” JAKP A18 Folder Publicity 1914-1918; Letter to Kingsbury from AWT, January 7, 1914, JAKP A3a Folder: William J. Doherty 1914-1917; Tierney GUSC “Charities Investigation,” 5′ “Municipal Welfare Work,” Kingsbury speech, probably mid-1917. JAKP A30 Folder: 13-1; “A Study of the Results of Institutional Care,” 4-5, Tierney GUSC; Scrapbook, NY Charities Investigation, Tierney GUSC; Hotchkiss “Brief on Behalf…” 20-23, Tierney GUSC; Moree Pamphlet, 16-18, Tierney GUSC.
10 Letter from Secretary to the Deputy Commissioner to Lester Roth, October 23, 1917. JAKP A18 Folder: Private Child Caring Institutions 1914-1917, K-R. William H. Hotchkiss, “Brief on Behalf of the Commissioner of Public Charities of the city of New York,” 16, Tierney GUSC. “Report of Charles H. Strong to Governor Whitman,” 5-6. Tierney GUSC; Folks denies that he convinced Whitman to appoint Strong as commissioner claiming that he only had “informal conversation” with the Governor during which Strong’s name came up. Homer Folks, “The Strong Investigation and Certain Other Matters,” S.C.A.A. News III (June, 1916): 1, 4-5, 7. It is not clear from the documents whether or not the governor had created the Commission before he received Kingsbury’s report. However, given the time frame it seems likely that he had.
11 The Thompson Committee looking into the wiretap case showed “that there was an effort on the part of certain members of the Catholic hierarchy and certain laymen associated with them to block this investigation.” Outlook (June 17, 1916); “The Strong Investigation and Certain Other Matters,” S.C.A.A. News III (June, 1916): 6.
12 James J. Higgins, “New York Charities Investigation,” 3. Scrapbook, Tierney GUSC; Nativity Mentor XXI (June 1916): 7-8.
13 Doherty testified that he had found “shocking, almost incredible” conditions in state-certified sectarian institutions getting city money. The New York Times (February 2, 1916): 20; The New York Times (February 3, 1916): 20; The New York Times (February 1, 1916):8; The New York Times (February 3, 1916): 20; The New York Times (February 5, 1916): 9; The New York Times (February 6, 1916) VII, 9.
14 Rev. W.B. Farrell, “A Public Scandal,” February 18, 1916, passim. Tierney GUSC.
15 One in particular castigated Kingsbury. A section entitled “The Mayor’s ‘Best Man in the City'” asserted that “no public figure in the history of the city has offered the Catholic element in this community an insult so gratuitous, so outrageous, so contemptible” as to appoint William Doherty to head up the Advisory Committee. It accused Kingsbury of entering office as Commissioner of Public Charities “engaged for and determined to attack Catholic institutions.” In “Priestbaiting in 1916” the author reiterated charges that the investigations were anti-Catholic and ended by accusing the Commission of causing the death of his friend and member of the State Board, Thomas Maurice Mulry, president of Emigrant and Industrial Savings Bank and prominent Catholic layman. William Farrell, S. J., “Priestbaiting in 1916,” 5-10. Tierney GUSC.
16 “Extraction of Minutes of March 14, 1916, Examination of Edward A. Moree,” 6845. Tierney GUSC. “Dismissal of Charges Against Respective Defendants of Wrongfully Obtaining Knowledge of Telephonic Messages, of Conspiracy in Perverting and Obstructing Justice, of Criminal Libel and Perjury,” 3. JAKP A16 Folder: Indictment 1917.
17 “Extraction of Minutes of March 14, 1916, Examination of Edward A. Moree,” 6278, 6735. Tierney GUSC. The Brooklyn Eagle (March 23 1916): 1. Catholic Charities and the Strong Commission,” America XV (May 6, 1916): 77. Even Homer Folks admitted that not all the headlines in the pamphlet were correct representations of conditions at institutions. Homer Folks, “The Strong Investigation and Certain Other Matters,” S.C.A.A. News III (June, 1916): 6.
18 Folks, “The Strong Investigation,” 6-7.
19 “Hotchkiss Deposition,” JAKP A16 Folder: Indictment 1917, 4-11. Nativity Mentor XXI (August 1916): 7. The New York City Police had earlier been charged with illegally using wiretaps to listen in on conversations of the Allied Printing Trades Council to determine dates of planned strikes. The Brooklyn Eagle (July 25, 1916). Tierney GUSC.
20 S.C.A.A. News (June 16, 1916) Tierney GUSC. The New York Times (July 13, 1916): 17.
21 The Brooklyn Standard, (July 18, 1916): 1. Tierney GUSC. “Examination of W. H. H.,” JAKP A11 Folder: State Board of Charities L-Z 1914-1917.
22 In one phonogram, an overheard conversation made reference to “his eminence” which was transcribed as “an ambulance.” On July 19, 1916, 105 phonograms were read into the record in an “exceedingly tedious and tiresome” portion of the testimony. In fact, the testimony was so boring that, as a Brooklyn paper reported, Potter fell asleep. The Brooklyn Eagle (July 19, 1916). The Brooklyn Eagle (July 24, 1916); New York Evening World (July 24, 1916); The Brooklyn Eagle (July 25, 1916). Tierney GUSC.
23 The New York Times (July 27, 1916): 1. The Brooklyn Eagle (July 20, 1916): 1; The New York American (July 20, 1916): 1; The New York Evening World (July 20, 1916): 1; The Daily Times (July 20, 1916: 1.
24 Daniel Potter, who had been accused of trying to leave the state to avoid a subpoena, had died earlier, “removed by the hand of death from all earthly jurisdictions” according to Justice Greenbaum” Dismissal of Charges. . .” State Charities Aid Association Press Release, undated. JAKP A16 Folder: Indictment 1917.
25 “Dismissal of Charges Against Respective Defendants …,” 1, 7-8. JAKP A16 Folder: Indictment 1917.
26 “The Strong Report,” 31-32, 82-87, 97. Box 321, Tierney GUSC
27 “The Strong Report,” 126, 134.
28 “The Answer to the Strong Report,” December 13, 1916, 1-2, 12, 22, 65-66, 78, 84, 90, 98-99. Box 321, Tierney GUSC.
29 “Catholic Charities and the Strong Commission,” XV (May 6, 1916): 77-79.
30 Robert W. Hebberd, “The Charities Investigation: Its Inspiration,” America XV (May 13, 1916): 101-102.
31 Survey (April 8, 1916. JAKP A11 Folder” State Board of Charities A-K 1914-1917.
32 John A. Kingsbury, Charities Bulletin I (April 1917):. JAKP A12 Folder: Strong Legislation and Report 1917 A-K. “What of the Strong Report?” JAKP A12 Folder: Strong Legislation and Report 1917 A-k.
33 Doherty reported that this signaled “a new chapter, brimful of progressiveness, added to the history of the development of publicly administered charities in the City of New York.” “Memorandum of Suggested Division of Child-Placing in the Department of Public Charity,” 1917. JAKP A2 Folder: Children’s Home Bureau, 1917 Prospectus; John Daniels, Director, “The New Children’s Home Bureau, Special Report to the Advisor Committee, Meeting, November 23, 1916,” 13-16. JAKP A2 Folder: Children’s Home Bureau, Advisory Board; William Doherty, “Brief Report of the Second Deputy Commissioner concerning the Work of the Children’s Home Bureau,” 1-2, JAKP, A2 Folder: Children’s Home Bureau Advisory Board 1916; “Resume of the Progress of the Work During the Four Month Period (July 1 to October 31, 1917,” JAKP A2 Folder: Children’s Home Bureau Advisory Board 1916.
34 John Cardinal Farley, Pastoral Letter February 2, 1917, Tierney GUSC.
35 Proceedings of the Conference on the Care of Dependent Children Held at Washington, D.C., January, 25, 1909 (Washington: Government Printing Office, Doc. No. 721.5400), 5.
36 Proceedings of the Conference on the Care of Dependent Children, 44, 91.
37 Grace Abbott, The Child and the State: Vol. II, The Dependent and Delinquent Child (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968, first published 1938), 231; Proceedings of the Conference of Charities 1877, 48-49, 51.
38 Josephine Shaw Lowell, Proceedings National Conference of Charities and Corrections, 1888, 147. Lowell, the first woman appointed to the New York State Board of Charities (in 1876), formed the COS in 1882.
39 Mrs. Louise Wolcott, Proceedings National Conference of Charities and Corrections, 1888, 137-138.
40 Mark Leff, “Consensus for Reform: The Mothers’-Pension Movement in the Progressive Era,” Social Service Review 47 (September 1973): 402.
41 Edward T. Devine, “Widows’ Needs,” Survey 32 (April 4, 1914): 27.
42 Edward Devine, “Pensions for Mothers,” American Labor Legislation Review (June, 1913), in Bullock, 176-81.
43 Robert Bremner, “Origins of the COS,” in Roy Lubove, ed., Poverty and Social Welfare in the United States, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972), 39-40. Devine, “Pensions for Mothers,” in Bullock, 182-183.
44 Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origin of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1992), 426. Mary E. Richmond, “Motherhood and Pensions, ” Survey, 22 (March 1, 1913): 775-778. Roy Lubove, The Struggle for Social Security, 102.
45 Richmond, “Motherhood and Pensions,” 776-779.
46 “Wildfire Spread of ‘Widows’ Pensions – Its Start — Its Meaning – And Its Cost,” Everybody’s Magazine (June 1915), in Bullock, 87.
47 Leff, 402-407; Skocpol, 427.
48 Skocpol, 465.
49 According to Linda Gordon, this maternalist discourse implied and reinforced the subordination of poor women while at the same time carving out a space in the public sphere for middle-class reforming women. Many of these reformers saw day nurseries, an alternative which would allow some women to earn enough money to support their families or to supplement their pension, as merely undermining women’s domestic role. Gordon, Pitied, 23, 27, 55. See also Michel, “Limits of Maternalism,” 227-280.
50 Lubove, Struggle for Social Security, 102. See also Trattner, From Poor Law to Welfare State, 85.
51 The Report was signed by Frank Tucker, vice-president of the Provident Loan Society; Cornelius N. Bliss, Jr., president the AICP; Edward T. Devine, director New York School of Philanthropy; Lee K. Frankel sixth vice-president of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and former manager United Hebrew Charities; Homer Folks, secretary of the State Charities Aid Association; Arthur M. Howe, on the editorial Staff of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle; Michael J. Scanlan, treasurer of the Superior Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; Henry R. Seager, professor of political economy at Columbia University and president of AALL; Gaylord S. White, headworker Union Settlement; and John Kingsbury. Survey 32 (April 4, 1914): 2.
52 Cornelius N. Bliss, Jr. to Bailey Burritt, February 26, 1914. JAKP A4 Folder BCW M-Z. While the AICP and COS did eventually merge, forming the Community Service Society, this did not happen until 1939. See Lillian Brandt, Growth and Development of the AICP and the COS.
53 State of New York, Report, 1. The Commission was formed June 1913 and the Report was submitted to the New York state legislature March 27, 1914. Witnesses included Dr. Edward Devine, John Kingsbury, Homer Folks, Mary Richmond, Porter Lee, Mary Simkhowitch, Rabbi Stephen Wise, Mary Van Kleeck, Frank Persons, and Frank Bruno. See also, Survey 32 (April 4, 1914): 1. Although somewhat radical, this statement of government responsibility for children was not unprecedented. At the 1898 National Conference of Charities and Corrections, Hugh Fox quoted the New Jersey Constitution which declared that “Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people.” He added, “It is a wide departure from the Laissez Faire doctrine of the old economists.” Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections 1898, 2.
54 State of New York, Report, 17-21. Witnesses included Dr. Edward Devine, John Kingsbury, Homer Folks, Mary Richmond, Porter Lee, Mary Simkhowitch, Rabbi Stephen Wise, Mary Van Kleeck, Frank Persons, and Frank Bruno. See also, Survey 32 (April 4, 1914): 1.
55 State of New York, Report, 10, 17-20.
56 State of New York, Report, 8.
57 State of New York, Report, 10-13, 182.
58 Correspondence between John Kingsbury and Ansley Wilcox (Secretary of NYS Commission on the Relief of Widowed Mothers), November and December 1914. JAKP, A4: BCW M-Z.
59 John A. Kingsbury to Bailey Burritt, April 8, 1914. JAKP. A4: Board of Child Welfare 1914-1916 M-Z.
60 Letter from Bailey B. Burritt, General Director of AICP, to Edwin P. Maynard., November 8, 1915. Hopkins III, 1:14, GUSC.
61 AICP “Report 1914,” 1-2.
62 Abbott, 229. The pensions paid to poor mothers, however, was never enough to keep them out of the workforce.
63 AICP “Report 1914,” 4, 7.
64 AICP “Report 1914,” 35, 37.
65 Brandt, 197. “RESOLVED… ” JAKP A4:Bureau of Child Welfare M-Z.
66 Brandt, 196.
67 AICP “Report 1914,” 32. As early as 1889, The AICP declared its intention to use aid as a lever. See Francis S. Longworth, “Report of the General Agent,” Forty-Sixth Annual Report of the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, (New York, 1889), 24. “AICP Report 1914,” 32.
68 Hannah B. Einstein, “Child Welfare Work and State Allowance for Widowed Mothers,” Address delivered to the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, Rochester, New York, November 16, 1916, p.1. See also Notable American Women, 1607-1950, 416.
69 The Governor, with unanimous support of the Assembly, made special mention of the women who worked so hard for the passage of the bill: Mrs. William R. Hearst, Mrs. William Grant Brown, Mrs. William Einstein, Mrs. Samuel Koenig, and Sophie Irene Loeb. Supporters of the bill proclaimed that the “overwhelming vote, in view of political opposition, showed conclusively that public sentiment was strongly behind the policy of widows’ pensions, and that the Legislators refused to bring party politics into its considerations.” Harry Hopkins, “The First Annual Report of the Board of Child Welfare of the City of New York, October 1, 1915 to October 1, 1916,” 3-4. Hopkins III, 1:14, GUSC.
70 The Board consisted of Reverend William A. Courtney (a Catholic), Mrs. Rogers H. Bacon, Hannah Einstein, Michael Furst, Mrs. J. Borden Harriman, John A. Kingsbury, Sophie Irene Loeb, and Edward P. Maynard. See BCW “First Annual Report.”
71 Hopkins’ Résumé, November 15, 1915. Hopkins III, 1:14, GUSC. Matthews, 121-122.
72 Ladd-Taylor, Mother-Work, 150.
73 Gordon, Pitied, 38.
74 John Kingsbury, “New York City as Foster Mother,” 20. A30 Folder 13-1.
75 John Kingsbury, “Municipal Welfare Work,” 20-21. JAKP A30 Folder: 13-1.