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Great Depression: American Social Policy

One observer pointed out to Franklin D. Roosevelt upon taking office that, given the present crisis, he would be either the worst or greatest president in American history. Roosevelt is said to have responded: “If I fail, I shall be the last one.” By the time Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932, the traditional ideologies and institutions of the United States were in a state of upheavel. Americans who had grown up promoting the ideology of the “deserving and undeserving poor” and the stigma of poor relief were now standing in line for relief.

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Miss Bailey Says

In the depth of the Great Depression, the March 1933 issue of Survey Midmonthly journal carried the first in a series of columns that would continue for a decade. The subject of the columns — Amelia Bailey — “Miss Bailey” to most people — was a 1930s-style virtual-reality public relief supervisor.

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Harry Hopkins and New Deal Policies

The cultural and political currents that shaped American society during the early decades of the twentieth century had a decided effect on the configuration of the American welfare system as it appeared in the 1930s. Social workers, politicians, and reformers carried those currents into the maelstrom of the Great Depression to influence New Deal policy.

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Harry Hopkins and Work Relief During the Great Depression

Harry Hopkins’ New Deal work relief and jobs programs, designed to overcome the economic devastation wrought by the Great Depression during the 1930s, included the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

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The New Deal

On October 29, 1929, the crash of the U.S. stock market—known as “Black Tuesday”—reflected a move toward a worldwide economic crisis. In 1929-1933, unemployment in the U.S. soared from 3 percent of the workforce to 25 percent, while manufacturing output collapsed by one-third.

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Jim Crow Laws and Racial Segregation

Following the end of the Civil War and adoption of the 13th Amendment, many white southerners were dismayed by the prospect of living or working equally with Blacks, whom they considered inferior. In an effort to maintain the status quo, the majority of states and local communities passed “Jim Crow” laws that mandated “separate but equal” status for African Americans.

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Three Notable African American Women in Early Child Welfare

Written by Wilma Peeples-Wilkins, Boston University. “For the most part, social welfare history has focused on efforts to protect dependent and delinquent white immigrant children. Information on the care of African American children has been excluded. Because of racial separation and discrimination, information describing the care of African American children has often been left out. It is important to call special attention to this situation.”

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