Thursday, January 16, 2014

Women and the WPA (part 7 of 10): Preserving our history

Women played an important role in the WPA's historic preservation efforts. While men provided most of the muscle for the physical restoration of structures, women helped (and in many cases led) other types of preservation initiatives.

Above: The caption for this 1938 photo reads, "Mrs. Julia B. Davis, Supervisor of the Historical Records Survey Project of the WPA at the Frederick Douglass Memorial Home, Washington, D.C. is pictured at the right holding the walking stick once used by Abraham Lincoln. This relic was given to Frederick Douglass by Mrs. Lincoln upon the death of the emancipator, and is being recorded by Maurice Champ, as two other WPA workers on the project observe. There is one Supervisor and four other capable WPA employees on this Historical Records Survey project." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and New Deal Network.  

Above: The caption for this photo, taken in New York City, reads, "Supervisor and WPA workers are shown discussing the various colors of silk to be used in the restoration of the historic battle flag before them." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

Above: "WPA workers indexing and preserving census records," in New York City, October 1936. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and New Deal Network

Above: WPA clerical workers in Hagerstown, Maryland, 1937, preparing for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, to be held near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.    

Above: Female WPA artist Vera Bock created this poster in 1936. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

There is always history to preserve, to record, to teach, etc. What a shame, during a period of high unemployment and low workforce participation, Congress fails to connect the dots that New Deal policy-makers connected long ago, offering unemployed women (and men) useful work opportunities in the fields of history and historic preservation. 

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