Sunday, November 29, 2015

The recollections, and the wise & spirited words of Harry Hopkins - part 1: The CWA Fraternity

(Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

In his book Spending to Save (1936), New Deal administrator Harry Hopkins recalled the Civil Works Administration (CWA, one of the early New Deal programs to offer jobs to the unemployed):

"The speed and volume of the work done that winter [1933-1934] produced a momentum which jolted the community. I believe CWA will stand out even when WPA has become past history, like a precocious child in a family of slower-going but more substantial children. For its special quality of having come and gone so quickly, yet having let loose great forces, both economic and spiritual, it shares certain of the memorable qualities of special events. A fraternity grew up among those who had worked in it, like the fraternity of a dramatic recruiting period...its old officers often recall those few months in which the people of the United States were galvanized to an unprecedented task and accomplished it. American communities had had a taste of what could be accomplished under a government program for the unemployed" (pp. 123-124).

In less than half-a-year, millions of CWA workers built, repaired, or improved 250,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 2,200 miles of sewer lines, 3,700 playgrounds, and much more (see, e.g., Hopkins' book, pp. 120-122).

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