Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Anne Treadwell, Director of the California NYA
Above: Anne Treadwell (1905-2002), left, director of the National Youth Administration (NYA) in California from 1935 to 1939. The others in the photograph are (left to right): Mary McLeod Bethune, national director of the NYA's Division of Negro Affairs; Bill Robinson, a famous tap dancer; and Arthur Yale, the NYA supervisor for Los Angeles County. Photo taken in April 1938, provided courtesy of the National Archives.
In 1996, an oral history interview of Anne Treadwell was conducted (her name being Anne Dettner at the time of the interview), and these are some of her recollections of the Great Depression and NYA years:
On the years before the NYA: "the NYA wasn't being talked about at that time... It was generally accepted that people who could not support themselves and their families must suffer from neuroses, health problems, or personality defects."
On Eleanor Roosevelt: "The NYA was a program that was conceived and pushed by Mrs. Roosevelt. She, of course, was fully in favor of the WPA program [during Treadwell's time as director, the NYA was a subdivision of the WPA]. She thought young people have got to have a place in this whole effort of the federal government to get through the Depression. There ought to be a special organization for young people, to understand their needs and work in their behalf. And she remained very much interested in the program through its whole existence."
After turning down a WPA supervisory job: "But then when I got the other call to do the NYA, that was different matter. And of course, I had my headquarters in San Francisco."
Responding to the question, "how did it happen that the youth program was headquartered in San Francisco?": "Because I lived here and nobody asked me to move."
On the effect of the NYA: "[The NYA] was a godsend for young people. I can't tell you the number of people I've met in later life who have told me things like, 'Oh, if it hadn't been for the NYA, I couldn't have gone to school.' Or somebody says, 'I couldn't have had a cello,' who later became a professional musician. So it was really, I think, a very, very worthwhile and satisfying undertaking."
On creating a new NYA and CCC in modern times: "I have thought over and over that we should have a program of that sort during this current period when youngsters are joining gangs and buying guns and all this sort of thing. There was nothing like that in those days. I mean, youngsters didn't feel they were totally abandoned or that nobody gave a thought to what they did with their lives. It seems to me that was an extremely valuable thing... I think they were extremely valuable programs. And I think we should have them in any situation where the social condition is deteriorated."