Harry Hopkins: From CSS to F.D.R.‘s New Deal

Harry Hopkins (August 17, 1890 – January 29, 1946), Franklin Delano Roosevelt's most trusted and closest advisor throughout the New Deal and World War Two, got his start as a social worker in 1913 at the employment bureau of the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, one of CSS’s predecessor agencies.  He quickly rose to be supervisor of relief on the Lower East Side.  Hopkins soon realized that unemployment, not personal character, caused dependence on relief (welfare).

Under President Roosevelt, Hopkins headed up the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which employed millions of people during the Great Depression.  He concluded that employment agencies should free themselves “from any association or stigma of charity” and concentrate on assuring the applicant that they have “no interest whatever in his private affairs outside of determining his fitness for the position which he is applying for.”  Still, a recent national poll showed that 24% of respondents felt that the greatest responsibility for the continuing problems of poverty is “too much welfare that prevents initiative.”

1937 photo: As WPA Administrator Harry Hopkins visits Arkansas families displaced by flooding.

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