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A Biography of the Man Who Started the Welfare System

By June Hopkins

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-21206-2
Publisher: St. Martin's

A scholarly biography of one of the great American policy makers and innovators of the 20th century. Hopkins was among the most powerful advisors to Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the New Deal and Second World War. He was in on the creation of some of the boldest experiments in social welfare reform and government assistance to the poor in the nation’s history. And he headed many of the national relief agencies that helped to carry millions of Americans through the Great Depression and left enduring legacies to current social policies. Yet this man, so identified with succor and relief in such American cities as New Orleans, Atlanta, and New York, was a son of small-town Iowa. What propelled him from modest origins to the pinnacle of national influence is the subject of this academic study by his granddaughter. Adding to existing scholarship about the man and the work in which he was for decades so deeply involved, Hopkins (History/Armstrong Atlantic State Univ.) emphasizes her grandfather’s upbringing and education in the world of Grinnell, Iowa, where he also attended its renowned college and drank deep draughts of the Social Gospel and Christian activism. In concentrating on his pre—New Deal social work—the freshest part of her book—Hopkins reveals her ancestor’s openness to new thought and experience and his easy respect for and reliance on women for ideas and guidance. There’s still, however, a whiff of the dissertation about the book; we don’t get as much sense of who this man was, strange when the biographer is also a close family member. Nevertheless, Hopkins’s research adds considerably to the history of modern American welfare policy. (7 b&w photos, not seen)