Cover image for Harry Hopkins : sudden hero, brash reformer
Harry Hopkins : sudden hero, brash reformer
Hopkins, June, 1940-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 271 pages, 6 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
HV28.H66 H66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From 1912 to 1940, social worker Harry Hopkins committed himself to the ideal of government responsibility for impoverished Americans. This look at Hopkins' life and social work career broadens our understanding of the political and cultural currents that led to the Social Security Act of 1935, the bedrock of the American welfare state. Hopkins' experiences as an advocate and administrator of work relief and widows' pensions in New York City during the Progressive Era informed his contribution to welfare legislation during the New Deal years. Written by his granddaughter June Hopkins, this book not only clarifies the emergence of welfare policy but sheds considerable light on the present welfare debate. It also illuminates the life of one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Hopkins' granddaughter, an Armstrong Atlantic State University history professor, draws on the voluminous files maintained by her grandmother (Hopkins' first wife, Ethel) as well as other archival and secondary material in tracing the life that made Hopkins an architect of the New Deal's key welfare-state programs and FDR's closest advisor. What distinguishes this biography from most previous efforts is its attention to the lessons Hopkins learned early: growing up in Iowa, attending Grinnell College, and working as a social worker and administrator of local relief, pension, and public health programs in New York. Author Hopkins' thesis is that there's an important continuity from her subject's Progressive-era activism to his key contributions to the New Deal's effort to recover from the devastation of the Depression. Although Hopkins' ultimate goal--"a guarantee of a regular income, a minimum standard of living, and the dignity of a job for every able-bodied worker" --was never enacted into law, his long career working toward that goal is thoughtfully recounted here. (Reviewed March 1, 1999)0312212062Mary Carroll

Choice Review

Written by Harry Hopkins's granddaughter, this book is a valuable addition to the growing literature about Franklin Roosevelt's controversial relief administrator. The author argues convincingly that Hopkins was one of the most important contributors to the founding of the modern welfare state. The Great Depression confirmed his belief that a rationally planned, permanent public works program, along with federal aid for poor women with dependent children, should be the centerpieces of a plan for economic security. Nevertheless, his goals were not realized. A permanent jobs assurance program was never adopted, nor was Hopkins's particular plan for aid to dependent children. The author believes, however, that the programs for which Hopkins campaigned did establish the principle of federal responsibility for the welfare of Americans. Although she gives brief attention to the CWA, FERA, and the WPA, she focuses on Hopkins's plan for aid to dependent children and how it influenced the drafting of Title IV of the Social Security Act, and this is where she breaks new ground. The author bases her study mainly on primary documents as well as all the pertinent secondary sources. For additional reading, see George McJimsey's Harry Hopkins: Ally of the Poor and Defender of Democracy (CH, Sep'87). Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. E. Marcello University of North Texas

Table of Contents

Hopkins was an important figure who will constantly be reassessed, especially in these days of Social Security reform
June writes about him objectively with an unparalleled access to his papers and personal effect
Family Background: From the Dakotas to Iowa
Hopkins at Christodora Settlement House
Unemployment Relief in New York City
The New York City Charity Scandal
Widows' Pensions
War Welfare and Public Health
The Great Depression and Work Relief
Economic and Social Security