March 17, 2012

The New Deal's 'Explicit Social Conservatism'

The New Deal was "decidedly pro-family," historian Allan Carlson writes.
Some of this emphasis came from the Roman Catholic wing of the old Democratic Party, represented by Father John Ryan of the Catholic University of America. Author of the books, The Living Wage (1910) and Social Reconstruction (1920), Ryan served on the advisory board of the President’s Committee on Economic Security, which crafted the Social Security system. He argued for promotion and defense of the breadwinner/homemaker/child-rich family, as outlined in the 1930 Papal encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.

Part of this pro-family influence also came from the New Deal women called “maternalists”: Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins; Grace Abbott and Katherine Lenroot at the Children’s Bureau; Mary Anderson at the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau; Molly Dewson on the Social Security Board; and Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of FDR and niece of Theodore Roosevelt. These women all favored a family wage for fathers sufficient to support a wife and children in dignity; opposed mothers with dependent children working outside the home; favored mandatory training in homemaking for girls; denounced daycare schemes as assaults on childhood; favored mothers’ pensions for widows; and repeatedly attacked and thwarted the GOP-proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

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