Dividing Citizens: Gender and Federalism in New Deal Public Policy

By Suzanne Mettler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE The Formation of Unemployment Insurance and Aid to Dependent Children

The present bill before the House of Representatives is one that provides for and attempts to take care of every victim of social and economic security from the time of birth until death. This humane legislation begins with the queen and angel of the home, the mother. Since God could not be everywhere, he created mothers to take His place. . . .

Mr. Chairman, the mother may be the queen of the home, but the father is the breadwinner, the provider, who keeps the home intact. The home is the foundation of all society. Upon it the superstructure of all government must rise. Destroy the home and you destroy the most sacred human institution devised by mankind.

-- RepresentativeWilliam I. Sirovich (D-N.Y.),
Congressional Record, April 16, 1935

The Social Security Act of 1935 included two major programs aimed to assist non-elderly Americans who were deprived of economic security. Based on their assumption that people typically lived in two-parent families supported by male breadwinners, policymakers considered how public policies could assist families in particular circumstances when those arrangements failed to function properly. They planned both Unemployment Insurance to compensate full-time workers for lost wages when they became unemployed and Aid to Dependent Children to provide for mothers and their children when they became deprived of the support of a breadwinner.1

President Roosevelt and officials in the Committee on Economic Security considered their comprehensive proposal for social provision an apt opportunity to further and enhance the development of mothers' pensions. The earlier programs, primarily for widows and children, still enjoyed a fair measure of respect.2 Administration officials believed that ADC, combined

____________________
1
ADC was the precursor to Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
2
Winifred Bell, Aid to Dependent Children ( New York: Cambridge University Press, 1965), pp. 18-19; Ann Shola Orloff, "Gender in Early U.S. Social Policy," Journal of Policy History 3 ( 1991): 249-81.

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