Mothers' Aid programs and the professionalization of social work, they created new agencies to which low-wage workers could apply and tended to reduce the stigma of applying for aid. The result was a public relief system that perhaps more closely resembled a "dole" than the British system of unemployment compensation. This fact became painfully evident during the early years of the depression, as relief became the only alternative for millions of unemployed workers. The irony was not lost on Jacob Billikopf, a leader of Philadelphia's private emergency relief organization. Speaking to the National Conference on Social Work in the spring of 1931, Billikopf noted:
If the spirit of irony . . . were hovering over this land, he would find a source of sardonic amusement in the spectacle of a country which for a decade has protested that it did not want unemployment insurance because it was a dole, and which so protests, slowly realizing that under its boasted American methods all that it can offer to those most in need is the real dole of public or private charity. 86
As Billikopf spoke, the issue of federal aid for unemployment relief was moving to the center of the political agenda.