Forgotten Men and Fallen Women

Forgotten Men and Fallen Women: The Cultural Politics of New Deal Narratives

Holly Allen
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 264
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    Forgotten Men and Fallen Women
    Book Description:

    During the Great Depression and into the war years, the Roosevelt administration sought to transform the political, institutional, and social contours of the United States. One result of the New Deal was the emergence and deployment of a novel set of narratives-reflected in social scientific case studies, government documents, and popular media-meant to reorient relationships among gender, race, sexuality, and national political power. InForgotten Men and Fallen Women, Holly Allen focuses on the interplay of popular and official narratives of forgotten manhood, fallen womanhood, and other social and moral archetypes. In doing so, she explores how federal officials used stories of collective civic identity to enlist popular support for the expansive New Deal state and, later, for the war effort.

    These stories, she argues, had practical consequences for federal relief politics. The "forgotten man," identified by Roosevelt in a fireside chat in 1932, for instance, was a compelling figure of collective civic identity and the counterpart to the white, male breadwinner who was the prime beneficiary of New Deal relief programs. He was also associated with women who were blamed either for not supporting their husbands and family at all (owing to laziness, shrewishness, or infidelity) or for supporting them too well by taking their husbands' jobs, rather than staying at home and allowing the men to work.

    During World War II, Allen finds, federal policies and programs continued to be shaped by specific gendered stories-most centrally, the story of the heroic white civilian defender, which animated the Office of Civilian Defense, and the story of the sacrificial Nisei (Japanese-American) soldier, which was used by the War Relocation Authority. The Roosevelt administration's engagement with such widely circulating narratives, Allen concludes, highlights the affective dimensions of U.S. citizenship and state formation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5584-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. “More Terrible than the Sword”: Emotions, Facts, and Gendered New Deal Narratives
    (pp. 1-10)

    In the spring of 1932, more than twenty thousand jobless men converged on Washington, DC, demanding early payment of cash bonuses to which they were entitled as veterans of the Great War.¹ Calling themselves the “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” some accompanied by wives and children, they camped out in Hoovervilles and demonstrated on Capitol grounds while legislators considered the Patman Bonus Bill.² When the Senate failed to pass Bonus legislation in mid-June, some veterans left Washington, but many stayed behind, vowing to continue their protests until their demand for early veterans’ compensation had been met.

    Remarkably, the ranks of Bonus veterans...

  4. Chapter 1 The War to Save the Forgotten Man: Gender, Citizenship, and the Politics of Work Relief
    (pp. 11-48)

    In an Albany radio address in the spring of 1932, Franklin Roosevelt introduced the “forgotten man” into the nation’s political imagination. In a speech on national economic policy, he proclaimed, “These unhappy times call for the building of plans that … put faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” In describing the forgotten man, he referred to the nation’s unemployed, but also to modest farmers, homeowners, and small investors whose buying and saving power was failing due to the “top-down” policies of the Hoover administration. If elected, Roosevelt declared, he would make resolving...

  5. Chapter 2 “Uncle Sam’s Wayside Inns”: Transient Narratives and the Sexual Politics of the Emergent Welfare State
    (pp. 49-67)

    An elderly African American transient graces the cover of the October 19, 1935, edition of theSaturday Evening Post. A road sign for U.S. Route 1 in New York State suggests his journey southward. The hobo’s complacent demeanor and the migratory birds at his sides imply that he does not seek permanent settlement elsewhere, but is rather engaged in a cycle of continuous migration.¹ An ornate signature occupies a bottom corner of the image, informing Post readers that this arresting image is the work of J. C. Leyendecker, a long-timePostillustrator who was well known for his attractive—some...

  6. Chapter 3 “Builder of Men”: Homosociality and the Nationalist Accents of the Civilian Conservation Corps
    (pp. 68-95)

    In 1933, Warner Brothers releasedWild Boys of the Road, William Wellman’s social drama of homeless youth in the Depression.¹ The film’s protagonists, Eddie (Frankie Darro) and Tommy (Edwin Phillips), are working-class youth who take to the road to relieve the financial pressure on their families. The audience first encounters the pair at a high school dance, where Eddie dresses Tommy as a girl to avoid paying admission. Once on the road, the teenagers steal, panhandle, elude law enforcement, and take the law into their own hands, as when an older transient molests a female companion and they throw him...

  7. Chapter 4 “To Wallop the Ladies”: Woman Blaming and Nation Saving in the Rhetoric of Emergency Relief
    (pp. 96-133)

    When Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition opened its gates for a second season on May 27, 1934, select visitors were invited to a gala performance of William Shakespeare’sThe Taming of the Shrew. The play took place in “Merrie England” on a stage modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. One reviewer assured prospective audiences that far from being dry and out of date, this play about a husband who torments his unruly wife was “roaring fun.” Writing for theChicago Tribune, Charles Collins commended Carl Benton Reid’s “burly, vigorous, redblooded” portrayal of Petruchio, as well as actress Jackson Perkin’s “shinkicking …...

  8. Chapter 5 Civilian Protectors and Meddlesome Women: Gendering the War Effort through the Office of Civilian Defense
    (pp. 134-168)

    On June 13, 1942, New Yorkers witnessed what one promoter described as “the greatest parade the United States has ever seen.” The eleven-hour spectacle featured “300 floats, scores of bands, and thousands of flags and banners.” The parade’s prologue, “America Mobilizes,” told the story of the Second World War in a series of spectacular floats. Six marching divisions followed, divided equally between military and civilian units. The parade ended at dusk with a small torchlight pro cession. At scheduled intervals, fighter planes flew overhead, and an air-raid drill briefly halted festivities in the middle of the day.¹

    The parade was...

  9. Chapter 6 The Citizen-Soldier and the Citizen-Internee: Fraternity, Race, and American Nationhood, 1942–46
    (pp. 169-202)

    When an enemy submarine allegedly shelled Goleta, California, in an effort to destroy oil installations there, Japanese Americans were accused of collaborating with the enemy. How else, their accusers reasoned, would the enemy have known that a changeover of the shore battery would leave the installations defenseless that very day? According to one government official, when a sweep of the Japanese community ensued, “Innocent appearing fishermen were found to be reserve officers in the Japanese armed forces.” He added, “It is fair inference that for every person caught, many others have evaded apprehension.” Moving from this particular incident to a...

  10. Stories of Homecoming: Deserving GIs and Faithless Service Wives
    (pp. 203-210)

    As Allied victories in 1943 and 1944 prompted Americans to contemplate the postwar world, narratives and images of the soldier’s homecoming came to the forefront. Some were optimistic, like Norman Rockwell’s illustration on the October 1946Saturday Evening Postcover that featured Willie Gillis as a mature and purposeful veteran-scholar. In this final Gillis illustration (a total of nine others had appeared since 1941), Gillis returns home safely and reaps the educational benefits afforded by the GI Bill. Whereas Rockwell presents a veteran success story, other reconversion texts expressed considerable foreboding. Many Americans feared that demobilization would bring back prewar...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 211-246)
  12. Index
    (pp. 247-257)