World War 2 Service on the home front Poster Beer Stein
" WPA US World War II homefront poster. The Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest New Deal agency, employing millions to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing and housing. Almost every community in the United States had a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and Western populations. Expenditures from 1936 to 1939 totaled nearly $7 billion. Created by order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the WPA was funded by Congress with passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935. The legislation had passed in the House of Representatives by a margin of 329 to 78, but was delayed by the Senate. The WPA continued and extended relief programs similar to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which was established by Congress in 1932 during the administration of Roosevelt's predecessor Herbert Hoover. Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. Until ended by Congress and war employment during 1943, the WPA was the largest employer in the country. Most people who needed a job were eligible for at least some of its jobs. Hourly wages were the prevailing wages in each area; the rules said workers could not work more than 30 hours a week, but many projects included months in the field, with workers eating and sleeping on worksites. Before 1940, there was some training involved to teach new skills and the project's original legislation had a strong emphasis on training. About 15% of the household heads on relief were women. Youth programs were operated separately by the National Youth Administration, or NYA. The average worker was about 40 years old (about the same as the average family head on relief). The WPA was consistent with the strong belief of the time that husbands and wives should not both be working (because the second person working would take one job away from a breadwinner.) A study of 2,000 women workers in Philadelphia showed that 90% were married, but wives were reported as living with their husbands in only 18 percent of the cases. Only 2 percent of the husbands had private employment. "All of these [2,000] women," it was reported, "were responsible for from one to five additional people in the household." In rural Missouri 60% of the WPA-employed women were without husbands (12% were single; 25% widowed; and 23% divorced, separated or deserted.) Thus, only 40% were married and living with their husbands, but 59% of the husbands were permanently disabled, 17% were temporarily disabled, 13% were too old to work, and the remaining 10% were either unemployed or handicapped. An average five years had elapsed since the husband's last employment at his regular occupation. Most of the women worked with sewing projects, where they were taught to use sewing machines and made clothing, bedding, and supplies for hospitals, orphanages, and adoption centers. The goal of the WPA was to employ most of the unemployed people on relief until the economy recovered. Harry Hopkins testified to Congress during January 1935 why he set the number at 3.5 million, using Federal Emergency Relief Administration data. Estimating costs at $1200 per worker per year, he asked for and received $4 billion. Many women were employed, but they were few compared to men. Many women were unemployed at this time. During 1940, the WPA changed policy and began vocational educational training of the unemployed to make them available for factory jobs. Previously, labor unions had vetoed any proposal to provide new skills. Unemployment ended with the beginning of war production for World War II, so Congress terminated the WPA during late 1943.