An open letter to President-elect Barack Obama, initiated by several historians specializing in the New Deal, urges Obama to avoid the discriminatory components of Franklin Roosevelt’s programs in designing a stimulus package to address the current economic crisis. The letter has collected more than a thousand signatures from scholars of American history.
Noting that today’s stimulus package may focus heavily on construction to address the nation’s crumbling material infrastructure, the historians point out that American social infrastructure is crumbling just as badly. They call for jobs in education, health care, child and elder care, and point out that green and sustainable energy policy requires educators as well as construction workers.
The letter recalls both the achievements and weaknesses of New Deal stimulus programs, focusing particularly on discrimination against women in the public jobs programs.
“For all our admiration of FDR’s reform efforts,” the historians write, “we must also point out that the New Deal’s jobs initiative was overwhelmingly directed toward skilled male and mainly white workers. This was a mistake in the 1930s, and it would be a far greater mistake in the 21st century economy, when so many families depend on women’s wages and when our nation is even more racially diverse.”
With so many female breadwinners, the letter continues, the country cannot afford an exclusive emphasis on construction, which remains a heavily male-dominated field. All jobs need to be open to a diverse workforce, they agree, but a more diversified jobs strategy will create immediate opportunities for all, they add.
The letter, from Feminist Historians for a New New Deal, can be accessed online at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Center for Research on Women and Social Justice: http://www.femst.ucsb.edu/projects/crwsj/
The following historians, who initiated the letter, are available for comment:
- Professor Eileen Boris, University of California, Santa Barbara: 805.893.2727/805.966.5745 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Professor Linda Gordon, New York University: 212.228.1784/917.309.1507 or email@example.com
- Professor Jennifer Klein, Yale University: 203.389.2189/203.464.1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Professor Alice O’Connor, University of California, Santa Barbara: 805.893.3542/805.448.1851 or email@example.com