University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Egstad, H. M. (ed.) / The Wisconsin alumni magazine
Volume 36, Number VII (April 1935)

Matthews, William H.
They shall not want,   p. 203

Page 203

                  They Shall Not Want
A      S  Director of the Emergency Work Bureau of       including their
taxes, managed their own personal
A     New York City for the past four years, I have     and family affairs,
and knew nothing of relief organ-
       had daily occasion to learn at first hand just     izations except
as they sometimes contributed to them.
what unemployment means in terms of physical suf-        I mean the people
on whose own prosperity and hap-
fering and mental anguish to thousands of people.        piness the prosperity
and happiness of civilization de-
Thinking back over these four years, there comes to      pends; the warp
and woof of the nation's fibre.
mind an incident that stands out as of yesterday.           What, in general,
has been the treatment accorded
   The main office of the Bureau had just been opened    these people over
the past four years?   How might
to register the waiting lines which had appeared on      we have done better?
  How may we improve?        Let
this first day. To get these men interviewed and on      us review the record.
jobs -  immediately -   that was the urge felt by all.      How did we start?
  For nearly two years, in spite
I had remained at the door.   After half an hour or      of the daily increasing
distress, we did little except
so, the first man who had gone in came out. As he        to urge people to
give more generously to private re-
swung through the doors and reached the curb, one        lief organizations
and to hope that in some way the
of the onlookers called out, "Did you get a job?"        corner
would be turned without recourse to public
Without stopping in his stride he fairly shouted over    relief, particularly
federal.  We listened to Sunday
his shoulder, "You're damn                                         
              night bedtime stories over
right I did; going to work                                              
         the radio, telling us that no
tomorrow."                               Willia       H. Matthews  
              person in the country must
- From  that day to this,            y9                                 
        be allowed to suffer by rea-
that man to me has been             .                                   
         son of involuntary unem-
symbolic of the Work Re-          Director of the Emergency Work Bureau 
         ployment.    Finally,  some
lief idea -triumph over in-                  of Newv York City          
         time after private relief had
security and fear; food and                                             
         completely   broken   down
shelter for the family, earned  He found jobs for 100,000 out of work men
        and fear had begun to be
by one's own efforts; pride   and women -     many of whom held college and
      felt as to what might hap-
and self respect in place of  university degrees, and he speaks with authority
on  pen if too many people be-
the humiliation and defeat    one of the most urgent questions of the hour
   -   came too hungry, it was ad-
of charity -  be that char-                                             
         mitted that the government,
ity private or public.                      WORK RELIEF                 
         either city or state or feder-
  Turning aside from single                                             
         al, or all working together,
incident, what can be said                                              
         must at least keep people
of general impressions over these four years?  First,    from starving. 
And then how did we proceed?
the downright cruelty of unemployment, cruelty to           We went back
in thought and practice almost to
body, mind and spirit, as visited more often than not    the Elizabethan
poor laws.   And in doing that, we
upon people who least deserved and were least able       compelled a large
group of people whose only trouble
to bear it. Over against this, on the other hand, the    was their inability
to obtain work to submit to a
sincere and persistent desire of these people to be good  procedure condemned
and discontinued long ago even
citizens.  Time after time I have seen the long, long    in dealing with
chronic relief seekers, incompetents
lines of out of work men waiting for the doors of        and outright dependents.
By our grocery-ticket dole,
the Emergency Work Bureau to open, close up tight        our bags of coal,
our bundles of clothing, our rent
against a group of screaming people who were at-         vouchers, we took
from people the right to manage,
tempting to urge radical action.  I do not believe I     to a reasonable
extent at least, their own lives, and
overstate when I say that on the patience, the forti-    in so doing, we
filled their hearts with shame and
tude, the self-discipline and the decency of the unem-   humiliation, hung
upon them the badge of pauper,
ployed our civilization has pretty largely been kept     and created bitterness,
resentment and anger in the
in balance over these threatening thunder-cloud years.   minds of a large
part of the country's citizenship,
  Whom do I mean by the unemployed?        Not that     and some of its finest.
small group of people, found in any community of            Assuming that
for some time yet a large number
size, who run quickly to relief organizations when       of unemployed employable
people must caoantinue to
any ordinary little difficulty besets them. Not those    subsist on relief,
in some form, what program offers
handicapped by mental or physical ailment, or en-        best for those who
feebling years. I write rather of that large group of
people -eighty per cent of the unemployed -who              First, relief
through so-called created work insofar
previous to this emergency worked, paid their bills      as this does not
come into competition with private
                                                         industry, if we
still believe that salvation is to be
  (Biographical note:-William H. Matthews did his undergraduate  found in
the preservation of that, as I most decidedly
work at Williams Coilege; then followed three years of graduate study  do.
However, it is all-important that relief work be
at Columbia University and Union Seminary. His work as organizer
and director of the Emergency Work Bureau of New York City has  real rather
than just a subterfuge for getting money
been rated as the most significant and important done in this country,
the FERA alone excepted. For twenty years he has been one of the  into the
hands of people.  Projects must be planned
directing heads of the Association for Improving the Condition of the  ahead;
tools and materials must be ready for the man
Poor in New York City-perhaps the most powerful welfare agency in
the world, with all of its ramifications. He has headed up numerous  when
he arrives on the job; there must be constant
organizations dealing with public welfare. He is the author of many     
s            at
magazine articles on that subject, and has probably made more speeches  and
intelligent supervision and time-keeping; these
relating to human needs and raised more money for such projects than
any other man in the country. Added to this, he himself spent several  are
years of his boyhood working in a textile mill in the New England  T
states. The President's program for relief and economic security is  hought
must be given also to placing people on
one of the burning questions of the moment. This man Matthews
                                                     jobs for which they
are really     (Please turn to page 225)

Go up to Top of Page