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The Sympathetic StateDisaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State$
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Michele Landis Dauber

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226923482

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226923505.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 12 June 2021

We Lost Our All

We Lost Our All

Chapter:
(p.185) Seven We Lost Our All
Source:
The Sympathetic State
Author(s):

Michele Landis Dauber

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226923505.003.0008

This chapter examines a random sample of letters to Eleanor Roosevelt, most of which asked Mrs. Roosevelt for help in the form of money or personal items such as clothing. These letters are examined as indicators of the kinds of stories that ordinary people thought would work as compelling appeals for aid. In this sense, the letter writers faced writ small the same problem that New Deal proponents faced: how to fashion a story against the backdrop of an existing moral economy that would constitute a compelling case for aid. That the letter writers overwhelmingly turned to disaster (rather than to other possible accounts, such as need, former military service, citizenship, or political patronage) to bolster their cases for help demonstrates the pervasiveness of disaster as an institutional logic governing redistribution in the American context.

Keywords:   letters, correspondence, Eleanor Roosevelt, federal aid, disaster

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