Private Wealth and Public Life: Foundation Philanthropy and the Reshaping of American Social Policy from the Progressive Era to the New Deal

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Overview

In Private Wealth and Public Life, historian Judith Sealander analyzes the role played by private philanthropic foundations in shaping public policy during the early years of this century. Focusing on foundation-sponsored attempts to influence policy in the areas of education, social welfare, and public health, she addresses significant misunderstandings about the place of philanthropic foundations in American life.

Between 1903 and 1932, fewer than a dozen philanthropic organizations controlled most of the hundreds of millions of dollars given to various causes. Among these, Sealander finds, seven foundations attempted to influence public social policy in significant ways—four were Rockefeller philanthropies, joined later by the Russell Sage, Rosenwald, and Commonwealth Fund foundations. Challenging the extreme views of foundations either as benevolent forces for social change or powerful threats to democracy, Sealander offers a more subtle understanding of foundations as important players in a complex political environment. The huge financial resources of some foundations bought access, she argues, but never complete control. Occasionally a foundation's agenda became public policy; often it did not. Whatever the results, the foundations and their efforts spurred the emergence of an American state with a significantly expanded social-policy-making role.

Drawing on a wealth of archival materials, much of it unavailable or overlooked until now, Sealander examines issues that remain central to American political life. Her topics include vocational education policy, parent education, juvenile delinquency, mothers' pensions and public aid to impoverished children, anti-prostitution efforts, sex research, and publicly funded recreation. "Foundation philanthropy's legacy for domestic social policy," she writes, "raises a point that should be emphasized repeatedly by students of the policy process: Rarely is just one entity a policy's sole author; almost always policies in place produced unintended consequences."

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review - Michael S. Mayer
[Sealander] not only adds considerably to the history of philanthropy but enriches the historical understanding of the Progressive era.
Booknews
Analyzes the role played by private philanthropic foundations in shaping public policy in the areas of education, social welfare, and public health during the early years of this century. Looks at vocational education policy, parent education, juvenile delinquency, mothers' pensions, anti-prostitution efforts, and sex research. For students of public policy. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801854606
  • Publisher: Hopkins Fulfillment Service
  • Publication date: 3/24/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Sealander is professor of history at Bowling Green State University. She is the author of As Minority Becomes Majority: Federal Reaction to the Phenomenon of Women in the Work Force, 1920-1963 and "Grand Plans": Business Progressivism and Social Change in the Ohio Miami Valley, 1890-1929, and co-author of Women of Valor: The Struggle against the Great Depression as Told in Their Own Life Stories.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Foundation Philanthropy and Public Policy Making in the Early-Twentieth-Century United States 1
2 Foundations, The "Rural Crisis," and the Birth of Publicly Funded Vocational Education 35
3 The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, Parent Education, and the New Psychology 79
4 The Russell Sage Foundation and the Transformation of the Mothers' Pension 100
5 Foundations, "Child-Helping", and the Juvenile Court 128
6 The Bureau of Social Hygiene: From Antiprostitution to Sex Research 160
7 Foundations, Recreation, and the Public's Moral Health 189
Conclusion/The Foundation Comes of Age 217
Notes 247
Bibliography 297
Index 343
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