Non-Fiction Books:

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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Private Wealth and Public Life by Judith Sealander
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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 as either 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.

Author Biography

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.
Release date NZ
March 24th, 1997
Country of Publication
United States
9 Illustrations, black and white
Johns Hopkins University Press
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