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Forgotten Men and Fallen WomenThe Cultural Politics of New Deal Narratives$
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Holly Allen

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780801453571

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801453571.001.0001

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“To Wallop the Ladies”

“To Wallop the Ladies”

Woman Blaming and Nation Saving in the Rhetoric of Emergency Relief

(p.96) Chapter 4 “To Wallop the Ladies”
Forgotten Men and Fallen Women

Holly Allen

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how woman blaming and nation saving came to be intertwined with the rhetoric of emergency relief during the Great Depression. The intersection of gender, race, and politics in the 1930s resulted in official and popular practices of woman blaming. Just as the forgotten man functioned as a nationally central figure for white breadwinning manhood, the shrewish wife and the job-stealing woman worker were figures of disorderly white womanhood. This chapter considers the interrelationships among woman-blaming narratives, the broader public climate of hostility toward women, and the distinctly punitive features of federal relief policy in the Depression. It asks why punishing women was so cathartic in the 1930s and how that catharsis was harnessed to the nation-building project of the emergent welfare state. It also discusses the Works Progress Administration's reliance on a gendered politics of exclusion to mark its difference from earlier relief experiments. The chapter concludes by offering one final, late Depression scene of woman spanking, one that takes place in Frank Capra's 1941 film Meet John Doe.

Keywords:   woman blaming, nation saving, white womanhood, woman-blaming narratives, women, federal relief, welfare state, Works Progress Administration, woman spanking, Meet John Doe

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