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Works Project Administration


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(WPA) A US federal relief measure for the unemployed. An agency of the New Deal, it was established by the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935. The initiators were Harold Ickes and Harry Hopkins; they wanted the (estimated) 3.5 million unemployed but able‐bodied to be given work and not a dole. Thus, through their wages, they would have money to spend and thereby help business to revive. The WPA employed about two million at one time and by 1941 eight million (20% of the labour force) were engaged in public works. It built roads, bridges, playgrounds, airport landing fields, school buildings and hospitals, and ran a campaign against adult illiteracy. It was also, as even its friends had to admit, a useful source of employment for Democratic Party workers.

Subjects: World History — Art.


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