cover of book

Becoming Entitled: Relief, Unemployment, and Reform during the Great Depression
by Abigail Trollinger
Temple University Press, 2020
Cloth: 978-1-4399-1952-1 | eISBN: 978-1-4399-1954-5 | Paper: 978-1-4399-1953-8
Library of Congress Classification HD7096.U6
Dewey Decimal Classification 368.440097309043


In the 1930s, the unemployed were organizing. Jobless workers felt they were “entitled" to a new kind of government protection—the protection from undeserved unemployment and the financial straits that such unemployment created. They wanted dignified forms of relief (including work relief) during the Depression, and unemployment insurance after.

Becoming Entitled artfully chronicles the emergence of this worker entitlement and the people who cultivated it. Abigail Trollinger focuses largely on Chicago after the Progressive Era, where the settlement house and labor movements both flourished. She shows how reformers joined workers and relief officials to redeem the unemployed and secure government-funded social insurance for them. Becoming Entitled also offers a critical reappraisal of New Deal social and economic changes, suggesting that the transformations of the 1930s came from reformers in the “middle,” who helped establish a limited form of entitlement for workers.

Ultimately, Trollinger highlights the achievements made by reformers working on city- and nation-wide issues. She captures the moment when some people shed the stigma that came with unemployment and demanded that the government do the same.

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