Becoming Entitled

Relief, Unemployment, and Reform during the Great Depression

Abigail Trollinger
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1953-8
Publication: Sep 20

HC: $104.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1952-1
Publication: Sep 20

Ebook: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1954-5
Publication: Sep 20

232 pages
5.5 x 8.25
1 tables, 4 halftones

Chronicles Americans’ shift in thinking about government social insurance programs during the Great Depression

Read the Introduction (pdf).


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.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Entitlement in Historical Context
1. Revealing the “Social Consequences of Unemployment”
2. Charity, Relief, and Localism in Depression-Era Chicago
3. Charity and Entitlement
4. Entitled to Relief
5. Getting Relief from the Government
Epilogue: Still Entitled to Relief?

Appendix 1: Settlements and Other Organizations Cooperating in the Unemployment Study of the National Federation of Settlements
Appendix 2: Partial List of Members of the Governor’s Commission on Unemployment and Relief (GCUR)

About the Author(s)

Abigail Trollinger is an Associate Professor of History at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI.