Collection MS/MS 01.88 - George T. McJimsey Papers 1904-1970's

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US US-IaGG MS/MS 01.88

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George T. McJimsey Papers 1904-1970's




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George T. McJimsey graduated from Grinnell College in 1958 with honors in History and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to receive a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to study at Columbia University and received his doctorate in American history from the University of Wisconsin. He taught history at Iowa State University between 1965 and 2002, occasionally returning to Grinnell to lecture.

He has written four books including a biography of Grinnell alumnus Harry Hopkins ’12. That book, Harry Hopkins: Defender of the Poor and Champion of Democracy, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. This collection contains the collected materials from which McJimsey drew to write his book.

Biographical Note on Harry Hopkins: Harry Lloyd Hopkins’ political career, which spanned from 1913 to 1946, began a long ways from either New York City or Washington D.C. Hopkins was born in Sioux City, Iowa on August 17, 1890 to David Aldona and Anna Pickett Hopkins, the fourth of five children. The family settled in Grinnell, Iowa in 1901 for the education opportunities that the college town would afford the Hopkins’ children. While at Grinnell College from 1908-1912, Hopkins would excel in basketball, baseball and tennis, work for the YMCA, be involved in student government and graduate cum laude in 1912, among other achievements. Studying history and political science, Hopkins was deeply affected by the Social Gospel movement and followed Professor Jesse Macy as the intellectual heir of George A. Gates and George D. Herron.

After graduating from Grinnell College, Hopkins began a career in social work that lasted until 1933. Beginning in New York City and working with the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor Hopkins was soon appointed as executive secretary of the Bureau of Child Welfare in 1915. Over the next eighteen years, Hopkins would work with the American Red Cross and the New York Tuberculosis Association, draft a charter for the American Association of Social Workers (1923), and eventually find himself as administrator for Roosevelt’s’ Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA) in 1933 as the Great Depression took hold.

Following Roosevelt’s election to the Presidency, he called Hopkins to Washington to work as the Federal Relief Administrator. In this capacity, Hopkins undertook the relief of poverty with a commitment to employment created by the government. He also embedded New Deal policy with his Social Gospel values and dedication to social justice. Among his significant contributions are the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civil Works Administration (CWA). He also served as Secretary of Commerce for one year starting in 1938.

World War II saw a fundamental shift in Hopkins’ role within the Roosevelt government. From 1940 to 1945 Hopkins served as Roosevelt’s’ Personal Representative and Advisor. Hopkins traveled to both England and Russia during WWII to ascertain their material needs and played a crucial role in the passage of the Lend-ease Bill in the spring of 1941. He also accompanied the President to the Teheran Conference in 1943 and the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Hopkins had maintained U.S. - British and U.S. - Soviet relations throughout the war.

When Roosevelt died two months later, Hopkins retired from government service exhausted and ill. He received the Distinguished Service Medal from President Harry S. Truman in September 1945 for his selfless service. The severe strain the war effort put on Hopkins’ chronically poor health was too much for Harry to recover from, as he had many times before. Hopkins died on January 29, 1946.

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This collection was gathered by George T. McJimsey, professor of History at Iowa State University, in the process of writing his book Harry Hopkins: Ally of the Poor and Defender of Democracy. Included are articles written by Hopkins, his personal and professional correspondence, WPA files, minutes from the meetings of the American Association of Social Workers, War Munitions Board minutes, Lend- Lease files, diary entries of top government officials, American Red Cross files among others.

The collection contains information relevant not only to researchers studying Hopkins but also Roosevelt, World War II, Lend- Lease, the New Deal, social work, the American Red Cross, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, the FERA, WPA, CWA, American Association of Social Workers, New York BCW, and NYTBA.

The research is drawn from several collections including the Hopkins Papers at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, the National Archives, the George C. Marshall Papers, the Social Work History Archives in Minneapolis, the Harry S. Truman Library, Parks Library of Iowa State University, New York State Library at Albany, the Library of Congress, University of Virginia Library, the Houghton Library of Harvard University among many others.

Additional information on Harry Hopkins can be found in Georgetown University’s special collection.

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  • English

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