Relentless Reformer: Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth-Century America (Politics and Society in Modern America)

Relentless Reformer: Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth-Century America (Politics and Society in Modern America)

Language: English

Pages: 440

ISBN: 0691173524

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Josephine Roche (1886-1976) was a progressive activist, New Deal policymaker, and businesswoman. As a pro-labor and feminist member of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, she shaped the founding legislation of the U.S. welfare state and generated the national conversation about health-care policy that Americans are still having today. In this gripping biography, Robyn Muncy offers Roche's persistent progressivism as evidence for surprising continuities among the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the Great Society.

Muncy explains that Roche became the second-highest-ranking woman in the New Deal government after running a Colorado coal company in partnership with coal miners themselves. Once in office, Roche developed a national health plan that was stymied by World War II but enacted piecemeal during the postwar period, culminating in Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. By then, Roche directed the United Mine Workers of America Welfare and Retirement Fund, an initiative aimed at bolstering the labor movement, advancing managed health care, and reorganizing medicine to facilitate national health insurance, one of Roche's unrealized dreams.

In Relentless Reformer, Muncy uses Roche's dramatic life story--from her stint as Denver's first policewoman in 1912 to her fight against a murderous labor union official in 1972--as a unique vantage point from which to examine the challenges that women have faced in public life and to reassess the meaning and trajectory of progressive reform.

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1, box 11, RC. 20    Edward Hale Bierstadt, ed., Portmanteau Plays by Stuart Walker, 4th ed. (Cincinnati, 1921), xvi–xvii. Louise Burleigh and Edward Hale Bierstadt, Punishment: A Play in Four Acts (New York, 1916). 21    Edward Hale Bierstadt, More Portmanteau Plays by Stuart Walker (Cincinnati, 1919), v. 22    Edward Hale Bierstadt, Barrett H. Clark, and Sidney Howard, Jurgen and the Censor: Report of the Emergency Committee Organized to Protest against the Suppression of James Branch

Party by Assistant Treasury Chief,” Washington Post, Feb. 10, 1935, S1; “Soviet Embassy Dines Officials; Counselor’s Guest List Includes Miss Roche and the Packers,” Washington Post, Apr. 18, 1935, 12. Roche’s own entertaining: Newspaper clipping, May 18, 1937, folder 3, box 33, RC; “Notes of Society,” Washington Post, Feb. 22, 1936, X14; “Notes of Society,” Washington Post, July 24, 1937, 8; “Notes on Society,” Washington Post, Feb. 11, 1938, 18; newspaper clipping, May 1935, folder 10, box 34,

Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), 144, 149, 159, 164, 185 U.S. Federal Reserve System, 128 U.S. Federal Security Agency (FSA), 195–96, 197, 198–99, 204 U.S. Federal Tariff Commission, 84–85 U.S. Information Agency (USIA), 244 U.S. Interdepartmental Committee to Coordinate Health and Welfare Activities (Coordinating Committee), 179–92, 198–99, 235 U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), 20, 23 U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), 178, 243 U.S. National Recovery Administration

distinguished women in American public life.” 7 Gray-eyed, square-jawed, and sparking with energy, the middle-aged Josephine Roche was celebrated in the 1930s because she was the second-highest-ranking woman in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal government and the only American woman to run a coal company. Remarkably, she operated the company as an experiment in progressive labor relations: workers and owners alike weighed in on virtually every aspect of company policy. Roche had been a committed

those of the New Deal and the Great Society eras. Unlike more radical activists, progressives rarely expected perfect equality ever to reign, but they passionately believed the current degree of inequality in their society was intolerable and must be reduced if human beings were to lead worthy lives and America were to deliver on its democratic promise. Progressive methods for decreasing inequalities included public policies aimed at ensuring individual economic security and regulating corporate

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